Lessons to Learn from the ACOT Programme
|The Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow
(ACOT) project took place in a very different context to South Africa's current
educational technology situation, but there are important lessons to learn from that
The ACOT project was characterised by:
Current projects in the field of technology introduction into schools in South Africa have thus far been characterised largely by:
The scenarios are therefore clearly different, but clear direction for Educator Development Strategies can be gained by the ACOT experience.
1. Technology Introduction
As has been the experience with the piloting of SchoolNet's Educator Development for Telecollaboration material, it was found that a definite gap existed between the beliefs and actual practice of educators. Training appeared successful when constructivist learning strategies were used. These were designed to involve teachers in the project-based learning approach. However, back in the classroom the same teachers showed no signs of adapting their more traditional practices. It became evident that educators accept and respond to change at different rates. They clearly needed sustained support in the form of technical assistance, ongoing strategic facilitation and encouraging reflection before they were able to consider adaptation to the new technologies. There is no single recipe for achieving this 57.
The familiar five stages of response to technology introduction were identified in this project, viz.:
Reflecting on these five steps, the following should be noted:
2. Training and Support
Training and support for ACOT teachers has been substantial. Use was made of 5-day and 4-week workshops where constructivist learning strategies were used on educators. These educators at first resistant to this approach, expecting to be fed information about IT skills in the traditional mode. By the end of the workshops the teachers had greater understanding for the value of the approach. The recommendation coming from this experience is: model classroom practice. This is probably the best way in which we can implement a degree of situated learning in this country.
Additional approaches employed in the staff development programme of ACOT were
It cannot be stressed enough how important a role the ongoing support played in the success helping teachers grow professionally and in influencing change in classroom practice. Much of this support is emotional, especially initially, but technical assistance is also of basic importance. Once these needs had been satisfied, support needs became more orientated towards learning strategies and collaborative planning.
The new approach to educator development that worked well in the ACOT project was to involve educators in reflection of their practice. This ongoing interaction between mentors and educators took place in a number of ways. There was flexibility allowed in this regard. Successful use was made of audio tapes in recording educators' reflections.
Principles of sound staff development that emerged from the ACOT project are:
Partnerships with school district offices played an important support role. These offices would typically set annual goals for curriculum development, instructional strategies, technology use and student learning52.
The importance of mechanisms for support can not be over-emphasised. The "adoption of innovation and the creation of a collaborative environment are complimentary conditions for change53". Mention is made of a "symbiotic relationship" between the two. It is emphatically stated that "lasting change will not occur simply by giving teachers the latest technological tools. Teachers must be provided with on-going support which is available only if the larger system in which they are working changes as well53". What exactly this means in the South African context is open to debate. It is clear change cannot be expected when it is not supported by school principals and subject advisers. On the other hand, educators are more receptive to change suggested through collegial support channels. Clearly, both dimensions of support need to be procured if one is hoping to measure the impact of technology in the classroom.
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