Everywhere you turn these days the buzz is about computers and the part they should play in schooling: parents want IT, learners are calling for IT and the department of education’s White Paper encourages schools to use more IT. It seems every vendor out there is trying to push a ‘package” at you and your school. Technology firms sometimes claim you and your learners will experience numerous benefits if you buy their product. It is as if just turning on the computer will solve all your problems.
There is no doubt that, used correctly and appropriately, information and communication technologies (ICTs) can contribute positively to the richness of the learning environment. But the arbitrary purchases of technology can use up a school’s scarce resources in no time. So how do you know when a technology purchase is appropriate? It is time to consult the school’s ICT policy.
Just as we use school policies to guide us when making decisions about other school-related issues, it makes sense to formulate a policy on the adoption, implementation and use of computers and other related technologies. Sadly, few schools have formulated such documents. As we spend more of our budgets on ICT, policies are essential to good planning and appropriate purchases. If you are a senior teacher or manager at your school you need to start thinking about initiating the debate about what ICT realistically can be expected to bring to the learning process.
Every school is different and the staff has different expectations about what they want to achieve. Consequently, the way ICT is deployed should be tailored to suit the needs of the school.
So how do you identify the objectives and link them to the use of technology? Tough question? Not really, but it will require some debate and discussion among members of the school community before consensus can be reached.
Ideally the benefits of using computers needs to be discussed, a vision statement formulated and an analysis conducted to identify priority areas for change.
Goals need to be set, action plans devised and, finally, the findings and decisions need to be contained within a clear, concise ICT policy for the school.
All this might seem a bit daunting. To help senior management facilitate this process, a helpful document is available free from Thutong, the South African national education portal.
Managing ICTs in South Africa: A Guide for School Principals was developed to help school managers create a school ICT policy. It was developed by the South African Institute for Distance Education, which has been consulted often on the appropriate use of technology. Based on vast experience, the document not only explains the process, but provides step-by-step activities to help senior managers to consult and involve the school community. The guide looks at a number of issues:
- Why should we have computers in our schools?;
- How can schools benefit from computers?;
- How can computers be used in teaching and learning?;
- How can a school build a shared vision of ICT use?;
- Strategic planning and management: implementing the vision; and
- Practical issues: financing technology, appropriate locations, purchasing issues, support strategies and professional development for staff.
If you follow these steps, your school could develop a document to guide the way ICT is acquired, deployed and supported. The next time a member of staff is tempted by the wonders of a new piece of technology, a quick look at the school’s ICT policy can lead to an informed decision about the appropriateness of the purchase.
Andrew Moore’s background is in teaching. One of his duties was running courses for his colleagues on how to integrate ICT effectively into teaching and learning. For the past three years he has worked at Neil Butcher and Associates, an education technology consulting company that offers services in the areas of capacity building, database design, education materials development and education technology research
How to get the guide
Interested in an ICT policy for your school? Follow these instructions to access Managing ICTs in South Africa: A Guide for School Principals free of charge from Thutong, the South African national education portal:
1. Go to Thutong on the Internet: http://www.thutong.org.za
2. Log in with a user name and password. (If this is your first visit you will have to register, but the benefits are well worth it.)
3. Select the ‘Professional Development” tab.
4. The resource has been identified as a significant resource by a Thutong content adviser so it is not necessary to search for the resources. Instead, scroll down to the ‘Latest Resources” box till you can see the resource, Managing ICTs in South Africa: A Guide for School Principals. Then click on the link ‘View Resource Details”.