computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leadership in the digital classroom

I’ll get back to worksheets and exams in a moment. Firstly, leadership in the digital classroom. My boss is visiting a school tomorrow to talk about teachers as leaders in the classroom and I’m going along for the ride. We’re visiting a school that has a focus on ‘the teacher as leader’ and we, I suppose, represent a digital school.

What to share? Well, you have a few hours. What do you suggest I say?

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Stand at the back of a room full of teachers. What do you see? Facebook, email, newspapers. Are we expecting behaviour from children and youth that we cannot expect from adults? There was an interesting post a while back on 1:1 Schools pointing out that we often try to get the kids to learn things that most adults don’t know. It’s a very interesting point to make about school, but schools are also often very focused on behaviour and we seem to have the behavioural equivalent here. My pupils are sometimes confused when I berate them for answering the telephone during class. “But the teachers do it!” Humn….

  • Leadership in the digital classroom has to rest on three pillars:

    1. The technical. The endless proxy war, the American-style filter war, our own experience with LANschool – these things can make one think that there are no technical solutions. Giving computers to pupils and then trying to control them with filters or piggy-back systems can seem like a losing battle. A few pupils spend lots of time figuring out hacks that then spread. What one needs are simple steering or filtering tools that are robust and that form a part of a wider strategy.

    2. The cultural. One has to build up a culture in school that regards class time as working time and the computer as a tool for work. You can’t avoid frequent and difficult conversations with pupils. It helps if the whole faculty is on board here.

    3. The practical. There will always be a need for ‘eyeballing’. If your pupils are working on screens in class time, you need to be able to see them, and you need to be able to get to them quickly. How are you going to give help and guidance if you can’t get to them and see their work? This is where furniture comes in.

  • The standard line is often: clear tasks, short deadlines, imposed collaboration. If pupils are going to work on computers, then they should have something clear and specific that they are expected to produce, an explicit and limited time to do it in and ideally this should not be ‘meaningless’ work, but something that is immediately useful for others. This makes some sense, but I think it underestimates the distractive power of computers. Vast amounts of money are spent on training our students to expect entertainment and that’s what you as a teacher in a digital classroom are up against.

Feedback, anyone?

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