After two weeks at my new school, teaching a new subject to 400 odd new students, its time to share what its all about.
The school advertised for a K-6 ‘Teacher of Information and Learning Skills,’ something that piqued my interest, having become a de-facto and then official ICT coordinator at my previous school. Not that I have particular expertise (a relative term in this field) in the area, but more that I was a classroom teacher who was willing to experiment with new technology in the classroom, and share my experiences with my peers.
The new position is officially ‘Information to Knowledge Teacher,’ with the acronym ‘I2K’. The catchy, mysterious name has confused some staff and students alike, who took some convincing that it was not ‘Library’ any more. The subject evolved into its current form after several planning days with my new deputy and I can now describe it as a mixture of Research Skills, ICT Skills and Thinking Skills. Basically, teaching the students how to be independent learners that can successfully negotiate guided inquiry units with their classroom teachers.
A bit like a souped up teacher librarian without the fiction books. Well, my teaching space is in the new library!
Preparing for the year presented with me a few challenges (lots, actually, but these are the main ones…)
Basically, new subject means no program to work with, so it was all from scratch. The big problem that I felt was what to teach? There is virtually nothing in the NSW Board of Studies syllabus regarding this sort of thing, and I realised that I needed to back myself and teach what I knew.
I had certainly taught a lot of IT to my students in the past, but only at a Year 5 level, leaving the big mystery… What do I teach Kindergarten in Week 1!?
I was comfortable with Year 5. They are old enough to know how to do stuff, you just have to point them in the right direction, and support them as they go (really, there is a bit more to it, but for the sake of my argument, that generally that sums it up.) I realised that I needed to teach explicit skills to the younger students, like their classroom teachers teach how to hold a pencil, what direction to write in etc. I will have to teach them how to turn a computer on, how to log in to the network, how to open a program etc.
The challenge of teaching K-6 as a specialist teacher has made me really come to terms with the actual skills that students need in this area. So, with the help of the AIS, I developed an IT Skills Scope and Sequence and slotted it into my program (well, Term 1 is done, anyway.) So far so good, but what about…
The teacher librarian at my previous school had implemented a school wide research sequence modeled on the Big 6 that was taught to all students, and supported by classroom teachers. Being familiar with the model (Define, Locate, Select, Organise, Present & Assess) and pleased with its use, I decided to use it for the research skills part of my teaching. The use of ICT in the use of this sequence is especially pertinent in the Locate and Present steps.
It is vital that students don’t dismiss hard copy books for the allure of the bright and shiny world wide web. (So far the argument that when it becomes the world wide wait, then it is certainly easier to go to the encyclopedia shelf than get online has been fairly effective.) Newspapers, magazines, and reference books will be a large part of my focus, especially in the earlier years, as the locating habits established with hard copy materials will transfer easily to digital resources.
When the time comes to jump on a computer to find information, it will have to be done sensibly, effectively and most importantly, safely. The first five weeks of this year are being taken up with explicit cyber safety instruction in the Primary years, as most of the technologies being used will be web based (2.0) tools.
As for after that, there is instruction in formatting, using graphics, creating hyperlinks and the like (logging on…), while monitoring the latest technologies available. Did I mention planning was a bit frustrating? I have a strong feeling that students will learn best when they are learning what they want to learn. The downside is that I have to teach the same content to four Year 6 classes, so the challenge becomes convincing the students that they do in fact want to learn what I am teaching them!
Well, so far so good. I will leave you with an abriged quote from one of my Year 6 students:
“So we are learning how to learn… Cool!”