Technologies and Teaching.

Last Monday, I attended the Westminster Education Forum seminar on the emerging new technologies in education, including primary, secondary and higher education. I have decided to base this waffle on the discussions from this seminar but also to link these to my own thoughts about the use of technology within education. With this in mind, I would like to reinforce that this waffle represents my own personal opinions and views. So…lets waffle about technology.

  • What to use-As we all know, technology is constantly advancing, often at a very rapid rate. Not only is it full of new, often innovative inventions, but also be full of ‘fads’ that are promoted and often fall later by the wayside. It is important to keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to use technology. Essentially, my use of technology is always based on the whether it will be enhancing an existing process or introducing a new concept. For example – this use of a ‘flipped classroom’ is being discussed a lot at the present moment in time so how can technology be used to support this concept. As you might have realised from my Twitter feed, I do spend some time investigating new technology. If I do find something that I consider has value, I will initially think about which process or concept this could relate/enhance. If nothing comes to mind, then I will ‘Pocket’ it for future reference.
  • Teachers or government? – One of the discussions, chaired my Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, centred on the effective use of digital learning in schools. Two very good examples of the use of technology was demonstrated – one based on the creation of ibooks and the use of QR codes to present information and the second on the extended use of the school’s VLE on promoting student engagement and learning. Both were very interesting and inspiring and almost made me wish I was back in the classroom teaching. The main point that was point forward within this discussion was the importance of practitioners in leading the way with technology in education. The government is taken less of a ‘top down’ approach to the use of technology within education, allowing and encouraging practitioners to take the lead. This, to me, was very refreshing since it is essential us that can implement and manage the role of this technology. The only two points that really need to be discussed here would be measuring the impact of such technologies and how these can be shared effectively with other establishments. This is where I consider effective partnerships and collaboration to be key utilising social media to achieve this.
  • Impact of teacher training – It is assumed that students embarking on ITE programmes are digital natives. Although I am not convinced that this term applies to all the students, there is a higher degree of computer literacy. It is, however, important to remember that just because students are more active within social media or fluent with the use of WORD, we should not assume that they have a complete understanding of how to utilise these tools to support pedagogy. This becomes one of the most important role of ITE programmes when considering the use of technology. As I mentioned before, technology provides a tool to enhance a process and as such needs to be critically engaged with, reflected on and evaluated. Not only should we be identifying and modelling the use of technology to support pedagogy we need to continue to promote the skills to effectively analyse its use. This will then have the most effective impact on the learning of the students/pupils. It was also discussed within this part of the seminar, the importance of continuing professional development of the teachers already in post. As students who are using technology effectively to support pedagogy go into schools, practice can be shared and further evaluated by existing practitioners. Partnership work between schools and ITE institutions form an important part of this CPD as well as engaging with external providers.

It is important to remember that technology is a tool. There are some practitioners who embrace its use, while others shun it. Some embrace it too much and others too little. It is important to remember that as practitioners we are not teaching for the sake of the technology but using technology to promote learning. Use it and exploit it but always be prepared to ditch it. If you have any comments on any of the points then please post a comment or contact me directly and feel free to spread this waffle.

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