Upskilling to lead students into digital revolutionSeptember 2017
School leaders are evolving to meet the changing needs of students in the future. Three deputy principals have stepped forward to upskill and transform their teaching practices by enrolling in The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning).
In today’s fast-paced, digitally enabled world, professional learning and development in education is more vital than ever. Stuart Kelly of Auckland’s Aorere College sees his role as a great way to advocate for professional development within his school, ensuring that his team keeps up with technological trends and is able to prepare students for modern-day careers.
He says schools have an obligation to prepare students for the future by encouraging staff to stay abreast of current education technology offerings.
“As pedagogy evolves to tackle our changing society, a willingness to take a more active role in effecting cultural change is one of the greatest attributes teachers and school leaders can have.
“As a deputy principal, I have broadened my thinking in terms of integrating technology and digital skills in the school’s curriculum,” Kelly says.
Sandy Stirling of Auckland’s Mauku School shares the same sentiment and has integrated technology and digital skills into his school with fantastic results.
“I realised I was quite limited to set structures throughout my day. There wasn’t much flexibility to accommodate my students’ different needs – it was a one-way system in which I, as the teacher, determined how the day unfolded,” he says.
“Now I have a wide range of new ideas that I am implementing in the classroom, including the use of apps and enabling a two-way dialogue with students, which has transformed the one-way system of learning to a far more collaborative environment.”
Stirling explains that through the use of these new technologies, children are afforded more autonomy over their learning.
“Students can create their own timetables in which they choose how to spend parts of their day and how to structure their time. Incorporating these initiatives into my teaching practice has seen remarkable growth in students’ confidence and a positive change in the way they are learning.
“I have shifted from being the teacher with all the knowledge to being able to guide and empower my students to take ownership of their learning, and they have just flourished as a result.”
Through The Mind Lab’s postgraduate certificate, educators learn how digital and collaborative tools and strategies can enrich their interaction with students and provide new ways to assist students with unique challenges such as learning disabilities and impairments.
Steve Katene of Napier’s Richmond School has been able to guide and empower a struggling deaf student at his school, integrating the principles of gaming into education to improve the student’s communication and engagement in the classroom.
“Many teachers get put off when they hear Minecraft and the Sims, as they believe they’re just games. However, I’m really interested in discovering how we can use these games – which have fantastic engagement levels with kids – in education to further engage our students,” he says.
Steve says he has been using the principles of gaming, specifically Minecraft, to improve the achievement levels of the deaf student.
“This student had a severe hearing impairment, had ADHD, and hadn’t learnt how to sign – he would only communicate in grunts and pointing. One day he saw Minecraft on my tablet so I showed him how to use it, and I discovered a fantastic way to connect with him.
“I left markers inside the Minecraft field where I posed a question or a scenario such as ‘build a house’, and then he built it in 3D. He started coming to us more and more as he needed help to figure out the scenarios – he had to communicate with us.
“We started communicating through block patterns and using videos through the game, and it was amazing to see how quickly he was picking it up. The difference in his communication and his engagement has been remarkable.”
All three leaders understand the impact the future of work has on both students and the teaching profession and how vital it is to create a learning environment that caters to these changing needs.
“Our young people need to be adaptable to lead changes in society rather than simply being reactive. Students are now global citizens as well as local citizens so we need to make sure they can lead and learn anywhere in the world,” says Kelly.
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