16 September 2009; Pages 60–65
The global village 'is new, its residents have just moved in, and they don't know one another very well': social forces have exposed people as never before to unfamiliar languages and customs. Schools have a vital role in developing the 'global competency' needed for citizens in this new world. Students need to understand global interdependence, and how suffering from disease, famine or social turmoil in one region impacts elsewhere in the world, eg through refugee intakes or the spread of infection. They also need to understand global economic inequalities and their repercussions, and to be aware of critiques of globalisation. Educators need to challenge misunderstandings of global economics that generate animosity, eg the mistaken argument that economic development in China and India has destroyed US jobs. Students need to learn the potential of science and technology to deliver higher living standards in developing countries while simultaneously reducing global environmental damage. A deeper understanding of culture itself is needed to improve intercultural awareness: students need to know that culture is passed on through deeply embedded learning between generations, rendering it 'fairly stable and ubiquitous – and largely unconscious'; it can only be understood through interactions in context, not through 'memorising facts and imitating stereotypes'. To address the challenges of globalisation schools need to shift from a locally to a globally oriented curriculum. Language education should be compulsory for all students. It should begin at primary level and the balance should shift from linguistic to cultural content. Literature and LOTE courses should familiarise students with literary works, film and art from countries not previously covered in the curriculum. Science needs to address cross-border issues such as climate change and infectious disease, while social studies courses need to cover the social impact of globalisation. Students and teachers need opportunities to interact with peers across the world and collaborate around international issues, through programs such as international study tours, student and teacher exchanges, and international cultural events. Achieving these steps means altering schools' long-held identities as local institutions, and the related mind-set of academic competition against other schools, 'particularly those in other nations'.
Key Learning AreasScience
Studies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsSocial life and customs
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Leading networked school communities
Spring 2009; Pages 6–7
School leaders confront the task of making the most of funding for new buildings and the wave of technological innovation currently being offered by the Australian Government. When doing so it is important that they examine how ICT can be used to address the issues raised for schools by current social trends. These trends include important shifts in the nature of the school community. In the past the school community was well-defined geographically and demographically, and prepared children physically and socially for school life and learning. Today schools are increasingly called to provide social supports formerly undertaken by families, including breakfast and other meals and before- and after-school care. Overall, parents are less engaged with their children's education, but at the same time are becoming more demanding. Catholic schools confront the erosion of the traditional parish community while the independent school struggles to meet demands from its founding authority 'to retain its ethos and tradition'. ICT can help to build new links within the school community. Technology extends opportunities for academic learning in the home, including family-mediated learning. ICT also allows the school to communicate directly with parents in new ways, including blogs, email, wikis and other websites. ICT also facilitates communication 'across town, regionally, nationally and internationally'. Some electronically networked school communities already exist, taking advantage of these opportunities. A major part of school leadership in the coming period is to identify and act on the opportunities ICT offers to overcome current challenges facing schools. The author reports that these issues were raised during the ICT Master Class Series 'Leading Schools in the Digital Age' organised by Teaching Australia.
Subject HeadingsComputers in society
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
School and community
Building a bubble
August 2009; Page 19
Schools must attend to a range of issues related to ICT security. Like many workplaces schools must block inappropriate web content and viruses, while also facing more distinctive concerns, attempting to prevent the use of technology for plagiarism and cyber-bullying. The article presents comments about security issues from ICT staff at a range of schools. It is important for security to be understood as an ongoing issue, with fresh challenges frequently posed by new technology, new forms of cyber-attack, and students' ongoing exploration of ways to circumvent security measures, based on ever-growing sophistication with technology. Threats are also increased by the ever-expanding presence of ICT through the 'digital revolution', including the growing number of access points to school networks. Laptops, while valuable for learning, also introduce dangers as they can be infected when connected to non-school networks. Inappropriate content can be accessed through 'proxy anonymisers' that allow students to bypass school security systems to access any internet content, 'leaving the network wide open to external attack'. To protect themselves schools need firstly to educate students about risks, and secondly to establish staff and technology dedicated to security functions. Schools need a vigilant technician focused on a security role. In terms of technology, one school recommends Apple computers as 'more robust and secure than many other personal computers'. Cisco's IronPort can be used to monitor data passing through a school network. In New South Wales, IronPort is used at all government schools to filter email as part of a service arranged through Telstra. Proxy services such as Zscaler can play a benign role, offering a range of security services including protection against spyware, viruses, phishing, proxy anonymisers and botnets.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
What is 'competence' and how should education incorporate new technology's tools to generate 'competent civic agents'?
Volume 20 Number 3, September 2009; Pages 207–223
Interactive media provide opportunities for developing competences appropriate to twenty-first century life, including civic participation. However, the integration of these technologies into education has been constrained by existing cultural mindsets, top-down pedagogical approaches that privilege individual learning, and assessment that focuses on individual performance. The author identifies four core competences with particular relevance to civic participation and examines their role in education, and how they can be facilitated using new technologies. Managing ambiguity and uncertainty is the capacity for adaptation to new circumstances, and is central to engagement with democracy and social progress. Civic education that fosters this competence should promote perspective-taking, management of dialogue, and engagement with multiple perspectives and experiences. Blogging provides an opportunity to help learners engage with people outside their immediate circle of acquaintances. Managing technological change involves being open to, and adapting to, the potential of new technologies. The educational implications of this competence relate to the learner's role in information gathering and communication. Civic engagement can be promoted through electronic games that require social collaboration and communication, and networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter, which, for example, have been used in organising recent protests in Moldova. Agency and responsibility relates to the ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations or problems and also to a sense of obligation to address these issues. Educators should provide experiences that require learners to be active agents, and that give meaning to their civic and moral engagement. Skills developed from blogging and gaming can be transferred for use in this competence. Finding and sustaining community involves developing complex social networks, which is an essential element of interactive media such as Facebook or MySpace. Educators can ensure that learners make effective use of these skills to promote civic awareness by extending links to other communities, reflecting on community participation and bridging social gaps. In order to properly take advantage of new technologies, educators should avoid 'grafting on' new technologies to old practices. They should instead try to find ways to promote bottom-up, collaborative practices of learning and teaching that emphasise distributed knowledge management. The teacher should become a facilitator of 'collaboration, critical thinking, and synthesis'.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Computers in society
Volume 25 Number 4, October 2009; Pages 334–355
Primary students can benefit from literacy approaches that incorporate comprehension instruction into existing literacy programs that focus on decoding skills. Over eight months the authors examined the challenges and successes that arose as three teachers of Grades 2 or 3 students in a low-SES, low-performing school implemented a reading comprehension framework. This framework incorporated vocabulary development, explicit strategy instruction, and deep engagement with rich texts. Students were scaffolded in applying strategies, leading conversation groups, and having high-level discussions about texts. The more experienced teachers were most efficient in implementing the synthesis approach, managing to incorporate all elements into a lesson; the least experienced teacher tended to focus on strategies. However, all teachers identified explicit teaching of strategies, which included predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising, as most important to improving students' comprehension. Students demonstrated significant improvement in these areas over several months. One element that was challenging to teachers was the synthesis approach's gradual move from whole-class to small student-led groups that were designed for students to engage in for both strategy application and deep discussion of texts. Teachers had reservations about the potential for off-task behaviour, and struggled with taking steps to gradually release responsibility to students. Although the framework recommended an immediate phase where the teacher sat for an extended period with one group, teachers tended to 'drop in' on different groups instead. In addition, despite explicit lessons in group discussion, modelling and guided practice, the small-group conversations were generally unfocused and were dominated by one or two students. The teachers also highlighted the challenge of combining curriculum requirements around phonics and fluency with the synthesis approach. Other issues involved the students' difficulties with reading and writing. This meant that all materials had to be read aloud, and that text supports such as response logs were time-consuming and frustrating for students. The school's basal-reading curriculum also made it difficult for teachers to find complex texts with which students could deeply engage. While the synthesis approach can improve students' comprehension skills, younger readers require more time, explicitness, guided practice and teacher support than older readers.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Volume 44 Number 1, February 2009; Pages 83–94
Mandarin language provision in Britain is improving, with 13% of secondary schools now providing some Mandarin teaching, but there are still factors constraining its growth. Drawing on a series of studies, the author examines secondary students' reasons for studying Mandarin, as well as reasons why students might discontinue study. Teachers reported that students at beginner level were generally interested in learning Mandarin: reasons included enjoyment of the challenge of learning Mandarin, interest in Chinese culture, and the perceived value of the language for future work or study. However, despite this early interest, drop-out levels for Mandarin were even higher than those for other foreign languages, with very few students continuing to take Mandarin at GCSE (Year 10) level. A survey of 35 students who had dropped out of Mandarin classes after one term found that more than half had discontinued their studies due to the language's difficulty. A third of respondents found the teaching style boring; a quarter became disengaged when they realised the language was generally not offered at senior year levels. Some classes had been discontinued due to lack of staff or classroom resources. A survey of 29 teachers of Mandarin found that most, while qualified teachers and native speakers of Mandarin, were not specifically qualified to teach Mandarin. Such teachers may benefit from training in specific aspects of the teaching of Mandarin, such as linguistic theory, as well as in areas identified as challenging to Mandarin speakers from regional areas. These include cultural and pedagogical differences; Mandarin pronunciation, as speakers not from mainland China tended to speak Mandarin with regional accents; and the use of the pinyin romanisation system, with which some teachers were unfamiliar. A curriculum review should be undertaken to ensure that examinations at senior secondary level take into account students' home-language backgrounds. In addition, good quality teachers certified in teaching Mandarin are needed, as are better textbooks and teaching and learning materials. To improve breadth of provision, cluster schools could share the cost of a full-time Mandarin teacher.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Volume 46 Number 2, June 2009; Pages 598–619
The introduction of professional learning communities (PLCs) can create tensions among staff if they are implemented without consideration of existing 'knowledge communities' (KCs) among teachers. KCs consist of informal collegial relationships that reflect teachers' collective professional experiences and practices. Using observation notes, interviews and documents, the author examined the issues arising from the implementation of a literacy reform initiative at a middle school in the USA. Formal PLC approaches had been recently introduced as part of a whole-school reform effort, and were used to implement a literacy reform, led by an external consultant, that involved a workshop approach to reading and writing. However, although the PLC introduced by the principal aligned with those advocated in the literature, it did not acknowledge the importance of the existing KC of the teaching staff. The implementation of the literacy reform involved frequent observation by colleagues and by the administration, in front of whom the consultant openly and stringently critiqued teachers' practice while classes were in progress. Teachers were 'appalled' by how their knowledge and teaching experiences had been discounted by the consultant and the principal, to whom the consultant reported, and described the PLC as being 'fear-based'. They were concerned for their job security, and were guarded in their communications with colleagues and the administration. These tensions indicate a mismatch between notions of professionalism, with immediate accountability and adherence to policy on one hand, and longer term concepts of professionalism shaped by practice and experience on the other. When introducing concepts such as PLCs, staff views of professionalism should be openly discussed, and new approaches should take into account the influence and strength of existing KCs; collaborative approaches should not be imposed by the administration.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
United States of America (USA)
Effectiveness of question exploration to enhance students' written expression of content knowledge and comprehension
Volume 25 Number 4, October 2009; Pages 271–289
National standards in the USA emphasise the need for students to be able to express subject-specific content knowledge clearly in writing. One way to learn these skills is through Content Enhancement Routines (CERs). CERs involve the use of graphic devices, teaching routines, and instructional procedures. Graphic devices are specially designed instructional 'road maps' that mirror thinking practices needed to understand content. Teaching routines provide a framework for students to engage in repeated use of the graphic device. Instructional procedures involve the ways a teacher instructs students in the graphic device, teaches content, and promotes student interaction. The authors examined the effectiveness of a Question Exploration Routine CER on the content-writing skills of 36 Grade 9–12 students, 17 of whom had learning difficulties. The intervention took place over two sessions of 90 minutes, five days apart. In the first session, students viewed a film about the depletion of the ozone layer, took notes, and wrote an essay to a prompt. In the second session, students were divided into experimental or control groups. The control group repeated the same process as in session one, while a researcher used the QER process to instruct the experimental group in the use of a graphic device called the Question Exploration Guide (QEG). Students were given a blank copy of the QEG to use for note-taking, and were guided in using key terms, supporting questions and answers, and main ideas. They were briefly shown how to use the QEG to develop topic sentences and paragraphs for the body of the essay, and how to tie this information together into a concluding paragraph. Despite the minimal instruction (4 minutes), students in the experimental group demonstrated significant improvement over their pre-intervention scores. They scored significantly higher than control group students in content knowledge, and in use of ideas, organisation, voice, word choice, and fluency. The results indicate that the use of CERs can help students of various abilities to communicate their understandings of content-based material. In addition, these strategies require only a small amount of time for instruction, addressing potential concerns about impracticality or efficiency.
Subject HeadingsLearning ability
An investigation of the potential of interactive simulations for developing system thinking skills in elementary school: a case study with fifth-graders and sixth-graders
Volume 31 Number 5, March 2009; Pages 355–674
System thinking, the ability to understand and interpret complex systems, is an important skill in science learning, but can be difficult to develop. The authors examined the effect of a simulation-based learning environment on the system-thinking skills of 13 students aged 11–12 in Greece. Over five sessions, students worked in pairs to explore a computer-simulated learning environment involving a marsh ecosystem. Students were asked to identify particular elements in the environment, as well as the relationships between these elements, and were encouraged to make changes to the environment and observe the resulting patterns. Students' system-thinking skills were examined both before and after the instruction using tests designed to assess their ability to apply their system-thinking skills to unfamiliar contexts, in this case to two scenarios involving a forest ecosystem and a pizzeria. After the intervention, students were able to identify a greater number of elements that comprised the systems. Their ability to recognise the spatial and temporal boundaries of the systems increased: for example, students were more likely to extend the pizzeria system boundaries to the delivery area it serviced rather than limiting it to the immediate surrounds of the building. Students demonstrated improvement in identifying subsystems within a system, such as the fish and plant subsystem in the forest scenario. After the intervention, students were more likely to identify the influence of a particular element on other elements in the system, as well as identifying the changes that should be made in order to observe certain patterns. Students' ability to identify feedback effects in a system remained limited, with students generally only able to identify linear connections rather than positing cyclic ones. This may be related to a cognitive development barrier. Simulation-based environments provide an inquiry-based means to help students gradually engage with complex systems, starting with basic skills such as element identification that can be built upon to develop more sophisticated understandings.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsChild development
Thought and thinking
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