So this is an area of interest and controversy in most of the current educational research. There barely seems a week go by when someone stands up as says that technology has no place in the classroom. This week was the turn of an Australian head teacher. He has banned laptops from the classroom and sited a couple of reasons:-
- Destroys students social skills
- Students need to hand write assignments
So being a bit of a geek I thought about his and others comments and I have to agree that with the amount of money that has been spent on technology in the classroom over the last 20 years there is little to show that it was money well spent.
Technology was first introduced way back in the 1620’s with the creation of the slide rule. Then the next would have been the humble mechanical calculator. So technology has been around for the best part of 400 years.
I wonder though, were most of the previous plans of technology in the classroom ill conceived. What was the big idea behind giving classrooms laptops? There have been lots of ideas of rushing to get technology in the classroom with no pedagogy behind how to use it.
So what has changed? Well, the advent of collaborative office programs that overcome the issue of social skills in the classroom have only recently become available. I have seen students work with and help out others that they would not normally talk to during a normal classroom. The ability of these applications to allow students to work together but also allow a teacher to comment on and allow a student and teacher to communicate and feedback whilst the work is being done is pedagogically amazing in comparison to giving a student a laptop and getting them to type things. There are also a number of programs and sites that allow a teacher to lead a student through the work and ask them all questions whilst they are learning and gauge responses from the whole class at once.
The way to embed technology into the classroom to improve students understanding and learning is to get staff using the technology and apps as part of the normal teaching before trying to force everyone to have a device. The other major key things are to make sure that the apps being used as are device agnostic as possible. Not every student will buy a specific device and justifying a school to supply one to each student is really unrealistic so there needs to be a sensible and open conversation with a buy in for staff and students.
I have been really fortunate that I work in a school that has been using GAFE for the past 3 years and are now looking at chromebooks. We have started a trial within departments only having 5 as a nice manageable amount. The thought of having a class set sitting in a charging rack not being plugged in having issues with some and having to be someone’s responsibility strikes fear into me. The days of trolleys full of laptops has gone and in my view needs to banished to a time in the past.
Our school is now at a point where the it suites are not being looked after well enough and the computers are in need of being updated. The other trouble is that there isn’t enough of them. They are over used and in short supply so the logical step is to find an alternative. Does the school really want to spend £10,000 on a single suite on a regular basis updating technology and also spending a fortune on keyboards and mice that seem to break far to quickly? This strikes me as a massive false economy.
The other massive expense in classroom technology is what is used by the teacher in the classroom. Interactive whiteboard or projector what is best. The simple answer is whatever the teacher wants to use and is happy to use. I ran a survey, which you can complete if you wish, asking teachers about technology in their classroom and primarily about their IWB or projectors. I have asked teachers in my school if they use theirs and it is a really mixed opinion. I have had, “all the time” all the way down to “only to project as I don’t know where the pen is and I don’t need it to create an interactive lesson!”
The results of the survey were quite mixed so far and my favourite response is “should be decided by the teacher not IT or leadership!” I couldn’t agree more. I understand that for a school having the ability to teach almost any subject in any room allows for flexibility but how often does this flexibility really get used? Covered lessons seldom need anything more than a simple projector so why not just give teachers/ departments what they will use not waste the money on things not being used. A local school’s science department has TV’s on two walls and no interactive board or projector in sight. TV’s are really inexpensive and do just the same as job as a projector without taking up space.
So my conclusion is technology needs to be used to enhance and redesign learning tasks rather than simply to replace the need to save printing by sharing a worksheet. I ran a project that would not have been possible without technology as I have connected approximately 1000 students from 5 countries together and get to know some key information about each other which they wouldn’t have been possible before. The SAMR model needs to be followed and staff and students need to use the technology to produce work that wouldn’t have been possible without it to silence the critics of technology in the classroom.