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Not all International Schools are the Same

I really enjoyed the conversation in the back channel during the most recent episode What Stalls the Shift? ofSOS Podcast David Carpenter and Jeff Utecht’s On Deck Podcast. This was the first time that my commitments allowed me to do this but I am a big fan of this style of interaction and will ensure that I join in again.

I just want to pick up on one point. David and Jeff have both worked for what I would say are fairly dynamic, progressive international schools in Asia and the middle east and their network of contacts is predominantly from this style of international school. I work in Hong Kong with a range of schools including the larger internationals like the one that David was formerly from. I also work with some internationals that are very different to this.

Quite a few of these international schools are not the dynamic “Switched on to IT” style of school that seemed to be portrayed as the norm in the last episode. My reason for saying this is when the backroom conversation turned to how a teacher who is really enthused about the use of ICT to further 21st Century Learning in his or her classroom might get a slightly reluctant senior administrator to see the benefit, the comment eventually came from Andy Torris that maybe it is easier to move to a school that does “get it”. Andy went on to say how he was very keen to attract teachers that are switched on to ICT for learning.

Whilst I have to say that this is good advice and ultimately the best thing for a teacher to do, it is anything but easy to do in a lot of cases. I constantly hear stories of teachers trying to use ICT tools and either not getting the necessary support or having so many barriers to jump put in place that they become disillusioned. I am currently working with a teacher passionate about using a document camera in his school and not being able to convince the Senior Administration of the benefit in spite of demonstrating excellent classroom practice with the tool. The teacher has finally bit the bullet and decided to purchase it himself. This is in a school that prides itself as being very technologically advanced.

There are a number of schools that I have visited that pride themselves on being very forward thinking when it comes to ICT but when you look more closely, it is about every kid leaving with high competencies in Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Databases. The use of ICT for learning in core subjects is almost non-existent.

So, to clarify what I was trying to say in the back channel, I wholeheartedly agree that if a teacher finds themselves hitting their heads against a brick wall in trying to get Senior Admin to see the value in using ICT to support lifelong learning and connectedness in their students, one of the options open to them would be to find a more supportive school. Sometimes, however, due to lots of factors including financial, family responsibility, promotional opportunities etc, this can be hard to do.

One thing that is out there for teachers like this that can feel frustrated is a supportive, sharing and open online community.

I don’t know what I would do without this online community!

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3 Responses to “Not all International Schools are the Same”

  1.   By David Carpenter on Jun 15, 2008 | Reply

    Nicely said, Paul. Sometimes folks don’t have the flexibility to look for new countries and schools. They have to work with what they have. As I noted in the chat room during the show, I think we will need to dedicate a full SOS show next Fall to the topic of helping administrators make the shift.

    Besides the advice offered by Rick and Jeff, I would add that if the shifted educator wants to help move along the conversation with the administrators, he/she should focus on improving instructional strategies, assessments and learning outcomes to improve student learning. While this seems pretty obvious, we as ICT educators sometimes get bogged down in the tools that we know will get our students to the learning outcomes.

    It becomes difficult for anyone to argue with solid changes that can be made to our school’s curriculum that will lead to enhanced student learning. The key is to build the logical argument and to then slowly introduce the tools that support the effort. I know you are working to do this so thankfully as you point out, you have your online network of supporters. :)

    While I am at a shifted school now, my previous school “looking under the hood” was not a place where the administrators supported the shift to much of a degree. I guess that is one reason why I needed to follow Andy’s advice and make the move. It can wear you down being out one your own pushing for the shift.

  2.   By Gilbert Halcrow on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

    Other ‘Trojan Horse’ to get administers to send the dollars your way; is the ‘Differentiation’ Learning Technologies provide, and the support they provide to EAL/ESL students.

  3.   By Jeff Utecht on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

    Good points made by all!

    How do you get administration to change? I think you have to start with small steps. So much change can happen with what school’s already have. A computer and an Internet connection can open up a world of possibilities. I’m not saying that things like document cameras aren’t great tools to have, but in order to “sell” administration on new hardware we have to show them what we can do with what we have already. Find a teacher that is keen and start setting things up. As I explained during the podcast at times it ment me spending my own money on things like hosting serves and domain names. I knew what would happen if we got these free online tools in the hands of teachers…and students. Before we can say “We can be doing so much more!” We need to start with what can we do with what we already have…or can do for little to no cost if we put structures in place. Part of shifting a school is puting shifted structures into place to allow the shift to begin. There’s another EQ for us next year. How do you structure the ICT program in a shifted school?

    Glad you enjoy the conversations, I’m hoping that next year from Thailand the bandwidth will be more reliable. :)

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