Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT and Instructional Innovation: The Case of Crescent Girls' School in Singapore

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT and Instructional Innovation: The Case of Crescent Girls' School in Singapore

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Teachers around the world have long felt a gap between global policy rhetoric on the imperative of promoting students' 21st Century competencies and the lack of specific tools for teachers to build these competencies into their lessons. In particular, it is tempting to believe images of the power of new technologies to transform schooling, making the learning environment more engaging and student-centered and the learning itself deeper and more powerful. But in real classrooms, the challenges of integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) and new pedagogies in ways that enhance rather than compromise academic success are ever-present, both in developing countries and in contexts such as Singapore that are further along the path. The research described in this paper offers a lens into what it takes to help ICT reach its potential for teaching and learning.

The focus of this paper is a global professional development program called 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD), which helps teachers design academic lessons that include opportunities for students to develop 21st Century competencies such as collaboration, knowledge construction, and the powerful use of ICT for learning. The setting of this study is Crescent Girls' School (Crescent) in Singapore, a high-performing, well-resourced secondary school for girls that has been on a journey to leverage ICT for instructional innovation for over a decade. Crescent adopted the 21CLD approach school-wide in 2012, and has since leveraged it systemically to deepen the 21st Century competencies embedded into its instructional programs while continuing to promote academic excellence.

A striking element of the description of Crescent, later in this paper, is the pervasiveness of ICT throughout the school, both in access and in instructional use. We offer this case to demonstrate principles that are important in any setting in which teachers wish to take steps toward ICTenabled student-centered pedagogies, whether those are first steps or simply next steps.

This paper examines the process of ICT-supported instructional transformation from three vantage points:

1) A program that provides a framework and tools for teachers;

2) The leadership structures and strategies within a school that can encourage and enable teachers to innovate; and

3) The view from the classroom, with a case of a Communicative Arts lesson that uses ICT to promote students' knowledge construction and collaboration competencies.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND PROGRAM DESIGN

21CLD grew out of a global multi-year research program called Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research (Shear, Gallagher, & Patel, 2011). The intent of ITL Research was to study ICTenabled educational innovation and its school and national-level facilitators across a wide range of countries. The conceptual framework that grounds both programs is strongly rooted in decades of research in the learning sciences (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; OECD, 2010; Sawyer, 2006) and in leading international frameworks for 21st Century skills (ISTE, 2008; Law, Pelgrum, & Plomp, 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009; UNESCO, 2008).

In 21CLD, primary elements of 21st Century teaching and student skills are defined as six dimensions that research has shown to tie to improved student outcomes: collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, real-world problem-solving and innovation, use of ICT for learning, and self-regulation (see Table 1). The focus of the program is the lesson (called a "learning activity" in 21CLD) and the opportunities it provides for students to learn and practice these skills. Based on a toolset developed in ITL Research and validated in multiple countries (Gallagher, Shear, Patel & Miller, 2011), 21CLD provides detailed definitions, examples and rubrics for each of these dimensions that help teachers analyse the strength of a given lesson through the lens of that dimension. …

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