You know, it is no cliche when I say that I do as much learning in my workshops as the participants do themselves. Proabably the best example of this is the discussions we have about how these teachers in traditional Hong Kong schools make use of digital technologies in their lessons today. I have to say I greatly admire the efforts of many of them to use such tools in their very large classes. In the documentation for the Third Phase of the IT in Education Planning from the government of the HKSAR Deputy Secretarty Chris Wardlaw makes it very clear that they are “using IT is to facilitate the learning goals of the curriculum reform”. What Chris, the document, and the policy-makers at the Education Bureau fail to say, however, is what this should really look like in the classroom. From the discussions I have with teachers at the blackboards and the visits I make to local schools, I would have to say that there is not a common, shared understanding out there. In fact, there is very little that is common to many schools at all. Whilst this in one sense is good in that it allows for a lot of individual approaches to be supported and to meet the unique needs of each school community, it can’t be in any way good for leading reform and really driving things forward.
There are only a few common factors that I have found to date. The first of these is the absolute absence of Macintosh computers in Local Hong Kong schools. It appears that Apple have not viewed the Hong Kong local school market as holding any prospect for them. This is in stark contrast to the international school market in Hong Kong where they are being very agressive. Three International Schools are at the beginning phase of 1:1 programmes using Apple laptops. They are Renassaince College in Ma On Shan, South Island School and Canadian International School.
The second commonality is the presence of a data projector connected to a computer in most classrooms in Hong Kong local schools. There is varying use made of the arrangements with the majority of what I have heard is the use of some activities on CD Rom or some instructional websites on the internet. Very few schools have taken the step of putting some interactive technology like an Interactive Whiteboard or Virtual IWB in place to allow direct interaction with the projected image in spite of the cost of these technologies being very affordable in Hong Kong.
The third commonality for a lot of schools is e-Class. This is the most popular Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in Hong Kong mainly due to the fact that it is a fully-featured open-source VLE installed in schools for a fraction of the price of the expensive, international VLEs purchased by many of the international schools of Hong Kong. Use of these is good but limited by the Hong Kong learning model which sees students burdened with an enormous amount of traditional book-based homework allowing little time for “extra activities” to be set on the VLE.
It would be great to get some more comments here from teachers about how you are using technology for learning in your classrooms today and how you would like to use it tomorrow. What would also be interesting would be a comment on how decisions about what technology should be purchased for use by teachers at your school are made.