What is the Role of ICT Teachers in 21st Century Teaching and Learning?: An Argentinian Perspective

Andrea Pellicia - ICT Teacher at Belgrano Day School, Argentina.

It is hard being an ICT teacher. We have to endure serious accusations that our students are ‘digital natives’ with the know-how to deal with technology (therefore teaching the subject is not relevant) to bearing the guilt for every incident that occurs with the misuse of ICT tools or even poor typing skills. It would seem that the days of being the magician in the ICT lab, revered for our skills but with little chance of others understanding what we are doing would be longed for but the reality of the situation is that the world has changed and ICT teachers must change too.

Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to work with a group of teachers in the ICT department at my school who relish a challenge. Together, we started to think about ICT away from packages in more detail and came up with a central question: What skills will our students need in order to successfully live and work in the future? We believe that by trying to answer this fundamental question we can make a difference to our students not only from an ICT point of view but also for all other subjects. To help us formulate our approach, we drew inspiration from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills[1]  with its vision of how a school can best prepare its students to succeed.

One of the key features for success is the ability, in work or in life, to ‘navigate’ content. In a globally competitive information environment, where students have to develop adequate life and career skills such as working in an atmosphere of growing ambiguity and changing priorities, the ability to chart a clear course with a degree of conviction is necessary. Moreover, they also need to be able to work independently whilst also having an awareness that learning is social. Taking on an understanding of the ‘social’ aspect of learning and combining it with our key question, ICT teachers in the 5th grade onwards have actively used the school’s Virtual Learning Platform (BDS Virtual Class bdsvc.bds.edu.ar) as our stage to support students to work on the activities set by other subjects in ICT and catch-up lessons. Consequently, we have found ourselves teaching mind-mapping for literature classes, helping students create posters for Art or sorting out geometrical figures for maths.

Achieving such an integrated approach to learning depends on the quality of collaboration between staff and once again, we have been very fortunate to work with a group of educators who see cooperation as a necessary way of working in helping our students to reach their potential.  With their subject expertise supporting our efforts, our colleagues have enabled us to create a programme of study where the teaching and learning needs of the individual subjects where married with the ICT skills we desired all learners should have. As a result, 9 year olds became independent learners, communicated with teachers via webmail following the proper etiquette and adopted safe search methods when conducting research on the web. An associated benefit is that the subject teachers also feel more confident with the ICT element and have created more complex and challenging tasks themselves. 

As it is usually the case in curriculum design, there may be different pedagogical approaches to building students’ competence in knowledge and the skills. This was also reflected in the Virtual Classroom where the choice of instructional strategies was “tailor-made” taking into account the learning needs of each particular group, the resources available and the teacher’s expertise. What stands true at all levels, from kindergarten to senior level, is the need to increasingly bring features of “real world contexts” to facilitate transfer of learning from school to life and engage students in solving meaningful problems with ICT. The aims and objectives of the IGCSE ICT curriculum with its real world focus led us to improve our approach in our discussions with other subject staff and to help develop an answer to the challenge we created ourselves with our key question. The ability to work across a variety of subject areas only enhanced the opportunities to apply a competency-based approach to learning.

A common vision underlies the work in our department; we realise there is no point in teaching technology “for its own sake” but we aim to encourage the application of appropriate technologies to all forms of teaching and learning tasks across all subjects. This has allowed us to answer the challenge at the start of the article but also bring ICT into a wider framework of learning. We may no longer be magicians in a lab, but we are happy with the view that we are educators with the development of the student foremost in our minds.

References

Garrison, R. D. and T. Anderson (2002, December). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice.

Belgrano Day School (2009, December), The Evergreen.

[1] About the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has emerged as the leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. The organization brings together the business community, education leaders and policymakers. To learn more about P21, visit www.21stcenturyskills.com.


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