Teachers need lessons in new web tools: NSW CEO Director

Teachers may feel challenged by new technologies but they must recognise that new web tools, such as wikis, mash-ups, blogs and podcasts, are not "an optional extra" if they want to meet students' learning needs in the 21st century, according to the Executive Director of Parramatta's Catholic Education Office.

Greg Whitby, who is also a Commissioner of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations and the Catholic Education Commission, says it is not that teachers do not want to engage with new technologies, but in most cases they have not been fully supported or had the opportunity to engage in professional learning.

"Teaching today is an exciting opportunity and [teachers] are well positioned to move forward," he said. "However we will rely on the enthusiasm of both experienced and new teachers to move beyond our current practices and embrace learning and teaching in a digital age."

Mr Whitby, who is involved in the development of an Information Communication Technology infrastructure to link Catholic schools and to provide a virtual learning environment known as CEnet (Catholic Education Network), was speaking at a conference for Australian education leaders in Melbourne last week.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the conference heard that educators trying to introduce "Web 2.0" tools into classrooms are being frustrated by outdated dogma from conservative governments and distrustful parents.

Tools such as wikis, mash-ups, blogs and podcasts have huge potential to enrich classrooms and boost the pace and quality of education, says Dan Ingvarson, key strategist for education software developer Editure which organised the conference.

Mr Ingvarson says that for the past 10 years schools have used IT as a tool for teachers and administration rather than learning, "Their approach was 'let's organise this thing and take all the fun out of it'," he says.

But research has shown, he says, that students recall as little as five per cent of a lecture, or 10 per cent of what they read. But they remember more than 75 per cent if they "practice by doing" or teach others what they have learnt.

Web 2.0 applications, with a focus on participation, community and trust, could help inspire as well as educate students, Mr Ingvarson says.

John Bidder, who develops IT support for schools in the city of Bolton, in Britain, says his "Wikiville" project has been a great success.

Bolton students built their own website, describing their lives and surroundings. In the process they learnt writing skills, sharing and researching information.

Teachers monitored the site but did not edit or interfere. "This has been quite transformational," Mr Bidder says. "It is a handover of responsibility from teacher to children.

"So much of this 2.0 stuff is about people being brave enough to try it."


Web 2.0: A new generation of internet tools that focus on collaboration, the sharing of information and building online communities.

Wiki: A collaborative website that visitors can freely and easily edit.

Mash-up: A web application that combines data from several sources, for example a map and classified advertisements.

Teachers told to leap out of textbook time warp (Sydney Morning Herald 1/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Parramatta Catholic Education Office
Catholic Education Commission NSW

Benedictine nuns using web for sex education (CathNews, 23/4/02)

2 Aug 2006