Trinidad Conversation

Task 2- In conversation with Associate Professor Sue Trinidad

The following discussion reflects on my reading a transcript of a conversation between the authors of ‘Transforming Learning with ICT’and Sue Trinidad. Sue has over 20 years experience in the implementation of ICTs in the classroom and the construction of effective technological learning environments. In this conversation Sue explains the importance of classrooms using ICTs as a learning tool instead of just a subject. In doing so, she describes her own classrooms, compares ICT implementation in Australian classrooms to that of other cultures and comments on the difference between the ICT facilities and use of such in Australian private schools and public schools.

Through analytical reading, I can see that Sue is generally impressed with the attidues of Australian children towards using ICTs in and out of the classroom but is concerned with what skills these students are being provided with to maximise their learning abilities and increase their proficiency with ICT applications. This is something that Sue claims to have focused on in her own classrooms. Sue describes her “social constructivist” approach to a learning environment that is supported by the integration of ICTs into the learning. To the best of my recollection, this is the first text that I have encountered that explicitly details what teaching method someone uses, why and how it is successful. I appreciate this because I feel as though much else has simply described what outcome is required and what stands in the way of that, it is refreshing to see that someone is able to be forthright with what they believe to be an effective model. I think this is because other texts that I have encountered are comparing what other’s think is the most successful teaching method whereas Sue is an authority in herself and is able to openly convey her bias. Without giving consideration to this text, I have a preference to a social constructivist teaching method because I have found that I learn best in learning environments that have incorporated this method. I think that an objectivist approach would be more suited to teaching ICTs rather than teaching with ICTs.

Another point that I am in agreement with Sue on is that when it comes to ICT resources the best approach is to make the most of what you have and privilege the resources implementation over expansion. Sue raised the point that the quality and quantity of a schools resources is meaningless if they are not being used in the best possible ways. This is a concept that I was yet to consider prior to reading this text and has broadened my perspective on exactly what it means to have a good learning environment. i used to have a mental picture in my head that showed a classroom where each student had constant access to their own computer and state of the art applications. This has changed now as I see groups of students working together around a computer to learn. Although an unrestricted access to technological facilities is ideal to me as a teacher, I feel that if I can competently create a learning environment that integrates ICTs into my classes learning then I would be satisfied with whatever resources are available.

This is idea was exemplified by a year 5 class in Perth that Sue described to be “the most wonderful class I have ever seen using ICT”. Her Sue describes a classroom that had older computers being used in their most effective ways. One had a musical keyboard attached to it, one a video camera, another had spelling and maths programs and two others had internet access. The class also had a policy where they were to consult other students before going to the teacher if they had a question. I believe this implementation would increase problem solving abilities and create a motivated and considerate atmosphere for the class. When recalling my ICT experiences in school I envy students in that grade 5 class. When we used the computers at school we worked individually and were had to stay quiet and go to the teacher if we had a problem. i would much prefer the other learning environment with few computers rather than mine where there was one for each student. One can only hope that such innovative ideas and nurturing learning environments such as that of the school in Perth are becoming more and more common.

Overall Sue maintained a positive perspective on Australia’s progress with incorporating ICTs into successful learning environments. When asked how we compared with other nations she expressed concern for students in Asian countries. Sue commented on their lack of ICT application in schooling and a there being a primary focus on exam results and traditional curriculum. This does not surprise me as I believe that culture would determine what is learnt and how the learning is undertaken and many Asian countries uphold old-fashioned and potentially overly conservative values. To demonstrate contrast in the learning practices I will now compare my interpretation of an Asian classroom to that of the grade 5 Perth class. Where group discussion and student interaction was privileged in Perth a class in Asia may not allow students to interact with one another inside the classroom as it may demonstrate disrespect for the teacher’s ability to create understanding in their students. Where the Perth students would be  encouraged to undertake online research and communicate with the outside community when learning about a particular topic an asian classroom may require the teacher to present their class with the information themselves and may not allow the students to question the validity of the information or apply their critical analysis skills. These are just two of many differences that one could consider when comparing Asian and Australian education and creates concern regarding the creative skills and open-mindedness of Asian students.

Although Sue compared Australian schools as a whole to schools in other countries, she also explained differences in Australian private and public school’s integration of ICTs. Sue commented that she would like to see the gap in the differences between the two to favor the public school system. She expressed concern regarding public schools being supplied with the physical resources to integrate ICTs but insufficient support in how best to integrate them. Sue said that a private school is able to develop stronger technological learning environments due to their higher budgets and that their student’s abilities are far exceeding those of public schools. To demonstrate this point I will compare the results of a public and a private school’s attempt at a presentation on playground bullies. The public school would likely have their students brainstorm the characteristics of bullies in a face to face group session, research the schools and government’s anti-bullying policies online and present a play to demonstrate their understanding of how to deal with a bully. Whereas a private school might have an online forum where they invite another school to join their brainstorming session to compare bullying in different environments. They may also undertake similar online research to the public school students but may present their ideas through a short film or a series of short films, here they could trade presentations with their partner schools to see what each other came up with. This example does not only show the difference in facilities the students have access to but also the skills that have been developed or increased for the private school students, such as; communication skills, technical skills involved in film production and analyses of perspectives of others which would assist their own concept development. Although the example is basic, it is not hard to see how our public school students may be somewhat disadvantaged.

From my analysis of above ideas I have thought of some negative results that may eventuate for Australian and Asian students and suggestions on how this could be overcome. I predict that if the current practices in Asian continue then they will most likely see an economic downfall as the international requirement of creative, efficient and broad-minded employees expands. This could be avoided if such countries were to look into the undertakings of western education systems and see the benefits of our evolving practices.

I also predict a struggle for public school students when entering employment as their private school counterparts would be better equipped to fulfill job requirements due to their stronger education. This would see a division in the Australian population and may see our public school students left behind the rest of the western business world. We need to develop a nation-wide policy on integrating ICTs as a learning tool instead of a subject and look into the successes of other nations classrooms and our own to develop a country of intelligent, creative, technologically capable, problem solvers.  

Reference:

Finger, G., Russell, G. Jamieson-Proctor, R., Russell, N. (2007) Transforming Learning with ICT. French Forest Australia: Pearson Education, p.60-65.

 

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