Secondary teachers: please prove me wrong

Spoiler alert: this is a whinge.
The primary sector is putting us secondary teachers to shame in the area of elearning. This is purely anecdotal, but:
– how many secondary teaching focussed workshops will you find at ULearn or Latscof? (NZ’s elearning conferences).
– as a direct result: how many secondary teachers attend?
– show me some secondary teacher blogs. Active ones.
– show me some secondary principals on twitter.

I’m being mean, but this is my blog. If you disagree (and I hope you do), please comment.

A primary teacher who’s interested in eportfolios, blogging, or electronic publishing has the time and freedom to pursue this with gay abandon. A secondary teacher in the same position has external examinations to get in the way of learning. He probably also takes about 6 or 7 classes. So instead of 30 students all day, he has around 150 students a few times a week. Access to computers seems to be much harder because of the fragmented nature of teaching.
There is another thing that I just can’t understand: loads of primary teachers that I know have awesome TELA laptops provided by their school. They love their machines and it’s really common to see them in the staff room. Most secondary teachers have the bare minimum. They hardly work. They hate them. This is really important and quite mysterious. I can’t fathom why the primary teachers have these awesome laptops and secondary teachers have uninspiring utilitarian things. Again: please prove me wrong. If you are a secondary teacher with a MacBook Pro, I’d love to hear from you.
Is it because secondary teachers “don’t have the time”? Is it because secondary teachers are older? Secondary teachers have been in a vortex of change for the last ten years since NCEA came in. It’s exhausting and a little futile. And it’s very sad.
It’s sad that the constant complaint from secondary teachers is paperwork/workload/managing change.
Is it enough for me to want to leave the profession? No. I want to fix it. I want to be the change. I think I have a messianic complex.

There you have it: another rambling, poorly-constructed post. I want to know about secondary teachers that are doing awesome stuff. Please tell me.

19 Comments to “Secondary teachers: please prove me wrong”

  1. John Larkin 28 August 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Hi Steve, I am a secondary school teacher in NSW that blogs at least. I have no stats to support this response but the reverse seems to be the case here.

    Primary school teachers have limited time to explore. Programming requirements and expectations seem to be far more demanding than my own. There seem to be more secondary school teachers exploring possibilities online.

    There are eight teachers in my family and extended family. The primary school teachers work much more harder than the secondary school teachers in my family. Their obligations placed upon the primary school teachers with 2 hours or less of release time and the horribly burdensome programming requirements give them little scope to explore the affordances of online technology.

    Cheers, John

  2. colinkwright 28 August 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi Steve,

    I am secondary teacher here in sunny QLD in a P-12 Catholic School, and I have to say that like John the reverse is true. The primary teachers operate in ways that I just don’t get. It isn’t just the extra work that primary teacher do that makes it that way – I put it down to the isolationism that exists. Primary teachers are used to doing things in their own little kingdoms and the type of professional decisions that lead to reform of pedagogy don’t tend to happen as much.

    My school is starting an ipad in P-5 and the number of staff that need extended amounts of help on what I consider the simplest things is staggering. They have been on their own for such a long time that the don’t know what they don’t know – if you get my drift.



  3. Pascale Hyboud-Peron (@phpnz) 28 August 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Hi Steve
    I am not doing awesome stuff but I believe that
    “Secondary teachers have been in a vortex of change for the last ten years since NCEA came in”, as you write it, is the very reason why so little else has changed in their practice: heads down in exams and “wanting to get it right” rather than looking at the big NZC picture. All are putting the interest of the students first of course, but not in an engaged lifelong learning kind of way. When students passing exams is no longer the sole concern of secondary teachers then their horizons will broaden.
    Thanks for reading and good on you for ranting!


  4. Pascale Hyboud-Peron (@phpnz) 29 August 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Hi again Steve, I thought I d just add it’s not NCEA I have a problem with, it is with external assessments themselves. For languages for instance the internal suggests a portfolio approach which IMO supports communication and learning. And it is trying to get to grip with both approach which is consuming for teachers and thus stops looking at enhancing teaching and learning with ICTs for example.
    This is a very good conversation you have started!

  5. stevevoisey 29 August 2011 at 10:54 am #

    First: thanks to our friends across the Tasman for their input. It’s great to have these connections.
    Speaking of connections, this post sparked a #hashtag on twitter last night: #PrimSecEdchat. There was an excellent discussion about the issue and the finger was firmly pointed at NCEA. But there was also some positive input about fear of change that was encouraging. A local (student-led) site call is a social learning platform with study resources and forums.
    Thanks to all for their input.

  6. taskmaker 30 August 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Here is the list of targeted Secondary Teacher aimed workshops at ulearn this year, these are the ones solely targeted at secondary school teachers. There are others in primary/secondary targets that are available, however with the purposes of this I have not shown them.

    Effective pedagogy – inquiring teachers and reflective learners

    Enhancing knowing and learning in a changing world

    Creating Interactivity in and out of the Classroom

    Are we there yet? The LMS journey.

    The party in the car: New NZTA resources for secondary English

    No Teacher Left Behind – Shepherding Secondary
    Teachers into the 21st Century

    Students, experiences in online and other non-classroom blended
    learning environments: Making it work

    Tailoring Learning – Finding a workable solution for schools somewhere between bespoke and one-size

    An introduction to Adobe Photoshop CS5 for photographers

    Learning of Algorithms on Cell Phones videos and quizzes SMS Technology

    3 years worth of “Websites of Interest” from Interface by Faculty

    What is a LMS Coach?

    Thinking of implementing blending/hybrid learning at your school?
    Here are our findings and suggestions

    E-learning from the inside: The Educational Design Classroom in Moodle

    10 Maths Projects Your Students Will Enjoy (Really!)

    Evidence-based Academic Coaching in a Restorative School Context

  7. Gerard 30 August 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    TELA laptops cost
    Toshiba standard model: $75.55 per quarter
    Apple macbook pro $171.78 per quarter

    Are secondary schools not wanting to invest in technology for teachers, as much as Primary Schools? Or is it that there are more secondary teachers on a site?

  8. hotshot bald cop 31 August 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Preach it my brother.

  9. Jo Fothergill 7 September 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Surely it’s the school BOT and senior management who dictate what type of laptop a teacher gets. The TELA agreement is for 3 years so theoretically no teacher should have a laptop older than 3 years. In my primary school we are given the freedom to choose which laptop we prefer to use – our mac users are increasing every lease renewal; other primary schools aren’t so free and dictate to their staff what brand of TELA machine they’re going to have; some primary schools are still not on board with TELA laptops; and yet other primary schools don’t let their staff use their laptops during the day (they go into a pool for students to use) and therefore (IMHO) negate the good of having a TELA machine in use in the classroom. (This latter is true – I’ve seen the laptops concerned.)

  10. Kelly Faulkner (@kiwispouse) 7 September 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    oh god, steve, thank you. not only am i stuck with a bottom of the barrel toshiba (we don’t get to choose from the list), but we are now on 4 year contracts! i had to beg and plead to change up after 3 years from the 512mb toshiba i had before, and i’m never allowed to forget it, being “special” and all. and that’s what i’ve got. let’s talk about my kids. they are using 6-10 year old laptops that barely move. or they are in one of the 3 labs (on a rare occasion i can get one) where they have no access to email (so critical), no sound, no privileges if something’s not working (want to change printers? too bad!) their machines often shut down for no reason, and a variety of other shambles that i can’t bear thinking about on this beautiful day (but you can read about it on my blog!).

    2 years ago, our BoT voted to pay our leases. i would gladly pay my own if i could choose (which i was once promised i could do, but that didn’t pan out). my husband is in the states right now, and he’s bringing me a chromebook, which i plan to do most of my work on in the future (i try to do everything online), leaving my crappy school one at school. (yes, we do have a home computer, but i like being untethered.) i will not be allowed to connect the chromebook, or a tablet, to the school network. another teacher, one with a lot more power than little old me, was told it was “too difficult” to connect his ipad to the network.

    we were also forced to get outlook at the beginning of the year, which we cannot access at home. if you are TIC of a large undertaking, it makes life very difficult. and what’s the point, anyhow? the message is stay at your desk night and day? don’t be mobile?

    i recently attended a level 2 realignment meeting, and i was the only teacher who said i would use the task b (less prescriptive, lots of opportunity). with what secondary teachers have at their fingertips, who can blame them? it’s simply too hard, when the tools you have can’t do the job.

    i’d just like to reiterate your comment: “Most secondary teachers have the bare minimum. They [the computers] hardly work. They hate them. This is really important and quite mysterious. I can’t fathom why the primary teachers have these awesome laptops and secondary teachers have uninspiring utilitarian things.” why, why, why? it’s not that we don’t want to be current, involved, innovative. it’s that we simply are not allowed to be, without considerable time and expense of our own, and no support whatsoever.

    that’s my workshop up there: No Teacher Left Behind, and you can find my blog at i have often commented that primary teachers leave us in the dust, and *we are inheriting their amazing students!*

    thanks for being brave enough to ask what most of us are often too nervous to talk about.

    • stevevoisey 7 September 2011 at 3:58 pm #

      Thanks, Kelly. I think I will make this a priority with the next PPTA ICT Committee meeting in December.

      • Gerard 8 September 2011 at 3:08 pm #

        four year contracts, are you sure?

  11. Sonja Barneveld (@sonjanz) 7 September 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi Steve
    I’m not a teacher – but I’ve had 5 kids go through the system in NZ, the youngest has now spent just over a year in Australia. And I spent several years working in e-learning at the operational policy level.
    I think you are asking some great questions and I just wanted to offer a couple of other influences. While apparently they aren’t supposed to (or so I was told when we were comparing primary teachers use to early childhood) in my experience primary teachers often do let their students access their laptop to support learning. So the tool is much more integral to what is happening in the classroom. Which we know makes a huge difference.
    I also think primary teachers trust the kids with ICT more – my now almost 13 year old was one of the recognised IT experts in both NZ and his QLD primary school last year. Not so in Yr 8 at college. And to be totally honest, he’s currently taking a netbook to school with him as he has a serious thumb injury and cant write easily at the moment – he wants to take my datastick so he has internet (because he NEEDS it) but there is no way I’m letting him have an uncontrolled internet access at school where he is subject to peer influence and not known for thinking through the consequences!
    Having said that I have been insanely frustrated over the last four weeks with the amount of paper he has been given that he needs to write on e.g. research workbooks. He has a laptop – can’t they give him the word document so he can fill it in on screen? And both in NZ and Australia I think at college there is a focus on getting the work done that sometimes getting in the way of exploring how effective online and other tools can be to support that.
    However there has also been research (I think BECTA) that shows that simply handing out technology can be counterproductive unless there is a well thought out process for how it can be used. I know my husband is far less tolerant of his laptop which he sees purely as a business tool, whereas I have a much bigger picture about my (multiple) laptops and what they are capable of. I think that can get in the way too for decision makers, and the frustration the bare minimum can create (any teacher should be asking a lot more of a laptop than most business requirements) doesn’t help.

  12. Jess A 7 September 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Oh how I would love a Mac! Even simply for iMovie. But no, I am stuck with my old toshiba, who after only 18months is horribly slow and refuses to save any of my profile changes on our network every time I log off.
    I get no choice, I simply must put up with what I am given. As the only person in my department that uses any technology consistently I am always on the lookout for IT related PD, but even senior management often will not approve it because they think I already know enough.

  13. Daniel Walter Scott 8 September 2011 at 12:41 am #

    Hey Steve, It doesn’t bode well for our new courses then. Maybe we should have targeted primary instead of secondary schools?

    It will be interesting to see if we get the timing right for teachers.

    Details are up if you wanna nosy.

  14. Creativeteachnz 6 November 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    We have a technically proficient group of students and 4% of our teachers over retirement age, tired and uninspired, how can expect leopards to change spots especially in a world where the teacher has a ten year old Nokia phone and the student has a 7 inch iPad and an iPhone 5 ????????

    • Steve Voisey 8 November 2012 at 8:37 am #

      Thanks, Creativeteachnz.
      The differentiation of skills between Primary and Secondary teachers in NZ is because:
      – smaller environments can cope with change much better
      – there is a diminished safety risk with Primary School aged children (they’re less likely to go looking for objectionable material).
      – Teachers have fewer individuals to deal with (30 as opposed to 150+)
      – They have nicer laptops – and I have no idea why, but it’s a fact.

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