Dear Art, Mary and others,
Art, thanks for another kind reply. Mary, I so agree with this!
To address your points:
a) I too have no idea why principals are reluctant to lead but I can suggest some causes. In my current system there is a very heavy teacher union presence - this mitigates against rocking the boat. Alternatively, how many principals have management training? There appear to be no requirements for the post except coming up from the ranks. An MBA or equivalent might well do a lot to address this. I think the Scandinavian system is also worth checking out. It used to be the case that principals were appointed and then had to shadow an existing principal for a year to get a handle on the job.
Whatever model works I am convinced (and so is all the literature I read) that top-down support is essential to effect change. By this I mean support and not tech skills - they don't need to be able to build a computer just appreciate that you need one. It also helps if there is a clear strategy in place. Both JISC
have a lot of work in this area.
b) Your next point was about cognitive development. My thinking behind started from a questioning of the term "digital native" which seemed, to me, both proscriptive and prescriptive. It's a straightjacket that can impede learning. When I started Moodle I noticed that my students seemed to react to the system in different ways. I then investigated more closely looking at student logs and setting up numerous forums and feedback surveys. Students asked for a specific type of Moodle experience and this seemed to be based on their age rather than ability (I'm sure this will change in time and does change between institutions but this is my finding). After about 18 months I came to the conclusion that it was cognitive development that seemed to best fit the phenomenon I was studying. High school students are developing mentally and this can influence how they "see" learning (Think Piaget, Vygotsky et. al - or this very cool site I just found
I teach senior years - in Australia this is years 9-12. I start each course with a common look-and-feel so they develop familiarity with the structure i.e. course logos are identical except the year title; all topics are in the same order - admin followed by subject and then exams. Then for year 9 they have just some basic information (to get them introduced to e-learning). Year 10 get more information and some supplementary ideas to develop their thinking skills. Year 11 start their senior work and so have a more exploratory style of learning whilst the very top guys in year 12 have a fully differentiated course with masses of information, fully interactive through forums and collaborative approach to learning. I am starting to write this up but so far I characterise the responses as the 4 'e's:
Year 9 - engagement: starting to gain control over their learning and developing the ability to manage time and information;
Year 10 - exploration: moving beyond the basic material presented in the textbook or as class handouts. Here the student starts to focus on the ability to gather and synthesise information but also become more organ ised;
Year 11 - experiential: the start of questioning of material. Detailed material provided on the site differentiated by need (essential, useful, supplementary). Here's the start of the student becoming a self-directed learner. Interstingly, on a parallel course I started this year I gave the entire course over to students i.e. one course was teacher-led and fed and the other was student-led. This latter course has, so far, been less successful - they still need the structure of the teacher-as-expert guiding them as to the most accepted ideas. I'll keep running this to see what happens but it does highlight the need for staff to be involved whatever learning theory is current. I've also read research this week suggesting that students want teacher interaction. In my setting, online will not be the mode - I use blended delivery in the sense it's offline (me) and online (Moodle). Each adds to the other but neither stands on its own - these are developing brains and we take the online ideas used in universities and the most often quoted in research at our peril IMHO.
Year 12 - evaluative: they have the skills to put together sophisticated answers from their class notes and from a vast range (currently c. 600Mb) of data stored in their Moodle. They can decide on the value of information and will use forums to discuss and refine their ideas. If you want to see it it should be here
- guest login should work. I'm not suggesting its in any way exemplary, just a work in progress.
On top of all this we need a critical mass of users. I don't have this as yet but constant use and staff development days is moving us towards it (and students are great drivers of change if they want to be).
I hope this helps.