tech-at-center-of-learning-2Putting Technology At The Center Of Learning

by Paul Moss

Is your school still in the dark ages of #edtech?

Does your school teach students with edtech only through an ICT subject, or does your school have a dedicated edtech agenda, with a strong focus on integration into the curriculum in general? As an English teacher, I can only dream of the latter, because in all of the schools around the world that I have worked in (Australia, Spain, UK), edtech takes a back seat every time. To say this is rather frustrating is an understatement, especially when most of those schools have cited the need to create independent learners as a means to achieve desirable results.

Schools are still in the dark ages when it comes to technology integration with the general curriculum. Of course, this is not the case for many schools, but many doesn’t compare to most. Most schools simply don’t have the policy to handle such a change in pedagogy, for two reasons: cost, and willingness. I deliberately place these in the order they are oft stated, but in truth it is always the other way round, as the latter would certainly facilitate the former if the desire was there. For all the promotion and obvious benefits that edtech encourages, edtech remains a tokenistic endeavor. Look at any adverts for teaching jobs in mainstream schools around the world. Look at how many of those ads don’t mention a need to be skilled in using edtech as one of its central requirements for a position.  

Schools generally have ICT labs, and possibly a mobile trolley of laptops. If you are lucky, you can actually book such facilities maybe once a week. Most likely, once a fortnight. Free slots in an ICT lab are like needles in a haystack because ICT teaching consumes at least 60% of the calendar. So, if you’re savvy, you sit on the calendar as the new day unfolds (14 days away), and book anything that comes up, running the risk of becoming the scourge of other teachers who resent your hogging; after all there are 35 other teachers wanting the limited slots. If your lessons coincide with free slots of no ICT teaching, then you are lucky: I’ve got about 4 times a week that I could secure such places – but for one of my classes: never.

Excitedly you enter the computer suite, only to find that 2 or 3 of the machines aren’t working properly, and of course there isn’t a surplus of machines – there goes the once a fortnight experience for those 3 students: ‘You’ll have to share with Jim’. ‘The internet isn’t working sir’; ‘that site is blocked sir’; ‘my password isn’t working’; ‘That software won’t work sir – it says I haven’t got the latest version of ….’. Humans are resilient, but not stupid. Suffering several nightmares in the computer suite becomes a no-brainer for many teachers as to whether to try to rebook 2 weeks in advance for another go. 

google-education-on-airFor someone who truly espouses the benefits of ICT in the classroom this situation is demoralizing, to say the least. The exciting cooperative learning opportunities offered by platforms like Blendspace, Pear Deck, Socrative, Nearpod, Padlet, and Verso most definitely promotes an independent approach to learning, as students learn that knowledge is constantly in flux, and that their responses can and should be tested against their peers’, as learning naturally has always been.

For an English teacher, edtech goes a long way to leveling the playing field for students. Edtech excites them, and offers students who haven’t come from a reading background a real chance to engage in the subject. Students understand instantly what best practice is as they explore the notion of networks, with responses from peers or the teacher’s interventions allowing them to continuously refine their thoughts. Students become more active learners, engaging in vital 21st century skills in communication, as they decide how to challenge ideas presented, and they learn that using initiative is a rewarding process, as they find and curate new knowledge that others use. They become better at learning to learn; surely the ultimate goal of any progressive educators.

BYOD is a natural progression in utilizing edtech, but if your school is hindered by any of the obstacles presented above, then I bet your Wi-Fi situation is limited too, rendering BYOD ineffective. I also bet your school has major reservations in freeing up Wi-Fi to students, citing safety and bandwidth as the main concerns, and in that order. Whilst the latter is harder to alter, it can, and in fact, must be done, if students are to maximize the potential that exists in this new learning context. To me, not utilizing BYOD is like trying to get to a town 100 miles away on a horse and cart, when there’s a car parked out the front, and you’ve got the keys. It’s such an obvious investment, yet seems to be a long way down the list on school priorities.

In light of the many advantages that integrating edtech into the general curriculum offers, to continue to deny students these opportunities seems like a hard pill to swallow. Edtech is no longer in the early adopters zone; no longer in the testing zone. It is well and truly here, and senior leadership not only has to accept such a fate, but take the bull by the horns and truly embrace it for what it is worth. 

For the sake of all its students, edtech must become an integral part of a school’s pedagogy.

Putting Technology At The Center Of Learning