Welcome to the e-world

7th September 2007 at 01:00
For anyone confused about technology in schools, top-rate speakers at a series of five NAHT seminars promise to explain all. Carole Whitty is first off the mark with a look at the IT antics of young people

Between barbecues, holiday breaks and other excursions, thousands of young people across the land have been sizzling with cyber conversations. Iphones and the latest PSP units were the accessories of choice for the summer. Few will have resisted e-activities, of which there is now an extraordinary range, mostly very good. Just ask youngsters you meet what use they made of Facebook, MySpace or Bebo over the holidays.

Adult awareness of the e-world has been raised through appalling examples of cyber abuse on sites such as RateMyTeachers.com and YouTube. Under-standably, there are growing calls to censor or ban such sites. However, as late arrivals at the technology ball, we older folks (i.e. anyone over 20) need time to work out the full social and educational implications of what is happening. Small wonder then, that many schools are struggling to find ways to lead this thrilling period in the world's history of communications.

So, how do we become an e-confident school, able to exploit the technology to the full and engage with the internet generation? How can we lead our young people to understand the power and the responsibility which comes with global communications systems?

There are three essentials: empower your pupils to be part of the ICT leadership team in your school, engage them in strategic planning and in designing the policies, and get your infrastructure right.

Also, enable the staff to make use of the fact that their pupils know more than they do.

On September 28, the National Association of Head Teachers has a series of seminars on e-futures thinking at The TES Education show. Throughout the day, we will develop each of these three ingredients. We will lead you to the ultimate experience of personalised learning where youngsters use their networking skills to assess each others' work and record their achievements on their mobile phones. This is new thinking that gives you examples of personalised learning at its best.

The relationships between learners and teachers in an e-confident environment are likely to be non-hierarchical. Learners will be in control of their learning while teachers will be guides, facilitators and moderators. And so they must be if we are to help young people engage responsibly in cyber space.

Does this sound like utopia or nightmare? Or does it make teaching rocket science seem preferable? If you are visiting the London show, come and share your views with us. Alternatively, get in touch at carolew@naht.org.uk.

Carole Whitty is deputy general secretary of the NAHT

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