Consider the constraints facing the general classroom teacher, primary or secondary, who sees the need to gather more skills in the area of information technology. How well equipped are we to use the massive digital resources available in a networked society? How do we find the time to expand our personal abilities and ideas? What new mindsets do we need to cultivate to be able to generate our own professional development? This paper outlines some of the support services offering professional development (PD) to such teachers, and suggests some innovative projects to generate finance for PD activities.
The problems of distance and time are no longer limiting factors to the sharing of knowledge in a globally networked society. The problems that we face are centred on old thinking and closed mindsets where limited school and personal budgets (also agendas) are used as excuses. This paper suggests ways of overcoming what are often thought of as barriers, both financial and personal that inhibit individual growth. Ways to open doors, personal ones for the way that we think and teach, as well as the administrative ones that guard the funds we need. Opening these will then lead us towards opening even more doors. Doors behind which learning communities gather that are focused towards personal growth. Our participation is only limited by our desire to find them.
Never forget that we live in a changing world and one in which distance is no longer a factor of consequence for the exchange of information. If you doubt that, look back on the removal of President Suharto just a few weeks after winning another term of office and the serious suggestion of an autonomous Palestinian state - and this during Israel's fiftieth celebration as a nation. How well do schools match this rate of change? (Should we indeed be matching it?) Yet I would suggest to you that most schools cling to the old tried and trusted formulas. For example a limited number of enrolled students equates to limited subject offerings, followed by grid first, subject availability second. Like the captain of the Titanic, schools with such a fixed focus will have difficulty in accepting the bad news, that their design has not withstood the rigours of the environment in which they choose to be.
One aspect of our vocation is that we are in the business of preparing students for life in a networked world. Just as we try to get students to see the importance of innovative flexible and creative thinking, so our thinking patterns have to be flexible and changeable. How much did you learn at school that you later left behind as excess baggage along the way? What has been invaluable to you as a life skill, but was probably non curricular in nature? These are serious reflections, for until we can honestly examine these - and more of the same- are we giving our students the freedom to question and think or are we just training them to jump through hoops?
To find new ways of opening doors for our personal growth we have to explore new personal patterns of thinking and acting.
Educational Computing Association of Western Australia (Inc)
ECAWA - A professional association supporting
all teachers using information technology
ECAWA has been active since the early 1980s in running low cost PD and helping teachers to make and connect to networks of peers. Currently ECAWA are offering a $200 incentive to attend professional development run by them. This will be credited to those schools that reply to a questionnaire, which is designed to assist in ECAWA's planning towards the year 2000. The only proviso is that your school takes up a corporate membership of ECAWA (if they do not already have one). The cost of the membership is $110 for three nominees and you are being offered a $200 incentive. Can you get much better value?
Electronic support sites
ECHALK http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/echalk/ (now at http://learnt.smec.curtin.edu.au/echalk/) is the ECAWA List Server. Hosted by Murdoch University this list is the electronic meeting place for Western Australian teachers, though our friends from the east do join in. Matters as diverse as voice recognition software, help with Intranets, names of good learning sites, making a multi media production, and the role of the specialist IT teacher in a changing world, are just some of the current topics. Cries for help that go to the list are fielded by 'the mob' and some excellent tips and advice are readily given by folk who have already been down the road that you may be stuck on. When you take into account that its almost instant and free, how much better can it get?
ECAWEB http://www.ecawa.asn.au/ is the digital spiritual home of ECAWA. On this site you will find valuable information about Professional Development activities ranging from the very informal bi-weekly TOUCAN Club, to flag ship events such as the State Conference in October.
Interested in LOGO or ROBOTICS? The links and advice on the site have drawn comments of gratification from as far afield as Israel.
Innovative projects to generate finance
Where else can we look to stretching the Professional Development dollars further - or getting more?
Meaningful links with industry
A recent example of fostering these links has come from Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School. A new school wing was opened this year that was not totally financed from the school's own funds and government grants. Local industry had been canvassed and obviously they were not averse to the approach, for $60,000 flowed into the building fund from that source.
What are the links that your school has in the business community? Remember that the young people that you are educating will move into that community in the future. There is indeed a case for getting alongside the future employers and asking them to take a financial stake in the preparation of these young men and women. Your school's Board and the Old Boy / Girl register are good starting places. What I am suggesting to you is not such a big shift in thinking for the corporate sector. In the day by day competition for profits, successful business managers have learned to become flexible thinkers. Do your homework, fine tune a good proposal and go shopping. Never forget - we live in a changing world.
Creating learning camps
Working parents with school age children do not embrace school holidays as a time to catch up with relaxation, planning and philosophical thoughts. Rather for many it is a time of stress, that of keeping children under supervision whilst continuing to work. If you as an educator are prepared to link with some like minded colleagues and give away some of your own precious holiday break, this could be used to your financial advantage. Fun learning camps with programmes that run over the late morning and middle afternoon are a definite possibility to explore, especially if the socio-economic area you are based in generally has working couples. School insurances will, I am told, cover these activities if payments are made to the school.
Contracting your facilities out
Several colleges of advanced education, TAFE and private business colleges, are prepared to lease premises and equipment for courses thus bringing in unbudgeted finances which can be channeled towards PD. A definite advantage here is that the commitment for delivery does not come upon your shoulders. Some research will soon take you to the right people.
Consulting to business
Skills that we as educators take for granted are often of commercial value and therefore marketable. Offer your expertise to business, for you are a trained professional educator with one or more degrees to back the claim. Offer classes or seminars based around your school's expertise, promote yourself and be prepared to run sessions on business sites. Business managers pay well for short courses that are aimed at filling specific needs. Possibly they won't come to you at first, so realise that every business in town spends thousands of dollars per year in training. Asses the market, look for what you are able to supply and market yourself. Don't neglect the conduits that already exist for reaching your school community, they are the most receptive audience of all, for you both have a mutual stake in the education of their children.
Accept that we live in a changing world, be prepared to accept change for yourself. Look for ways to make change work for you rather than setting up patterns of resistance. Don't accept that it cannot be done, just look for different ways of achieving what you want to do. Think different, be different - think.
|Author: Harry J. Clements-Shepherd is Head of Department for Information Technology and Business at Christian Brothers' College, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160.
School: firstname.lastname@example.org Private: email@example.com
Mobile Phone: +61 015 085 097 Answer Phone: +61 9328 5812
Please cite as: Clements-Shepherd, H. J. (1998). Putting more mileage into your training dollars. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Planning for Progress, Partnership and Profit. Proceedings EdTech'98. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech98/pubs/articles/clements-shepherd.html
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