Technology in the classroom has changed substantially over time. Once upon a time, computers were not affordable for the average school to have in each classroom. The computer took up a good chunk of space in the room and had limited functionality. Nowadays, many schools have computers in every classroom, some enough for every student or a BYOD programme adopted so that technology can be integrated on a daily basis.
As a teacher that uses technology on a daily basis to enhance the education experience, it is hard to imagine it being challenging for teachers to find educational uses for computers when they were first being introduced into the classroom (Bigum, 2012, p. 18). For me, trying to find the best way to transform technology for education is something I enjoy doing. I like trying to find new ways to use the tools I have to make learning different and engaging for students. Back when computers were first being introduced this may have been more of a struggle with dedicated teachers still trying to lead the way.
I love being able to introduce new technologies into my classroom. Often I just show my students and just let them explore it. They will often be able to grasp how to use the tool faster and better than I would be able to show them if I was to lead a directed lesson. Because my students are now proficient with a number of technology tools, it is easy for them to transfer their knowledge between technology tools until it is 'domesticated' as part of the class (Bigum, 2012, p. 22).
As an Education Technology Coach, I am often approached by teachers wanting to buy the 'new big thing'. For me, it is important that our school doesn't just jump on board with purchasing things to 'keep up with the Jones'. Rather, take the time to trial it, see what the pros and cons are before purchasing and rolling out to the whole school. This helps to slow the cycle. It is important to note how a new piece of technology will change the experience of what already exists with a focus on how is it going to improve teaching and learning (Bigum, 2012, p.26).
I believe technology is enhancing the way I teach in my classroom. From a productivity and organisational standpoint, I find myself feeling that technology has supported me in developing these areas. From a teaching standpoint, I have access to resources and information that I would not be able to access without technology. I can engage my students by showing them other parts of the world giving them first hand references instead of just a text to read. Students can also access information easily, share and connect with other students. My students are able to collaborate in school and from home on assignments using a variety of technology tools and resources. Having had access to so much technology for educational purposes, I would find it challenging to move to a system that did not embrace technology. Technology has allowed me to better my teaching practice so that my students have the best possible learning experience.
Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and Computers: Tales of a Digital Romance. Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and Student Diversity in Futures Oriented Classrooms. L. Rowan and C. Bigum, Springer Netherlands: 15-28.
Webb and Cox (2004) highlight that teachers need to think critically about their pedagogy and how ICT can be integrated into it. ICT is not an afterthought, rather part of the planning process. As teachers are planning, they need to think about what they hope to achieve. From there, they can think about the pedagogy and strategies that will work best and the tools and their affordances they require to make it a reality. ICT cannot be seen as separate from good practice and planning, rather, seamlessly integrated.
Do all teachers use this complex pedagogical reasoning in my organisation? No. But I think the more technology is seen as just one of many resources rather than something that should be used, we see more and more teachers shifting their ideas of technology integration.
I love watching the teachers teach who understand technology integration though. It is as if the technology is just an extension of their normal classroom practice and the students don’t see it as anything else either. It is used when appropriate, and when it’s not appropriate, it isn’t used, allowing both teachers and students to leverage their devices in effective ways. Our school and administration have put a lot of time, money and resources in supporting teachers in getting to this level. While not everyone is there yet, it is the direction we are moving as a school with more and more teachers having a deeper understanding of appropriate and effective technology integration each day.
Teachers need to be willing to not be at the centre of the classroom. This is a huge pedagogical shift from ‘traditional teaching’. As mentioned in Somekh (2008) in the various examples, the roles of teachers and students had to change and become co-constructed. Teachers are no longer the sole expert and need to take on the role of being more of a facilitator and supporter. The students have greater access to information through technology which allows the way they learn and what they learn to become more flexible and varied. Through effective technology integration, students can develop transdisciplinary skills rather than just technology skills that can benefit them throughout their life (ie: collaboration, time management, creating, investigating, etc.).
In order for this shift to be successful, teachers need to feel supported in a safe environment where it is okay for them to try things and make mistakes. Teachers should receive professional development in a variety of forms to support technology integration into their classroom. This is often best done with a technology coach who can guide them through effective practice.
This year, I had to work with all teachers in teachers in the early years to implement our new e-Portfolio programme for students, teachers and parents. In the past, the teachers were responsible for continually upkeep paper portfolios with comments the children said about pieces of work that the teachers wanted the parents to see. There was a huge shift to making it all online and having the students drive the reflections, making it more authentic for the students. In doing this, teachers had to change what they thought portfolios were and how reflections were meant to be recorded and used. This was done by starting small and growing the successes to other classes. Teachers received professional development not only on the specific application and the technical components of doing the e-Portfolio but also professional development on how this could look and work within the classroom. I worked with the teachers and co-taught at times, worked with small groups of students and met one-on-one for additional support. Students were choosing the work they wanted to share by the end of the integration. The students would document their work using photographs or video. They could then create audio or written reflections (depending on their development levels and personal choice) that would be shared online. The teacher allowed for a time within centres throughout the week for students to use the iPads to add to their e-Portfolios. Student motivation and engagement went up as they were in control of the learning and that they had an authentic audience (their parents) that would immediately see their work online. For teachers, the time and effort they needed to maintain the portfolio drastically went down, allowing them to reallocate that time to focus on student learning.
Section 5.3 of: Somekh, B. (2008). Factors Affecting Teachers' Pedagogical Adoption of ICT. International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education. J. Voogt and G. Knezek, Springer US. 20: 449-460.
Webb, M. and M. Cox (2004). "A review of pedagogy related to information and communications technology." Technology, Pedagogy and Education 13(3): 235-286.