Chapter 2

Critical / Reflective Journal



April 30, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topics Discussed:

Today I began working in the school to which I was assigned - St. John's Comprehensive School in Epping , a smaller town south of Harlow in the County of Essex. It is a school which educates students from ages 11 to 16, from Year 7 to 11. The Head Teacher (or "The Head"), Mr. Albert White, introduced me to the whole staff in a briefing (a short staff meeting which they have every Monday morning). These "briefings", a better altern- ative to our longer staff meetings, last only about 10 - 15 minutes usually and are for the presentation of important information to the staff. We were briefed by one teacher, a "head of year", who informed the staff of the particulars of several students' cases. This was informative and, I would think, helpful to the staff as they deal with these students in class. So often in the system, we are "in the dark" about vital information pertaining to the students that we teach. The briefing is an abridged form of our staff meeting which delivers only relevant information that stems from the workings of smaller committees or groups. The Head and the Deputy Head, Mrs. Judy Phillpott, put us in the care of Mr. Arthur Taylor, one with the title of "Senior Teacher". This position is an administrative one quite similar to our vice-principal's job except that there are three such positions, each one responsible for a different area of administration. We spoke with Arthur about the British School System in general and St. John's School in particular. He informed us that there are two other strands of administration: department heads (or curriculum leaders) and year heads (or head of year). The department head is quite similar to, if not exactly like our own administrative position. The head of year is in charge of a particular grade or year level. It seems that this position has "pastoral" responsibilities which involve addressing the whole grade in assemblies (and perhaps working in collabor- ation with curriculum leaders on curriculum issues concerning the grade). At St. John's there is no guidance counsellor position. It is approached in an ad hoc and open manner with guidance responsibilities being shared by the head of year (in his/her "pastoral" capacity) and any number of teachers acting as "mentors" in the school's mentoring program. This school is a denominational school, affiliated with the Church of England. However, though they are under pressure from the 1988 Education Act, this school (and others like it) does not necessarily impose a denomin- ational character or Christian content to assemblies. We talked a little with Arthur of the British system of public exams - the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exams. There are exams in all areas: arts, sciences, maths, humanities, etc. The level of difficulty in some of these exams is in 3 tiers. The grade that a student can receive in any give tier of difficulty is set. So, the grade one receives in a tier 1 exam will be either A or B; the student doing a tier 2 exam will receive a grade of C or D; the tier 3 exam paper can only yield a grade of E. I was introduced to Mr. Edward Barnes who is the newly-appointed department head for Information Technology (IT). Though he doesn't take over this position until September 1996, he is currently preparing a new IT curriculum plan for next year. At present the school policy for the curricular integration of IT requires the English department to teach and utilize word processing and desktop publishing software, the Socials/ Humanities department to teach database software, and the Science and Maths departments to teach databases and spreadsheets. So at the moment IT is across the curriculum. However, there is a rolling plan in place to establish IT as a discrete subject area in Years 7 - 9 so that students learn how to use the hardware and software and then have the skills to apply the technology in the higher grades. At present, there is no GCSE exam subject in IT but there are plans to establish an exam course in Business studies and IT. In order to establish IT as a discrete subject, Edward has a plan to investigate just how IT is presently being used across the curriculum. He wants to create a curriculum map to determine in what subject areas and to what degree IT is being integrated. Edward's research intentions coincides perfectly with mine and our work should compliment each other. I then had a meeting with Annette Windsor, the department head of English and the acting head of IT, about how the English department was approaching IT. She informed me that right now in Year 7, for instance, they are allotting one hour per week to learn the basics of word processing and desktop publishing. She herself is responsible for making sure the teachers deliver IT in accordance with the National Curriculum. She is all for teaching IT as a discrete subject in the lower grades, but has some concerns about professional development. If the students come into the upper grades already knowing how to use the IT, the teachers of those grades have lost the opportunity to learn the IT along with the students and yet would still be expected to apply the use of IT to their lessons. Without that crucial learning opportunity, the subject teachers in the upper grades would need more professional development to get used to the technology and get over the uneasiness or fear of using IT. Mrs. Windsor is also finding, as we are in our school system, that technical support staff are needed to relieve the IT teachers of some of the technical troubleshooting duties and free them up to teach.


May 7, 1996 - Meeting with Martin Richards: the Maltings, Harlow

Topics Discussed:

A meeting with Mr. Martin Richards, a retired educator in the Essex system, provided a wealth of information about the English School System: Education in England is intensely politicized. Very often, in fact most times, educational decision-making is made not on research or on the basis of students' best interests, but on political ideologies. There are three tiers of responsibility when it comes to authority and decision-making in English education: 1) Central Government, which is elected, raises the bulk of educational revenue through taxation. It establishes the legal framework that guides the system. The government provides the funding which allows the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to deliver service. However , current changes have seen antagonism toward the LEAs as government has cut influence and funding from them. The present government is committed to a "market" philosophy in education. Their model of education is based on a view of schools as small business enterprises, competing with each other for resources and "clientele". Schools that can market themselves as having the best reputation, offering the best "product and service" will attract the best clientele. Far from fostering collaboration between institutions, this philosophy has greatly detracted from co-operation in education, nurturing feelings of competition and suspicion among schools. Some schools have accused others of "poaching" - drawing in students from outside their area. In addition to taking to itself increased powers in areas like curriculum, assessment, inspection (through the Office for Standards in Education - OFSTED), and publication of league tables, the government has simultaneously delegated authority from the LEAs to the Governing Body of each school. 2) Local Education Authorities - Local Education Authorities, like the Essex County Council, are also elected. They pay for educational service with funds from Central Government and from locally raised revenue. Locally raised revenue is subject to "capping", limiting the amount of allowable local fund raising and ensuring a "level playing field". Though the LEAs retain a strategic planning function, they no longer provide the following services which have now been devolved to the Board of Governors and the individual schools: - hiring and firing of staff - responsibility for curriculum - decide "decapitation" levels - decided building priorities - "targeting" of funds LEAs now have to delegate 95% of their budget directly to schools on a per capita basis and have no scope for targeting or directing funds. Such functions are now being centralized with the Board of Governors for each school. 3) Board of Governors - Each school has a Governing Body consisting of 10 - 20 members. These members are partly elected, partly nominated to represent the community, parents, teaching staff of the school, LEA, and Church. Members are unpaid volunteers. The duties of membership on the board are of a proactive nature, demanding major responsibilities in school budgeting, hiring/firing of staff, maintenance of the premises and accountability for standards. This power structure has resulted in increased local authority, but also in the mass resignation of governors (feeling they lacked the necessary skills and time) and tension between Governors and Central Government. One of the functions performed by the Central Government is to regulate and oversee the inspection of schools in the British System. The process of inspecting schools has been privatized and is carried out by independent companies. The government oversees the professional activities of these inspectors through the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). The inspection of any given school will take place generally every four years. The aim of these inspections is to evaluate and publish each school's effectiveness in order to improve quality, and assist parental choice of the best school in which to have their child educated. Inspectors are trained by OFSTED and work for privatized companies. Using given criteria, the inspectors observe many lessons, grade them and evaluate the school's performance. It is stressed that this examination is not an inspection of individual teachers but rather an aggregate of observations. They interview students, teachers, parents and Governors. They will examine: past work of students, test performances, school policies, planning processes, assessment and recording processes, and development planning processes. They also audit the school budget, resources and their use, community links, management systems, etc.. With assessment completed, the inspectors will then publicly report on the standards of pupils' achievements, the quality of the teaching and the pupils' learning and on all the factors in the school which contribute to these findings. Being made available to the parents, Governors, the LEA, local and National press, and the local libraries, this report must achieve object- ivity and contains recommendations. Then the Governors are required within six weeks to submit an action plan showing how they intend to effect improvements. Schools felt to be "at risk" or "failing" may be re-inspected. Continued "failure" may result in the appointment of an "educational association" to run the school in place of existing management. This has not yet happened and likely will not because it would be unlikely that outsiders could get things right when insiders have failed over a long period. Unfortunately, there is no process for appealing the results of these inspection reports. Schools can merely file a complaint that they are unhappy with the results reported and observations made. This is followed up but is not overturned. Recently an organization has been set up by a group of academics and former head teachers to inspect the school inspectors. The group, calling itself the Office for Standards in Inspection (OFSTIN), arises out of a feeling that these inspections are independent of government and politics. It is felt that statistics are slanted to suit the government's needs. Having no government power and operating like a consumer awareness group, OFSTIN wishes "to challenge the fairness of the current inspection service and to question its value for money" (Rafferty, 1996, p.2). Carol Fitzgibbon, the director of the Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre at Durham University, heads the group and challenges that she has "yet to see evidence of reliable consistency" in the inspections. "Team member, Michael Duffy said: 'There needs to be an opportunity to apply the sort of checks OFSTED applies to registered inspectors to the whole organization." However, OFSTIN has not outlined the measures it can or will take. The organization is perhaps limited in its effectiveness and capabilities. The statutory curriculum in England consists of: a) National Curriculum - The National Curriculum is prescribed the Central Government in core subjects, such as English, Maths and Science, and in foundation subjects like History, Geography, Design Technology, IT, Art, Music, Physical Education, Modern Language (for students over 11 years). All schools must uphold the National Curriculum. Testing of the National Curriculum and its results are published for "consumer" decision-making on whose school is providing the best education. b) Religious Education - Religious Education is to be taught according to a locally established syllabus within the National Framework. All schools must teach religious education. The LEA will determine the syllabus. All schools must have a corporate act of worship. The definition of "worship" is wide open. c) Cross-curricular themes are devised to show how important issues are carried across as well as within subjects. These include health, environment, business, and multicultural education. These themes are seen as threads running through the core and foundation subjects. There are no prescribed syllabi. Therefore, they are not legally binding. The time budget suggests that 15% be spent on each core subject with the rest of the time allotted for foundation and religious education. Teachers protested the heavily prescribed curriculum and hence, recent changes in the detail of the syllabi suggest that four days be given to covering the National curriculum and one day for the school to "do its own thing".


May 8, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topics Discussed:

In pursuing my interest in the areas of computers and drama, I spoke with one of the drama teachers at St. John's, Andrew Thomas. Though quite interested in the possibilities of integrating IT and drama, he does not presently incorporate IT in his drama classes. We spoke at some length about my ideas and the research I have done in the area and he was quite willing to try a particular unit I have designed which integrates computers and drama if both our schedules will permit. I then attempted to contact by telephone the authors of a particular research study, Computers as Catalyst: A Report on Information Technology in Drama Contexts, which incorporated computers into educational drama (Manser, 1993). Their project has attempted to determine if information technology can contribute to the "creation of atmosphere, symbol, tension and mood within the drama" and to what extent this would affect outcomes (Manser,1993. p.5). I also am interested in exploring the innovative curricular partnership of Drama and Information Technology to assess how each may enhance the other. So, given that the study was conducted in Tower Hamlets, a borough in East London (only an hour away from Harlow), I was hoping to speak with and perhaps visit and interview members of the research team, using them as resource people to find answers to such questions as: How can the use of computer technology in the areas of drama education and theatre arts foster group communication? How can computers act as a catalyst in furthering the objectives of drama education? However, my call was not received with great enthusiasm and I was unable to get any further than a brief telephone conversation with one member of the team. I was forced to give up on this aspect of my IT research. Afterwards, I observed an English class taught by Mrs. Windsor, the English Department Head. This class was using IT as they completed a project where in small groups they designed their own magazine. Using software like Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Word and a graphics package, the students devised the magazine cover, created graphics for the pages, designed the page layout and used the word processor to complete their written compositions. During this process, I noticed that students worked well together at the computer. There was a sense of group ownership of the product. Some students I observed were very conscious of ensuring that any decisions made concerning the magazine were approved by all, stating that 'it belongs to all of us'. I noticed in one case that even when students disagreed with how another student was performing a certain operation with the computer, they gave him the mouse and waited patiently for him to try the manoeuvre before reclaiming the mouse to try it themselves in a more efficient way.


May 9, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topics Discussed:

Today, I sat in on an assembly presided over by Edward Barnes, the Head of Year 8. This is one of the pastoral duties of the Head of Year. These assemblies are held every Thursday and are attended by all the students in that particular year level. The approach to these assemblies, as with the approach to discipline in general, seems more regimented and demanding for order than many of our schools in Newfoundland. The agenda for this assembly focused on enforcing the school's uniform rules, pointing out to the students of their recent relaxed attitude toward the wearing of school uniform. The rest of the assembly was taken up with the distribution of commendation certificates for achievements and participation in various school activities (i.e. a dance competition). Edward and I discussed the dimension of "collective worship" as required by the Education Act. It is these assemblies that are targeted to deliver this "worship". Though I failed to pick up on it in the assembly I attended, Edward said he accounts for this worship with a "scratch-the- surface" moral reflection. He says this fits the very vague government definition of "worship". This is a thorny issue because, though the English system is not a denominational system, there are denominational schools, St. John's Comprehensive being one of them. According to the Education Act, they must provide for collective worship every day. But the notion of "worship" is very vaguely defined. Do you assemble the whole school in one place for this worship? There is no place big enough in St. John's for such a gathering with the exception of the Physical Education Hall and using this would involve setting out a large number of chairs - a very time-consuming process. Can you provide for collective worship over the PA system? The problem here seems to be that the students and teachers in that school may not necessarily hold the same faith. If they broadcast the worship this way, they may be in violation of the people's rights. Also, these students and teachers can choose to "opt out" of this worship, making it difficult to broadcast it generally. Following the assembly, I sat in on Edward's meeting with Ethel Jones, an Education Welfare Officer. She is responsible for following up on students who are absent from school. She usually deals with cases of parentally-condoned absence. She is more than a "Truancy Officer" in that she seems to find herself with duties that are not unlike those of a social worker and/or counsellor. The Newfoundland Education System does not seem to provide for such a role in its administrative structure - at least not in such a proactive manner. They discussed the cases of several students that Edward teaches or for whom he is the Head of Year. Edward and I discussed his curriculum plans for the teaching of IT as a discrete subject in year 7 (age 11). He outlined a basic structure for this course: As the first three weeks would be spent in setting students up with accounts on the school network, these initial weeks would be spent by teaching the students about the computer and its mechanics through the use of diagrams. During this time, students would learn about hardware and peripherals. Once they have accounts and access to the network, they would begin learning about the processes of encoding and retrieving data. They would afterward move into learning the specific software applications that will be employed in the coming years in Key Stage 4 (ages 14 - 16). The aim is to make them proficient and know- ledgeable about how the computer and the specific software works so that it can be applied across the curriculum in the high school subjects. From year 8 on, students get into a problem-solving approach to using IT, learning how computers can be used for tasking in various subject areas, with an increasing awareness of how IT impacts on our lives and changes society. I then asked Edward about his plans to approach the issue of teacher professional development. He proposes first to design the IT curriculum for year 7 and then to put a plan in place to facilitate staff development and bring the teachers up to speed. As part of my research which coincides with Edward's need to assess IT at St. John's School, I will interview the Curriculum Leaders in English, Maths, Science, Modern Languages and Humanities. My questions will be aimed at determining how IT is used in these subject areas whether the present level of IT delivery is effective for students' acquisition of IT skills and what skills they would wish to see fostered in a discrete IT course that students should be able to apply in the other subject areas. In Edward's estimation, it would seem that St. John's School is probably an "average" school in the Essex School System with regard to the integration of Information Technology. It is fairly well-equipped with the technology, but needs co-ordination of those resources. Therefore, this will serve as a model school upon which I may base my research. However, I will be visiting other schools for comparative analysis. Following my meeting with Edward, I had some personal thoughts and questions of technology integration as it relates to our own Education system: As proposed by its vision document, Technology in Learning Environments (TILE)(Department of Education and Training, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1994a), the Newfoundland Education System seems to be moving away from the notion of teaching IT as a discrete subject. Does TILE account for any stage in its vision when students will be taught IT as a discrete subject? If not when will students learn these computer skills? Will the continuum of computer skills be divided up over each of the school years and successively built upon? If so, in what subject areas will these skills be taught? If they are to be integrated in all subject areas will there be an overlap in teaching these skills? To integrate it in all subject areas and provide for all the computer skills that way presupposes that all teachers will be computer proficient and able to teach those skills. What about the professional development needed to ensure that teachers are able to do this? What resources are available to facilitate PD?


May 20, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topics Discussed:

Edward and I discussed in a little more detail his plans for IT as a discrete subject next year. He sees his job as one of training the students in the basic IT skills as a discrete subject. It will then be up to each department and individual subject teacher to help the students apply those skills and learn how IT is effective in the subject area. Next year in year 7, he will approach IT as if they know nothing and have had no exposure to it. He will then focus on the necessary skills and knowledge of the relevant computer applications. For next year, the year 8 students will not have IT timetabled as a discrete subject. They will continue to pick up IT as it is delivered now by the various subject areas. In year 9, however, they will be taught IT as a discrete subject in order to prepare them for high school and possible examination options in IT. Edward will pre-test to assess their knowledge of hardware, software, peripherals, input/output devices and so on. The course will then build on that knowledge and also look at the wider issues of IT and give them a glimpse of what would be involved in taking an examination subject in IT. It will attempt to put the network concept into broader perspective and identify how IT effects industry and quality of life. Both year 7 and 9 IT will be timetabled for one hour per week for a total of 36 - 37 weeks.


May 22, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topic Discussed:

Following upon some of the interviews with teachers, I began to see a common concern which would also be of researchable interest. In an interview, Mr. James Collett, Curriculum Leader for Humanities expressed his problem with the set-up or "arrangement" of computer hardware in the school. He is not totally comfortable with the "computer lab" or network model for computer use adopted by the school. Having to re-locate his students to a computer lab to make use of IT, he has found difficulty keeping students focused on the true meaning of the humanities task at hand. He questions the efficacy of the network model for integrating IT into the various subject areas and wonders about a more effective use of stand-alone computers in the classroom. He feels that in the Humanities they are inhibited by the network model; that by changing rooms to get to the computers, they are sort of changing context and it becomes more of a lesson about IT than humanities. There is not a true integration where IT is seen as a tool for performing tasks in the humanities. IT becomes not just instrumental but an entity in itself, something of a "roadside attraction" (or distraction). Collett calls for a re-evaluation of the role of IT in the Humanities - what has been done with it and what can be done to enhance the Humanities with IT. There is a need for a consensus or a balance between the teaching of IT as a discrete subject and its integration in the subject areas. An interview with Mr. Richard Elliott, Curriculum Leader for Modern Languages echoed similar sentiments. In addition to feeling that the available hardware is not particularly suited to the teaching of languages because it lacks the needed audio capacity, Levy feels it would be ideal to have stand-alone computers in the classroom which can be incorporated into the classroom and into teaching. He finds it to be a needless distraction to move his class to the lab. An area, therefore, of further research could examine the efficacy of the network model for cross-curriculum IT integration versus that of stand-alone computers in the classroom.


May 23, 1996 - Meeting with Martin Richards: the Maltings, Harlow

Topics Discussed:

We arranged another meeting with Martin Richards to discuss concepts and issues that needed further clarification. The discussion yielded the following information: The government department responsible for education is called the Department of Education and Employment. This title reflects the government's view of education as a utilitarian business that caters to industry. Government / Teacher Relations:0 There are 4 or 5 teachers unions or associations in England, among them the National Union of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the latter being the biggest. Contract negotiation is carried out by one National government committee consisting of representatives from each of the unions. The government however retains veto rights. Teachers are paid on a national scale and move up in yearly incre- ments. There is however only one level of certification and corresponding salary scale. Further studies or professional development will not involve a higher certification or salary level. All teachers move along the same scale in yearly increments. However, a promotion to Head Teacher, Curriculum Leader or Senior Teacher will result in being bumped ahead a few extra years on the scale in compensation. Teacher Training: There are basically two routes of teacher training. Both beginning generally at age 18. One route would be to go to teacher college for a four year course that will involve 8 - 12 weeks of practicum. This would give the teacher a B.A. in Education. Another route, taken be most secondary teachers, would be to first do a B.A. in your subject area first and then take one year of Education studies which would be quite extensive in the practical side of teaching. Examination Boards: These boards were originally set up by universities to ensure the academic abilities of graduating students. They are now commercial organizations that gain income from exam fees and are still linked with universities. The boards are responsible for designing the CGSE examinations for the various high school exam courses. Each board produces its own set of exam papers. Head Teachers usually decide which board's papers will be chosen for the school's students to write. In composing and correcting these exams, each board will retain a qualified professor of the particular subject being examined. This professor will act as Chief Examiner, though generally teachers are hired at extra salary to mark the exams. Based on GCSE examination results which must be published to aid consumer choice of schools, the government devises League Tables. These Tables are prepared by the Department of Education and show how each school fares with student achievement. They are set up for easy comparison between schools and are based on the annual reports of National Curriculum. These are made public to show the differences between schools for consumer decision-making.


June 3, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Topics Discussed:

After some discussion with Edward about other ways, outside of my research capacity, that I could help him in his IT development planning. We decided that I could design a part of the curriculum for the Year 7 discrete course in IT. Edward was planning a cross-curricular focus in his delivery of the IT course. Given that my undergraduate background was in English Literature and Language Arts, I will take over the development of the word-processing component of the course where I will draw from subject- specific tasks in Language Arts to introduce and reinforce word-processing skills. I have decided to design a curriculum unit that will teach the Microsoft Word word-processing skills drawing on subject-specific tasks as creating poetry, a resume and a newsletter. I will have students concentrate on creating poetry, revising and editing it and then formatting it in different ways for effective visual presentation (likewise with resumes and newsletters).
(The completed curriculum unit has been included with this report in Appendix A).


June 6, 1996 - Brays Grove School, Harlow

Meeting with Mr. Vincent Ennis, Dept. Head of IT

Topics Discussed:

Prior to an official interview with Mr. Ennis, the following information came from a discussion of the information technology set-up at Brays Grove: The school has only two computer labs, with enough terminals (including several stand-alone computers) to yield a ratio of 12 students for every computer. This is behind the average ratio in the Essex County system of 3 students to every computer. So they are "under-resourced". There is a problem with lack of facilities at Brays Grove. Vincent teaches all his classes in these two labs. There are 25 periods in a week. He has 22 periods of contact time. Of the other three periods, one is actually used to teach another IT class. So the lab is in use 23 out of 25 periods per week. This does not leave much opportunity for other subjects areas to gain access to and integrate IT resources in their lessons. A third lab would be needed in order to provide cross-curriculum access to IT. IT is taught as a discrete subject in Years 7 & 8. They are without IT training in Year 9 and then, can pick up IT again in Years 10 and 11 with an CGSE course in Office Procedures. Originally, the school looked at integrating computers across the curriculum and in theory, Ennis feels, this is the best method of curriculum delivery. But, in practice, it does not work out that way, he says. Most teachers are not confident enough with using IT. They are willing to incorporate it in their teaching, but they are not trained. So it gets left "on the backburner". As an alternative, IT as discrete subject was opted for instead of the cross-curricular approach. The basic skills that are necessary are taught in Years 7 and 8. Students are taught: There is also a unit taught on the Internet and E-mail. There is, at present, one terminal with Internet access. Students may have E-mail sent to them at the school address. (This Internet terminal is only being used by about 4 members of the staff of Brays Grove though it is open to access by all teachers and they are encouraged to do so as the experience can only benefit the students and the school). This is a 5 week unit which runs concurrently with a 5 week unit on the use of the flatbed scanner and scanning software. The classroom is divided into two groups for the units. Each group will complete both units. Students also learn the use of a desktop publishing package, Aldus PageMaker. As a final project in Year 8, they will create a newspaper. Though IT is not used across the curriculum, Vincent attempts to equip the students within the discrete subject with the general skills to apply to the other subject areas and he also tries to draw on and refer to other subject areas to be the vehicle for the IT skills. Because of the workload involved in ensuring skills are taught in the discrete course, the compulsory IT components to be taught in the individual subject areas by the National Curriculum are the responsibility of those departments. However, without adequate resources, it seemed near impossible to me for each subject area teacher to fulfill the IT requirement stipulated by the National Curriculum. IT is taught as an 'Option' in Key Stage 4 in a course called Office Studies. This is a practical and useful course that teaches students all the skills necessary to function in an office setting. It also fulfills the Compulsory National Curriculum requirement that students be aware of the wider implications of IT in society.


June 26, 1996 - Passmores School, Harlow

Meeting with Patricia Jefford, Deputy Head

Topics Discussed:

My meeting with Mrs. Jefford provided the following information about the school:


July 18, 1996 - St. John's Comprehensive School, Epping, Essex

Final Entry

Topics Discussed:

My research at St. John's Comprehensive School in the area of Information Technology across the curriculum has been, I believe, mutually beneficial for me and my cooperating teacher, Mr. Edward Barnes. It was my focus to determine to what extent computers were integrated in all subject areas of the British National Curriculum, in particular in the schools of the Essex County Council. At the same time, Edward, being newly appointed to Head of the Information Technology (IT) Department, was attempting to assess just how IT was being used in his school.

IT Development Planning at St. John's - assessment, planning and implementation

Edward was trying to ascertain the extent of IT integration across the curriculum at St. John's School as a starting point to developing policies and programs for the new IT department. I was able to assist in auditing the existing system of IT delivery by interviewing each department heads to ask how and which IT skills were being fostered in their subject area. This was the type of data collection that I had intended for my research as well. Coupled with Edward's own investigation and his administration of a questionnaire (concerning the staff's feelings about their level of IT competency), my research helped Edward to make proposals and development plans, and to formulate a school IT policy statement. It also aided in planning the physical layout and configuration of the school's computer systems as it identified teachers' demands on the system. By identifying the level of IT integration in each of the departments, Edward could also determine which teachers and curricular areas could most benefit from his help in developing and fostering cross-curricular links with IT and staff inservice training.

IT curriculum development for discrete course

In my internship, I was further able to assist Edward and the school in developing new curriculum for discrete IT courses. The level of teacher IT competency in the school was not conducive to a solely subject-integrated approach. The extent of IT integration across the curriculum was not even sufficient to meet the legal requirements of the National Curriculum. Discrete courses were therefore necessary to ensure that students were developing the essential IT skills. In order to give the skills taught in the discrete course some relevancy and to assist with the transfer of these skills to the other curriculum areas, the courses were designed to draw upon subject-specific tasks to foster IT skills. I took over responsibility for developing the word processing curriculum for the Year 7 IT course. I developed a unit to teach word processing skills by having students apply them to Language Arts tasks in poetry, resume and newspaper writing. This unit appears in Appendix A of this report.

Newfoundland, Essex and IT: Similarities and Differences

From my observations and interviews with leading IT professionals at St. John's School and other schools in the Essex County School System, a picture of a school system has formed that exhibits both similarities and differences relative to schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. The policies or vision statements that guide the implementation of IT programs in Britain differ from Newfoundland's documented guidelines that pertain to IT. The British Education System has outlined policy to guide the integration of IT within the structure of the National Curriculum. Here they have specified within the Programme of Study (POS), the Strands and Attainment Targets, the Levels of Attainment and Statements of Attainment for each subject area the general level of IT integration required. The requirements for IT are sometimes more specific in some subjects than others, but in any case has the weight of law. In this way, British system of education is apparently ahead of Newfoundland's education system which specifies no requirements, policies or curriculum mandates for the integration of IT in all subject areas of the curriculum. Such a curricular mandate for IT could perhaps be beneficial for the province. As yet, there is only a vision statement in the form of the TILE document, much of which has yet to be implemented. However, in the present milieu of educational reform in the province, the role of technology has moved to the fore and all indications are that these guidelines will provide an impetus for curriculum development. Technology is now given a new place of eminence in the curriculum. For years, the core of our curriculum centred on language, math and science. Yet, one of the principles of reform as dictated by the government document Adjusting the Course: Part II (Department of Education and Training, 1994a) makes technology synonymous with science and places it at the primary core of our curriculum: "At least 50% of the school program must be devoted to the primary core areas of language, mathematics and science and technology." Yet, there is little indication of whether this new degree of prominence has both a discrete-course and a cross-curricular focus. With regard to the degree to which the system is furnished with adequate technology, it seems that the Essex County schools may lag somewhat behind the Provincial system. The same discrepancies in levels of technology resources between individual schools exists in the Newfoundland system as it does in Essex. However, one was left with the impression that on the whole, Newfoundland schools are equipped with more resources. Yet, what statistics I could find on the matter seems to put these two school systems on a more compatible level as to resource provision. In 1996, the provincial average for number of students per computer is 12 (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Education, 1997). This statistic was broken down according to school district whereas a similar statistic for Britain was divided according to the school level. In 1993-94, according to a summary of a Department for Education and Employment Statistical Bulletin, Primary schools were reported to have a ratio of 18 students per computer, Secondary schools had 10 students and Special schools had 5 (Kilkie, M., 1995a). It is difficult, however, to get definitive statistics as to the type and age of the computers available to British students. Profiles '96 provides some breakdown as to the status of the computer technology available (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Education, 1997). As well, educational telecommunications in this Province are at far more advanced stages of development than the Essex County system. STEM~Net, "the state-of-the-art provincial computer network established in 1993, has greatly improved communication among educators and has become the vehicle for many new initiatives in professional development" (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Education, 1997). STEM~Net users can avail of services which include electronic mail, general inform- ation bulletins and news groups, a wide range of on-line libraries and database resources, and access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Educators at Memorial University's Faculty of Education, the Province's colleges and all of the K-12 schools have long had access to the network. In 1996, STEM~Net, administered 9400 accounts, and "since the beginning of 1996 there have been over 125,000 logins province-wide each month with a total of between 23,000 and 24,000 hours connect time per month" (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Department of Education, 1997). Through the financial assistance of government, STEM~Net is providing free access to E-mail and Internet to education professionals and pre-service teachers. It has also fostered projects that encourage the curricular use of the Internet. Very few teachers in the Essex system seemed to have online access and fewer still were using the Internet as a teaching / learning tool in their schools. Internet access is very costly and they have not had the benefit of government funding to fully subsidize these costs as Newfoundland has had. In any case, it is hard to compete with the advanced system which we have in STEM~Net, considering that it is on the leading edge in North American Education. In Britain, there have been some industry- and government-sponsored programs that have attempted to improve the schools' access to IT resources, if their applications met certain criteria. St. John's Comprehensive School and Passmores School have recently acquired two laptops for Internet access as part of a program sponsored by the National Council for Education Technology (NCET). This program known as "The Multimedia Portables for Teachers Pilot" is funded by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), aims to build on existing research by providing teachers with portable computers which support multimedia and/or communications. Their research shows that using portable computers in schools: (NCET, 1997b) The project will evaluate the impact of this technology on teachers' competence and confidence in the use of IT. The pilot will be evaluated over a period of one year initially, beginning in September 1996. A total of 1141 teachers will be equipped with a portable computer and will take part in the project. Those schools taking part in the pilot project were able to choose between two platforms - PC Compatibles and Apple Macintosh. All computers provided by the pilot are equipped with Internet access. The aim is to evaluate different types of access to the Internet and the experiences of the teachers using the PC portables. The purpose of the program under which this hardware has been supplied is to allow for student and teacher Internet access to available online resources related to the subject areas. The teachers in return agree to participate in an evaluation of the impact of this resource on teaching and learning. While these programs are helpful, resources are limited and participation is determined through a selection process. This raises questions about equity of access.

Recommendations

One is left with the view that in Newfoundland IT capacity is largely under-utilized, particularly if one looks at true curricular integration. We share similar problems or impediments with the Essex system: lack of teacher competency (which is further undermined by lack of teacher inservice training) and lack of human resources within the schools to provide IT support, system maintenance and trouble-shooting. In short, both education systems have some distance to go before effective IT delivery can take place. However, this province could be doing more to exploit the wider range on present advantages described above. Some recommendations from improvement would be:
  1. including IT as a curricular subject from the elementary level onward to ensure a foundation of IT literacy that will facilitate IT use in the curriculum
  2. outlining policy that places a curricular mandate on (or at least resource manuals that guide) the cross-curricular integration of IT within the Provincial curriculum
  3. provide increased resources and opportunities for professional development in IT skills, IT integration and the generation / composition of HRD proposals for IT funding.
  4. recognition that IT support services within schools are essential and allocate funding at the school or board level to provide increased access to these services.
In conclusion, this internship has met with all my expectations and objectives. It has given me new insight into our own methods of IT integration and our levels of IT resource provision. While analyzing the systemic approach to computer integration taken by the British Education System and those particular IT strategies and policies of certain schools in the Essex School System, I have been provided a great opportunity for professional development. I have obtained valuable experience in the administration of IT delivery and in IT curriculum development.


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