My biggest mistake as an ICT Coordinator

7/1/2013 12:00:00 AM
Act 1, Scene 1

Setting: An interview room.

Chair of Governors: So, Mr Freedman, do you have any questions you would like to ask US?
Terry Freedman: Yes. What are YOUR criteria of a successful ICT Coordinator?
Headteacher: I want to see teachers banging on the doors of the computer labs demanding to be let in.

Well, I got the job, and with the Headteacher's comment in mind I set about making sure the computer facilities were being used as intensively and extensively as possible.

I did quite a few really good things, if I do say so myself, such as:

* I found out why many teachers were reluctant to use the facilities. It turned out that the network would break down with no warning, causing everyone to lose their work. I brought in one of the Local Authority's advisors (remember them?), who came along with some equipment through which he discovered that there was a break in the cabling in one of the walls. I had that fixed.

* I made it really easy to book the rooms.

* I created a buzz about using ICT.

* I talked to lots of teachers about the benefits and joys of using ICT.

* I ran an ICT committee comprising representatives from every subject.

I did a lot more besides.

And it worked. The computer rooms started to be used a lot more than they had been. But in retrospect, I think I made one mistake which cost a lot of time and energy. That was, I tried to convince the people who were dead set against using ICT in any shape or form.

To be fair to myself, I did so out of concern for the students those teachers taught. I believe in equality of opportunity, and I don't think a student's experience of using technology should depend on whether or not a teacher likes using it or not. But in the grand scheme of things, spending a lot of time trying to convince such teachers is not very cost-effective, looked at from an economics perspective.

Think of it like this. I suggest there are four main types of teacher when it comes to using ICT in school:

Type 1: knows how to use ICT, and how it can be used in his/her subject

Type 2: knows how to use ICT, but is not sure how it could be used in the subject

Type 3: has some great ideas about how it can be used in the subject, but is not very confident in their ability to actually do so

Type 4: has no desire to use ICT in their subject, for a whole variety of reasons

It seems to me that given limited time and energy, the most cost-effective effort would be that directed at Types 2 and 3. Type 1 doesn't need much from you, apart from the occasional "Have you seen this new app?" or, "I'd like your opinion on this website I came across for your subject, when you have a minute."

I'm not suggesting writing off Type 4 altogether: I would certainly keep plugging away. Simply that in order to make the biggest difference to the most number of students in the shortest period of time, focusing on Types 2 and 3 would be the best bet.

That means that one of the first things a new ICT Coordinator should do is carry out a staff survey to find out what people know, do, and feel they need to know as far as ICT is concerned. It also means keeping your eyes and ears open to find out who is using the technology, and how, because that will enable you to start to identify good practice and "champions".

My enduring hope is that eventually even the reluctant people will be swept up by the tide of enthusiasm shown by their colleagues and, of course, the students. It does happen, but it takes time. To make it happen faster, you're far better off, in my opinion, concentrating most of your efforts on those who are more inclined to listen.

cross-posted on www.ictineducation.org

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Computers in Classrooms."

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