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Tips for teachers

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Katy Mthethwa

More change? In our fast-moving society, it is not surprising that, in the last year, discussions on change have surfaced in several areas. From school leadership talks on how to manage change effectively, or how to implement information technology (IT) with increasing effectiveness, through to running workshops on how to become a Thinking School – many of us have heard it all.

Using SAMR to consider change A couple of things have stood out. In the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model (SAMR)1 used for the implementation of IT in the curriculum, I noticed that there was an enormous jump in the dialogue from ‘substitution’ and ‘augmentation’ to ‘modification’ or ‘redefinition’. We all agree that in today’s world, we need to be using IT effectively in our classrooms. We can substitute IT for tasks that would previously have used the board, or pen and paper, or printed text. It is simple to augment our current practice and use IT to improve tasks, such as using the highlight and note-taking tool on an e-book, or accessing the inbuilt dictionary.

Children could then write their book reports on a computer. We can be relatively comfortable with this practice, even if we’re technophobic. Let’s face it, the children can guide us through any technological glitches if we get stuck! Modification and redefinition, however, ask far more of us. At this level, technology is being used to redesign our tasks significantly, enabling us to engage in activities which, without technology, would be impossible. Using Skype to interview an author overseas, using a shared Google document to correlate ideas within the group, creating visuals and a soundtrack to demonstrate understanding of text, students creating their own books for online publishing… the list is endless.

Moving to third order change
Change theory describes three types, or stages, of change through which we might move. First order change is where we reinforce and improve our existing practices. This fits with our augmentation approach. In second order change, we begin to change practices consciously, and may be changing our beliefs about a situation. Third order change, however, is where we engage in transformational change. This is change at its deepest level. We change at our very core. As a result, the outcomes of what we do are significantly altered.

We begin to plan units of work with a different mindset, stemming from an altered understanding of, and belief in, our end goals. Not surprisingly, this level of change is the hardest to achieve, but will have the most significant impact on providing relevant education. An area that has shown me the value of transformation has been in the realm of Thinking Schools. There are a variety of tools that a school can use to train teachers and children to develop their thinking strategies and dispositions in the classroom.

However, when these tools are added without the underlying philosophy of a Thinking School, they often become just another programme introduced to the school, used by teachers who buy into it, but with limited longevity. In essence, there is first order – not third order – change. Teaching practice is augmented, but not modified.

Whole-school change needed Internationally, schools in which these tools have been most successful are those where third order change – the transformation of the school – has been understood, and where the strategic vision of the school is to embed the tools across the curriculum. As such, a whole-school approach to the understanding of the philosophy and training in the tools is essential to success. What do we believe will enhance the education of our children in 2014? What is the transformational change of which you are going to be part?  Katy Mthethwa is acting director of academics, a Grade 5 teacher and head of thinking skills at St Peter’s Boys’ School in Johannesburg.

Reference: 1. SAMR offers a method of seeing how computer technology might impact teaching and learning. Source:

Category: Summer 2013

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