Dr Cheryl Doig, director of Think Beyond Limited, talks about the importance of having a shared language and understanding of what e-learning is before integrating it into the school vision. Key questions to ask are, "What’s the purpose?" and "What difference will it make to students?" Dr Doig outlines the process of getting teachers involved and committed to developing e-learning in your school. She outlines the change process and explains how to sustain change. Focus is important, identifying powerful ways to use e-learning tools that connect back to your vision to make a difference to student learning outcomes.
My name is Dr Cheryl Doig and I’m the director of Think Beyond Limited and today I’d like to talk a little bit about leading e-learning in your school.
Before you can lead e-learning in your school you need to come to some common understanding about what e-learning is. You can’t create a vision if you don’t have some shared language and understanding. So that means spending time talking as a staff about what e-learning might be and why you’d even want to participate in e-learning in your school. What’s the purpose? And what difference will it make to students.
So to implement that in your school it has to tie into not just the buying of technology but the whole way we work together. The day in day out way that we teach, the way that students are involved in their learning, and integrating that with really strong professional learning. Some people talk about buy-in, getting staff to buy-in to the e-learning vision, and I’d say buy-in’s completely the wrong word because it’s a transaction. If I buy-in to something it, it sounds like we’re exchanging money or some sort of services. I think a better term is commitment, how you gain commitment and real ownership from the staff. Teachers aren’t stupid people, they actually want to make a difference to kids and isn’t that the way that you build that commitment? Through the conversations and having them involved in the process right from the beginning. So rather than as leader saying, “e-learning’s a really important part of what we’re doing and this is how we’re going to approach it.” Start the conversation about how e-learning’s being used in other places, how it’s made a difference to student achievement and use that as the start of the conversation. And let the people grow it together. So provide the structures and the processes of dialogue to engage the staff in what it looks like here, because it may be very different from what it looks like in the school down the road. So the commitment of staff comes through them having ownership, being part of the process and seeing the real benefit that there might be for the students.
I think one of the things when you’re implementing change is that you realise that there will be a dip. That things will get more difficult before you come out of the dip and things get easier and you prepare for that. You don’t say ooh, things are going not so well and so we’ll change direction. You actively prepare for that in advance.
In terms of sustaining the change it’s about the on-going professional learning. The concept of e-learning and the connected lifelong learner is one that has to engage in every facet of school life. So it’s part of your professional development programme. It’s part of the expectations that you build as a leader in your school of where we’re heading and as a servant of the process you say it’s not optional to be part of the journey, you can help shape the journey, and we’ll help you to get there. So how can we help?
The sustaining change of e-learning is something that has to be embedded in every practice in the school and, and one of the ways that I think is most powerful is when you make the change with the students because when you hear their voice in the process and teachers can see that students are excited by the whole process of e-learning and building that into their learning, that’s when they become excited because they can see a difference in what’s happening for students. And isn’t that what we want?
I think you have to link back to your vision which is about future focus and, and for me e-learning is about using ICTs and digital tools connecting to the world where it’s a new powerful way of doing so. Why would you use a powerful tool to do traditional things? What I’m suggesting is that you look for powerful ways to use the, to use e-learning and that has to connect back to your vision about why do you want to use the tools and what’s going to make the biggest difference. So focus is really important.