As a Primary Teacher, I have witnessed a considerable focus on the integration of technology to enhance the learning of students. The effective integration of Digital Technology cannot only excite and improve the educational experience of the children but prepare them to achieve the most that they can and reach their personal potential in the world outside the classroom. In my current position, part of my role in the school has been to explore the idea of how to develop a culture of technology and assist teachers with the integration of technology at a fundamental level. It is through this lens that I have explored a study conducted by Skues and Cunningham (2013). The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development as part of their Leading Schools Fund initiative funded this study. This study aimed to explore the role of e-learning coaches within a Secondary school environment. It investigated factors that influenced the effectiveness of a person in this role and the impact it had on how technology was integrated for effective teaching and learning. Skues and Cunningham (2013) raise some interesting points that in hindsight have a significant impact on placing an educator in this role. To me, this first issue seems like an obvious consideration prior to implementing such a program, with the authors pointing out that it ‘is essential that the ICT infrastructure within schools be operational before attempts are made to integrate ICT with teaching practices’ (p. 186).
The article identified many sub-themes that I am currently grappling with and seem to have a significant impact on the success of such a program. Role definition is of great importance and communicating the explicit limitations of this position to all stakeholders is essential. Skues and Cunningham (2013) point out that the e-learning coach, staff and administers need to have a full understanding of the intention of this role so that this valuable resource is not ‘mistaken for technical support’ (p. 185). Further stressing that ‘technical issues need to be the responsibility of technical staff, while curriculum issues need to be the responsibility of the e-learning coach’ (p. 186). Staff need to see this individual as part of the curriculum development team there to assist in matters of e-learning related directly to the teaching and learning spheres.
Another sub-theme identified in this study is something that I have personally experienced or witnessed on many occasions and is a challenge that I am sure any institution would need to face when integrating a new skill or idea into an established culture or setting. Pushback from teachers, especially in relation to confidence and fear in using technology as a pedagogical tool in their teaching has been identified as a serious obstacle. Skues and Cunningham (2013) offer several reasons for this barrier based on the findings from their exploration. Changing the pedagogical approach teachers used in the classroom proved to be a challenge as the teachers were encouraged to take on a more learner-centred approach over more traditional methods of ‘sage on the stage’ (p. 186). As outlined by Marc Prensky (2001) many of the students that enter classrooms today are ‘Digital Natives’, while the teachers who are the supposed experts are ‘immigrants’ to this world of technology. This means that when using technology in the classroom, there is a strong possibility that the students will know more than the teacher. Skues and Cunningham (2013) reflect on how this hurdle influences the confidence of educators and ultimately their willingness to use technology within their teaching. I find this article reassuring that such reflections are not just limited to one location, but are a legit and recognised problem facing schools when incorporating these modern forms of instructional design into their methodology.
As an e-learning coach in an ideal world, the above image reflects what I would love to see. When a fire is lit and used to light passion and innovation into the heart and mind of others. In reality, change is not easy or smooth. It takes work, planning, strategy and a lot of hard work.