What are the right conditions for ICT to thrive in a school?

Saturday, April 9th, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa

Orchid flowers have an enchanting beauty and allure, with incredible colours, shapes and scents.  Many gardeners are disappointed that these plants won’t bloom in their gardens.  The reason is quite simple: orchids don’t grow in soil like other plants.  They need a special environment but when you provide the right conditions, you can make your orchid grow, thrive and bloom.

You must realize that not all orchids are the same.  Each requires a specific climate in which they naturally flourish; so the right temperature and humidity levels are important.  Then you must consider the environment; the amount of light and airflow must be just right, as well as the surface on which it likes to grow.  And lastly, but most importantly, these plants need constant and loving nurturing; they must be watered and fertilized in the right way.

Making ICT flourish in your school is similar to cultivating orchids.

Schools need the right climate for ICT to grow.  This climate is created by the education authorities.  Sadly, a climate conducive to the use of technology in schools does not always exist.  Sufficient budget, technical support and teacher training opportunities are lacking.  The good news is that orchids from the Amazon rain forests can grow in the Karoo.  How?  By creating an isolated, in-door area with the right climatic conditions.  Schools can make a success of ICT in spite of a lack of departmental support.  With the help of donors, parents and other partners a climate which encourages the use of technology can be created.

ICT needs the right environment in which to grow.  This environment is created when the principal sets the lead and trained and motivated teachers support the use of technology in the school.  The importance of a safe and secure infrastructure should also not be overlooked.  Creating and maintaining an environment conducive to the use of technology is not easy – but it is possible.

Nurturing is required for the ongoing success of ICT in a school.  It is one thing to create the right climate (particularly an artificial one) and the right environment for technology in a school, but it is quite a different thing to sustain it.  Much nurturing is required.  Technology ages and must be refreshed.  Principals and teachers tire and must be encouraged.  New technologies must constantly be evaluated  with a view to using them for teaching and learning support.

Who is creating the right climate in your school?  Who takes responsibility for the right environment?  Who does the nurturing?

It reminds me of a line in a nursery rhyme: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

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4 Comments to What are the right conditions for ICT to thrive in a school?

LED lighting
Sunday, 10 April, 2011

takes responsibility for the right environment

metal stamping
Sunday, 10 April, 2011

create the right climate

Travis Noakes
Sunday, 10 April, 2011

Kobus, thanks for the interesting post. It does well to highlight the fragility of ICT adoption in local schools. I think there are several challenges that your orchid metaphor raises, which you may want to address in future posts or articles:

First, “what is the orchid for?” While it is self-evident what you and I may enjoy orchids for their looks and fragrance, it may not be as obvious as to why ICT needs to be adopted by educators, particularly when few educators are trained to teach with ICT in class. Until principals, educators and other key-decision makers are shown promising examples of ICT-use at school that are well-researched and realise clear clear pedagogical benefits, many decision makers are well justified in remaining sceptical about the “benefits” of ICT in education. So, what is the DOE doing to support and promote the best examples of curricular adoption in our schools?

Second, who “owns” orchid in a school environment and who is accountable for their flourishing? Is it the DOE, the school principal, the educator, the IT Director/Manager/Consultant, a combination of them or ALL? Unlike the owner of an orchid at home, there are likely to be many decision makers affecting the success or failure of ICT the a school. A key problem with ICT in schools is a lack of clearly defined accountability (as it is often assumed that ICT is the “solution” and very little planning and preparation {see http://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/3-reasons-why-sloppy-thinking-leads-to-careless-educational-ict/} goes into its curricular adoption for pedagogical goals, which should be the real focus!) In practice, this means that when the orchid is ill or dying, it is difficulty to allocate ownership and accountability for the problem(s) causing this. As this is often a systemic failure in the school’s planning and policies, the DOE should explain what it is doing to provide better support to schools to assist with successful ICT planning, IT policies and sustained curricular adoption?

Third, “what is a successful orchid?”. Yes, having ICT that functions in schools is a good start, but is this ICT being used to foster new media, Web2.0 literacies, so that students are prepared to use ICT to their best effect in today’s “knowledge society”? In most cases, educators’ curricula do not take advantage of computer labs, which are still used in a 1980′s, pre-internet computing way! The DOE should explain how it is going to assist and incentivise educators to improve their post-typographic literacies and use ICT-based curricula to improve student performance?

Fourth, an orchid grower may achieve success in just one environment with minimal training or support. However, educators need regular training (NOT once-off workshops!) before they are confident enough to adopt ICT in class {as research on the Concerns Based Adoption Model proves: see http://edutechdebate.org/teacher-training/teacher-training-on-ict-cannot-be-a-one-time-event/}. They must also be encouraged to use ICT at work AND at home; by personally using new media literacies, they will be better able to understand the application of these literacies and how to effectively use them in curricula. What is the DOE doing to incentivise and support educators with using ICT at home?

Fifth, “what is an orchid?”. An orchid is organic and its purpose is arguably a natural, analogue one. By contrast, ICT serves a third-party as chiefly a communication medium. This raises the question, how is the DOE using ICT to promote a “Community of Practice” amongst South African educators which enables them to share best practice (such as innovative ICT-based curricula) in EVERY subject, thereby contributing to better pedagogy and outcomes?

To conclude, while educators and their principals have the responsibility to “grow the orchids”, the DOE must assist them with executing policies, frameworks, incentives and targets that promote orchid growth. Perhaps, a good place to start would be to clearly define what new media literacies are essential in EACH subject (and developmentally by GRADE), then to define how these literacies could be implemented and supported in every educator’s syllabus (providing a range of curricular solutions from under-resourced to well-resourced settings).

P.S. I’m no back-seat driver; I’m keen to help the DOE to do this for the Visual Arts and Design subjects; based on my research with private and public schools educators…

Candice Mihnnaar
Monday, 11 April, 2011

Khanya is a very imformative website. It is learner friendly.The khanya programme helps learners to improve their language skills. It has valueable activities which go hand in hand with our curriculum.

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