By Maureen McTaggart
“I do lots of things that are very interesting that don’t entail sitting at a desk doing admin”, says John Galloway. A bit of an understatement by the 50-year-old who combines his job as a part-time advisory teacher for ICT, SEN and inclusion for Tower Hamlets with regular employment as a lecturer, BSF consultant for RM (the leading education ICT provider), journalist and writer.
In the latter he is indeed prolific. His current publication Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning, a handbook for continuing professional development, has enjoyed a good review in the Guardian, very timely for the BETT 2009 educational technology show) and joins a long list of other Galloway titles.
“I’ve written fiction, had a couple of short plays published for pupils struggling as readers, was a runner up in the Richard and Judy short story competition four years ago, and last year I won the Greenwich Writes short story competition”.
He admits the title of his new work is a bit of a mouthful (but extremely discoverable by internet search engines!), and says, although he believes that Every Child Matters and personalised learning are integral to the harnessing technology agenda, his intention wasn’t to map out a matrix from the key drivers for curriculum change.
“Basically the three of them are interlinked and that was the basis for the book. But when we came to decide on the title we couldn’t find any way of succinctly putting those three together – hence the names of the three big education policy agendas of the moment. I am hoping the book will show the interrelationship between them.”
Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning is suitable for people coming into the profession who want to understand what the three policy drivers are at the moment. It’s also aimed at managers looking at options for using ICT to support further agendas, and at architects working on the BSF programme and students. Indeed anybody who would like to get a sense of the way ICT is changing practice in schools and of how that practice is been framed by the other agendas including every child matters and personalised learning.
The book is an impressive 80,000 words (equivalent to a short novel) and took a year to complete. John Galloway says one of the problems about writing something like this is that the territory is always shifting. “Since I completed the book Becta has brought out their latest revamped harnessing technology report but fortunately it isn’t significantly different from the previous one so I haven’t had to revise it too much”.
John Galloway, who lives in Charlton, south east London, with his wife and three children, went straight into teaching after college. First in a small residential unit for troubled adolescent boys, then a year teaching English at Khartoum Polytechnic in the Sudan. On his return to England he taught at schools in Tower Hamlets in SEN roles, including working as a behaviour specialist supporting pupils and helping schools develop strategies to improve pupil behaviour.
“Often the real issue might not be behaviour. It might be something like dyslexia or speech and language difficulties or some other reason why kids can’t engage with the curriculum and their way of demonstrating that is through difficult behaviour. You then have to broaden your skill set and become skilled at other things such as dyslexia, speech and language and so on,’ says John Galloway.
“I’d been using ICT when I first started teaching – before I began to move into ICT for curriculum access as a specialism. As happens regularly, we were reorganised and the advisory teacher for ICT and SEN inclusion post was created so I went into that post and from there I began to work part time and diversify into other areas such as journalism and writing, lecturing, consulting, advising and so on”.
'ICT is a catalyst and an enabler and you’ll never replace teachers'
John Galloway is far from believing ICT is the only route to teaching and learning success. “ICT is a catalyst and an enabler and you’ll never replace teachers – but what ICT does is it let us do old things in new ways and in better ways. It also lets us do new things, so it will make good teachers better, but it won’t make bad teachers good,” he points out.
“For example simple things like creating text by talking to your computer instead of typing. Getting pupils to collaborate in real time on tasks, writing simultaneously on keyboards, would be difficult to do with pen and paper. Pupils are now exploring ideas and getting feedback in a safe, anonymous way. There is also the levelling effect of all using the same devices and in the same way, leading to a more open, more democratic process happening that you might not get without the ICT”.
The case studies in Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning reveal pupils’ growing familiarity with terms like integrated learning and learning to learn. “What I hope the book is doing is showing how the landscape is changing, by giving examples where I can of practical, solid instances of where those changes have occurred.”
The last chapter looks at how policy can become practice. It asks what the levers are to move it on, and what are the inhibitors. “That,” John Galloway concludes, “ is how far we can achieve personalised learning – and how far every child can matter – given other constraints in the system”.
Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning
£20 from Taylor and Francis
Email John Galloway at www.taylorandfrancis.com