SUNS 86 and 87: ‘COMPUTER – ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS’ and ‘VOLUNTEERS FILL KEY ROLE IN SCHOOLS’

SUNS 86 and 87: ‘COMPUTER – ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS’ and ‘VOLUNTEERS FILL KEY ROLE IN SCHOOLS’

These columns were published in the ‘Suns’ in April 2015
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SUNS 86

COMPUTER FOCUSSED LEARNING HAS ITS LIMITATIONS

It seems that the thrust of education is toward developing opportunities for students to progress through the practise of technology supported learning . Devices from electronic smart boards to computers, iPads and other devices are front and centre. More and more schools are developing a “bring your open device” policy when it comes to technology. It seems that the children are increasingly immersed in technologically focused learning.

There is a place for technology in our schools. However if devices replace teachers it will be to the detriment of education. The best learning outcomes are achieved through direct interaction. When using computers and iPads, children can easily log out of learning and go onto some amusement or games application.

Approach to lessons and learning needs to be based on time and organisation. There needs to be a patterned and ordered approach to learning. Taking teachers out of the equation and replacing them with computer controlled programs, detracts from education.

The emphasis in the NT is toward Direct Instruction (DI). Concern about poor educational outcomes has lead to a revival of this instructional method. “The Direct instruction strategy is highly teacher-directed and is among the most commonly used. This strategy is effective for providing information or developing step-by-step skills. It also works well for introducing other teaching methods, or actively involving students in knowledge construction.” (Instructional strategies online, Saskatoon Public Schools)

Explicit teaching, lectures, drills, specific questioning, demonstration and the guiding of listening, reading, viewing and thinking are direct instructional practices. DI is about close interaction of teachers with students to enhance teaching and learning opportunities. Computers and iPads by their very nature can put distance between students and teachers. If their use is not carefully managed they can become a distraction.

A very important part of teaching and learning is the way body language and facial expression impact on classroom outcomes. Teachers can sense confidence about what if being taught through student responses. Similarly, students can sense how their teachers feel about work being completed. Shared personal contact within classrooms is a very important part of learning. Computer based education does not allow students or teachers to appreciate body language or facial expressions.

Technology has its place in education as a support to learning. However classroom focus should be about interaction between teachers and students. Replacing teachers with computers will impact negatively on the quality of learning and educational outcomes.
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SUNS 87

VOLUNTEERS FILL KEY ROLE IN SCHOOLS

Quality education is influenced by the relationships that develop between students, teachers and parents. There are two other groups who make great contributions to education within schools.
* School support staff who add value within administrative and classroom contexts.
* Volunteer people who give their time in support of schools.

The contribution made to their schools by volunteers can be easily overlooked. Parents and caregivers who are able to spare an hour or two here and there can be of great help in a number of ways. They might hear children read, help with changing readers, or be support people when teachers take classes on short excursions. One school last year had parents and school supporters come in to help with an oral reading program that took place each day.

There are many ways in which volunteers support their schools.
* Assistance in school libraries with cataloguing, shelving and covering books.
* Assisting schools with supervision on sports days or extended outings.
* Assistance with extended Territory and Interstate excursions and camps.
* Sewing programs to help with making costumes, making library bags, art/craft aprons and so on.
* Volunteering time to support fundraising ventures.
* Offering as volunteer school crossing monitors.
* Supporting school canteens through cooking or being on the serving roster.
These are a few of the ways in which parents and community members can support schools.

Where are the Volunteers?

Parental work commitments has reduced the potential pool of school volunteers. However, having parents give a little time to their school on rostered days off happens in some schools. Advertising for volunteers in newsletters or on websites may generate a positive response. Personally inviting parents to volunteer time or approaching residents in senior villages may help build a volunteer list.

Those who volunteer need to be cleared by a police check and also have to obtain an Ochre Card confirming their suitability to work with children. School councils sometimes elect to pay the costs of obtaining these clearances. People are able to support schools through volunteer service once these matters have been finalised.

Volunteers should not be taken for granted. Acknowledging them with certificates of appreciation, sponsored morning teas and other periodic tokens of recognition will help cement their relationships with schools. Invitations to school assemblies and concerts may help them feel included within schools. Those who give of their time and share their talents with schools are a valued group. Without their contribution, schools would be the poorer.
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