Teachers are used to being observed and assessed, says A Benjeddi – but to unleash real innovation, they need to be allowed to make mistakes along the way…
With more and more technology being poured into most schools, the question remains: what to do with it all? Can this technology influence a school’s expectations or change its direction? How can schools take advantage of what’s available? Sometimes it seems that we assume teachers have some kind of innate gift and affinity with technology that just happens overnight – and of course, this is simply not the case.
For a successful implementation of ICT across the whole school, I believe there are three areas to be looked at. A good and reliable ICT system (hardware and software) is just the first of those areas – you need to have well designed infrastructure with good quality devices. The second one is appropriate use of the ICT (there is currently a lot of use of technology, but it can tend to be basic and monotonous). But in my view to compete the picture – and most importantly – you need to have creativity and innovation throughout the whole school, and you can only get this if you have confident teachers and supportive leadership, which leads to motivated students. So how can you acquire that?
I have spent most of my teaching career building ICT-confident teachers in the schools I worked in, because I believe that creative and innovative use of ICT will automatically have a positive impact on learning, and raise students’ academic achievement. RiskITWeek.com is a strategy I devised that has been tried and tested by many schools in and outside the UK, allowing them to have a holistic approach to training. In a nutshell, RiskIT strategy is about all staff using ICT as a means to improve teaching.
How does it work?
RiskIT gives teachers an opportunity and framework within which they can experiment with new technologies and ideas that they have not tried before in a lesson and with a class of their choice. Success or failure of the activity is not relevant, the main purpose of the risk-taking is to throw themselves in the deep end, knowing there is someone with them to support them and that they are not being judged. Just like a child learning to swim or a teenager playing a computer game; if you fail, you just pick yourself up and try again, as long as you learn from your mistakes
What do teachers do?
Staff members take a risk and use a piece of technology they have not used before with their class; this can be anything from trying out a new interactive application or camera to simply making use of the IWB.
There are only two requirements for teachers:
1. It needs to be your first time using the piece of ICT with students.
2. You must be willing to receive visitors during that lesson:
a. The visitors must not be judgmental; they are not there to evaluate the lesson or the performance of the teacher. Their visit is purely to observe how technology is being used and learn any lessons from the session which they in turn can take to their own classroom.
b. The SLT’s visit must be planned; it should be about giving maximum support in building the teacher’s confidence (risk-taker). The SLT must give ‘positive only’ comments in writing as this is not an observation but fundamental steps in changing the culture and the mind-set of the whole school.
What happens during the RiskITWeek period?
1. The strategy needs to be published throughout the school, so that during the week the whole school will be celebrating innovation and creativity. Teachers will engage with students and discuss ideas and even get help from them if necessary.
2. A timetable of the risk-takers should be shared and SLT allocated and reminded to visit.
3. Photographs and videos must be taken for future reference and also shared on the RiskITWeek website.
4. Risk-takers’ feelings must be nourished and encouraged, to keep momentum and build confidence.
5. Some kind of acknowledgment must also be planned: a dvd of all activities with after-event interviews or even a printed book with their photos and a description of the session.
This strategy is intended to take all the teachers out of their comfort zone and turn them into ‘learners’, with the added safety net that allows them to deliver the same lesson using a piece of technology (software or hardware) for the first time. Teachers always rise to the challenge and become more enthused and energetic; suddenly they see things differently. Similarly, students who are informed about the event are always supportive, they enjoy seeing their teacher learning the same way they are, by trial and error, leading by example. Teachers need to be reassured that taking part in the scheme does not mean abandoning the content of their lesson; as a matter of fact they should try as much as possible to stick to their curriculum but with the added twist of the innovative delivery.
During one RiskITWeek, a food technology teacher created a series of videos that we put on the school’s VLE. The following week a student came with some bread cooked at home to show her teacher and she said: “Look miss, I cooked this with my mum yesterday and we did it by following your video”.
Prior to that initiative, the teacher could only demonstrate live to a crowd of students around the table, where most of them couldn’t even reach the table or see the teacher, let alone learn. Now with the use of a visualiser on her desk, she can ensure that everyone takes part in cooking, and those who need to practise at home can use the videos to guide them.
It is simple but effective way to deliver a curriculum. This teacher also uses the VLE to inform parents about various foods, healthy eating and advice; the education therefore is extended beyond students.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mr A Benjeddi is a teacher, ICT advisor and trainer, and the founder of RiskITWeek.com @benjeddi