Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I have been a strong supporter of the teachers union in Australia. However there is one issue that we have never agreed on:-comparative data on schools performance. I can recall many debates since the early 1990's with the union refusing to accept the need for data to support parents decisions on where to send there kids, to distribute remedial funding and so on.

Fast forward to this week with the union now signalling that it will be banning the next NAPLAN test cycle in May. NAPLAN is far from a perfect set of measures. However there is powerful evidence of the fundamental importance of basic literacy and numeracy in establishing a successful foundation for a students learning career. There will be more comprehensive assessment processes in future, such as being generated by the work of the international '21st century assessment' project. I am also aware of some exciting ideas being tossed around inside ACARA. But none of this is likely to come on stream for 3-5years.

The interest shown by parents and the general public in myschool has been huge. Parents have always been hungry for information to help them determine where to send there children to school. Prior to myschool I for one have felt totally inadequate when asked for advice on school options.

Lets not pretend that myschool data is now the only determinant. However it is making an impact.Likewise the taxpayer needs greater assurance that the huge amount of funding being applied to schools is having the desired impact.

Myschool for the first time attempts to provide a 'value added' comparison not just results that can be traced to school location and student selection 'policies' Its not perfect but a great place to start.

The union may or may not win this latest battle but they will lose the war unless they engage far more effectively in the pursuit of more appropriate assessment tools.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Embedding ICT in Learning Teaching and Administration

Despite the massive investment by governments and institutions, there is still a huge distance to travel before the majority of educators are able to effectively utilize technology. Apart from the strong research evidence here are a couple of local anecdotes.

Last week a visiting lecturer asked for an overhead projector for their class. Anyone over 30 will remember overhead projectors accompanied by clear plastic transparencies and felt pens. After several days of phone calls we managed to track down a supplier who actually had one in stock. They said there was still a demand.

When I mentioned the capability of wiki’s I was met with shrugs and smirks by one educator and irritated consternation by another. Image what the students must be thinking.

This week a leading supporter of ICT in teaching at their (rather large) institution said matter of factly that the organizations move from Blackboard (they were using an unsupported version) to Moodle wasn’t going to work. Apparently most of the staff where resistant to even turning Moodle on and in any event there was no organization wide strategy for utilizing technology in teaching and learning and Moodle wasn’t going to integrate with their bevy of legacy admin systems.

So why all the resistance. The evidence points to lack of confidence. The confidence issue in turn appears to be a function of lack of confidence that the technology will work when required;limited availability of technical people to support you; limited easy to access pedagogical tools and techniques; lack of institutional leadership and support; and wrapped up with all the above no real incentive to change.

The focus needs to be on teaching and learning not technology. But having said that their needs to be a major investment in providing all the support and motivational requirements. Educators arent dumb. They know where their students are at and what motivates them. But they need a quantum leap in the type and extent of assistance and reward to change.