When I talk at people about the latest advances in the use of technology in education, or EdTech as its known, (which, to the annoyance of my wife, happens more often than maybe it should), the response I often get is a half-joking “They’ll be no need for teachers soon at this rate!” However, the more time I have spent implementing technology into my classroom and teaching the current generation of teenagers who have grown up with technology at their fingertips, the more I realise that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact the art of teaching and pedagogy is now more important than ever.
Implementing new digital technologies into a school is fraught with potential pitfalls. The most common example is schools who blindly invest in hundreds of devices, throw them at staff and students and expect to suddenly become a cutting edge leading digital school. Before long, in many of these cases the devices are gathering dust in store cupboards and have very quickly lost their value both literally and metaphorically. A school or teacher should not implement new technology just for the sake of it. The key is to look at your teaching and learning objectives and see if there is a technology tool that can be used to improve the outcome. For example, quality and quantity of feedback given to students has been shown to be one of the biggest determining factors in a student making measurable progress in a subject. However, teachers struggle to have the time in lessons to feed back to each and every individual student and even when marking work it can be hard to get a necessary message across in enough detail. However, if you could make a thirty second audio recording and attach it to the essay when you digitally return it to each student, they could listen to that on their smartphone before the next lesson and would make more progress. You don't need to take up valuable lesson time, and it should not be an onerous task.
For pupils, it used to be the case that the teacher was your direct portal to knowledge. For teachers, being a real expert in your subject was the most important attribute required. Pupils’ only access to information was through their teacher or reading books in the library. Now pupils are always ‘connected’ to knowledge. They can just ask Siri or Alexa any question they like and they don’t have to spend hours reading and digesting a dense textbook, but can get instant accessible summaries from educators on YouTube. Whether this is a good or bad thing is irrelevant. It is the way life is now and it’s only going to develop more down the same path. There is no doubt that teachers still need to know their subjects well and of course be deeply passionate about them, but classrooms are becoming more about the individual student and less about the teacher. This does not mean that teachers are no longer required. On the contrary it means that teachers are now more important than ever. In the modern era of social media, 24-hour news, fake news and Wikipedia, students need a guide and a chaperone to help them navigate this overload of information and become objective independent learners.
With all this information out there and some very useful technology tools teachers can spend less time lecturing and imparting information and more time developing key transferable skills especially relevant to this generation. Classrooms now more than ever are about discussion, analysis, evaluation, creativity, collaboration and application. Technology can be used to enhance all of these outcomes if implemented effectively and all teachers now have a responsibility to improve the digital skills of their students and prepare them as well as possible for the world they are entering into, regardless of the subject they teach.
There is a popular misconception teenagers today are all digital natives, due to being brought up with technology. This is far from the truth. Teenagers are indeed used to technology working and it being intuitive, but as soon as they need to do something new, or come up against an issue, their initiative and trouble shooting skills are often poor. A bigger issue however, is the way that teenagers have grown up using these devices primarily for entertainment purposes only. They tend to spend the majority of screen time passively consuming content and I believe teachers have an important role in subtly helping students to unlock the true power of their digital devices. They can be incredible learning tools that can be used to create, capture and innovate.
In short, technology can free teachers to do what they do best, teach.
Hi, I'm Mr Exham
This is where I'll talk about teaching and learning, practical lessons, flipped learning and the use of technology in lessons. I will also discuss current trends in EdTech.