I am a fan of Dr Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model which shows levels of technology integration in learning (for loads of resources on this model, see Kathy Schrock’s great collection here: http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html). There are many visual illustrations of this model available online and they are in their own way helpful guides to those wishing to understand this way of examining tech integration.
So then here are two questions related to this model:
1) Does every activity in the classroom need to be at the Redefinition level?
2) Should teachers feel that they are not using technology effectively if they are not at the Modification or Redefinition level?
As far as I’m concerned, the answer to both these questions is a resounding ‘No’. I fear that many of the available SAMR graphics illustrate this model as a progression from poor use of tech at the Substitution level to the ‘proper’ use of tech at the Redefinition level. I even came across one which linked an increase in academic rigour to the move from Substitution to Redefinition! I’m not convinced this is helpful. Don’t misunderstand me on this – I firmly believe that our teachers should be making every effort to integrate technology into their teaching and the learning experience of their pupils. What I am looking for is for teachers to use all four levels in their teaching and not to feel guilty if every lesson isn’t redefined by the use of technology.
Just as I expect my teachers to use the Blooms Taxonomy in its entirety as they plan and execute effective learning experiences for their pupils, so too do I want to see the full range of the SAMR model as they use technology. In doing so, I do not want any of my team to feel inadequate or ineffective in their use of technology because they have planned a lesson in which the use of tech is at the Substitution or Augmentation level. This is especially true for those teachers who are in the early stages of their understanding of the use of technology in their classrooms and who are just beginning to understand their changing role in a 21st century classroom. I believe that through ongoing professional development, mentoring and accountability, teachers can be taught, encouraged and expected eventually to include all four SAMR levels in their teaching.
It is idealistic to expect every lesson in our classrooms to be transformed through technology no matter how much we wish this were true. As teachers move in their understanding of their role in the classroom and begin to see themselves as facilitators of learning, and as they begin to understand how technology can support their pupils’ learning, their application of all four levels of the SAMR model will improve.
Let’s not make our teachers feel inadequate by creating the impression that they are somehow not making the grade if every lesson they teach with technology is not at the Modification or Redefinition level. Let’s rather provide the encouragement and the platform for them to continue their learning and their journey towards a fuller understanding of how technology can bring a entire new way of learning into their classrooms.
Earlier this year over 100 teachers attended the very first EdTechConf event in Cape Town. The event was a great success and as a result the EdTechConf organisation has developed a three-way approach to future events :
1) A national EdTechConf conference to be held annually in Cape Town which seeks to attract teachers from all over South Africa
2) Smaller local EdTechConf Extended seminars/conferences to be held throughout South Africa during the year
3) EdTechConf “ThinkShops” which will be focused workshops held on a regular basis at a central venue in Cape Town (to start with!)
The very first EdTechConf Extended event is to be held at Elkanah House from 30 September to 1 October. There is a terrific program planned which will include hands-on workshops, think-tank discussions and informative plenaries. Workshops include topics such as Paperless Teaching With An iPad, Free Teacher Tools From Microsoft, Online Tools In The Foundation Phase, Google Docs In The Classroom and Using Adobe Photoshop And Indesign.
This promises to be another great event for networking and peer-learning. There are still a few places open so get busy and sign up today!
Please let others know about this event so that the network of like-minded teachers can grow and continue to support one another as they strive to bring new approaches to their teaching. You can point people to this page : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/edtechconfx/edtechconf-extended-elkanah/
The eXtended @ Elkanah House provisional programme can be downloaded here (PDF) : http://www.edtechconf.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Prov_programme_web1.pdf
For further information on EdTechConf or to book a speaker for your school/organisation, please head over to the EdTechConf site – www.edtechconf.co.za , join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.
I write this blog post 34 000 feet in the air en route to Cape Town having left a very cold Joburg where I attended the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference. SchoolNet South Africa were the organisers of the event and it was my first encounter with this organisation.
This blog post is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the conference but is rather a reflection of the experiences of the last three days. Here are my immediate thoughts :
1. Seeing 500 teachers come together from across the country, reflective of the diversity in our nation, united in their passion for changing the education paradigm so present in many classrooms was wonderful and gave me hope (despite my reflections in point 3 below!).
2. The organisers of the conference did not generate much excitement about the event prior to the first day. There was very little social media action around the conference – this was surprising and perhaps even disappointing.
3. I am amazed at the lack of self-discipline among many South African teachers. People arrived late to almost every plenary and workshop – at times almost an hour late. Many left workshops early because the workshop ran a little late and lunch or tea was waiting – including during a workshop in which international presenters were video-conferencing from the USA! The desire of people to help themselves to copious amounts of tea snacks without care about who was still to come was disappointing. Is it any wonder then that while at the conference I heard about a series of workshops scheduled for teachers in an under-privileged area of Cape Town that had to be cancelled as the teachers were unwilling to attend after 15h00 but were more than happy to leave their teaching to attend during the time pupils were at school? I find this distressing given the disastrous results of the Annual National Assessments – when will teachers take their responsibility seriously? Can we really then expect these same teachers to implement seriously all that they learnt while at the conference? For the sake of our children, I hope so!
4. Obviously I did not attend all the workshops but the ones I did attend were certainly worthwhile. I did not attend any presented by the overseas guest presenters and was delighted to see the incredible knowledge and creativity on display from local teachers. We really do have world-class people right here in South Africa.
5. Proper signage from Day 1 would have been appreciated. Signs indicating from the car park where to register and clear signage of where the various workshop venues were, were sadly lacking. This fact was tweeted by several delegates within the first hour of the conference. I would have hoped that the organisers were monitoring the backchannel and that they would have reacted by simply printing and laminating clear signage by the morning of Day 2. Unfortunately this did not happen. The map in the conference booklet was not very clear and led to further confusion.
6. I thoroughly enjoyed the plenary sessions. Excellent input from Jane Hart, Naomi Harm and John Davitt certainly helped delegates consider their role as educators in the 21st century. I was challenged by these individuals and learnt a great deal from what they shared. It was fantastic that SchoolNet SA could bring in three world-class experts to share with the delegates. I did wonder whether we might see a South African presentation in the plenaries at the next conference.
7. It was wonderful to be able to assist Maggie Verster with the backchannel during the conference. More local teachers joined Twitter at the conference and were able to join the conversation during the event. The wifi provided by Peter Henning of St John’s College was excellent despite taking strain at various points during the conference. The tweet summaries may be found here : Day 1; Day 2; Day 3
8. Day 1 concluded with the awarding of the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Awards. All 22 finalists were presented to the delegates with a description of what they had done in their schools. What struck me the most was that many of the finalists’ projects were really simple in concept and had been implemented with excellence. It was clear that there will be many teachers in schools all over South Africa who could qualify as prize-winners if they entered this competition. Congratulations to all the winners – you are the change-agents South African education needs in classrooms! One observation, also noted by someone who tweeted into the conference, was that the prize winners were not representative of the South African demographic. When I asked about this I was told that the quality of entries from previously-disadvantaged teachers and schools was not of a good enough quality and that not many from these schools had entered. If this is true, the work of organisations such as SchoolNetSA and EdTechConf has only just begun!
9. I was privileged to meet some truly wonderful people at the conference. The networking aspect of events such as this are what make them such powerful agents of change. The challenge is to engage with new contacts after the event. I was able to follow new folks on Twitter and I had several folks follow me. We need to engage with each other in constructive ways now that the connection has been made. I left the conference unclear as to how SchoolNetSA would facilitate ongoing discussion between those who were at the conference. We encouraged delegates on Twitter to continue using the conference hashtag (#schoolnetsa11) as a means of growing their online learning experience but I am not sure how many will do so.
10. The conference dinner was superb. Delegates appreciated the brief address by Parthan Chetty of Intel, sponsor of the dinner. The Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre provided a fantastic meal and venue while the vocals belted out by three talented singers set the scene for a night of dancing, singing and opportunity simply to have a good time!
All in all, the conference was a positive experience and exposed me to some incredible teachers from around South Africa doing wonderful things with ICT in their classrooms. I also left feeling motivated to continue the path of developing our ICT strategy at school. The conference was certainly not the best I have been to and there were aspects which I would want to see changed. However, it was time and money well spent and I am glad I attended. I certainly hope to attend next year’s event and continue my journey into learning more about ICT in the classroom – perhaps I’ll even submit a proposal for a workshop!
I look forward to building on the knowledge gained this past week and to being part of this evolving community of education game-changers in South Africa. My thanks to the organisers of the conference for enabling this conversation and learning to take place.