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.
Connectivism is defined by George Siemens as a way of gaining knowledge through your networks of others and their experiences (2005). He suggests learning is a continual process and that the focus should be more on how to learning than what you are learning yourself as part of his principles of connectivism (Bell, 2010). This learning theory was developed as previous learning theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, social constructivism) did not take into account the implications of technology on pedagogy. Connectivism focuses on having social connections as a way to develop actionable knowledge (Siemens, 2015).
I believe that in the 21st century we need to be sure that we are taking into account technology and the affordances it allows us when we look at learning for our students. From a connectivist perspective, teachers should be focusing on developing skills for our students to develop learning. While content is important, students can easily access content online if they are aware how to. Students need to know where and how to access a variety of online resources to find out the ‘what’ when they need it.(Siemens, 2005). Thus, teachers need to educate themselves on how to teach students these new skills.
As an educator, I value the need to be connected to other educators as a way to develop personally and professionally. Engaging with blogging and Twitter as a way of personal reflection has allowed me to connect with educators from around the globe. This has helped me continually improve my practice by gaining feedback and ideas from others. When I am faced with a problem, I often reach out on Twitter and instantly have a network of others who may have had similar experiences and different perspectives to shed light on what I am experiencing.
This idea of creating networks is also important for our students. Students networks may be significantly smaller due to age restrictions on many different online platforms. However, the idea of being connected and using your network in gaining access to various knowledge is important. I see this currently with our Year 6 students who are completing Exhibition as part of the Primary Year Primary (International Baccalaureate). Students are working with other group members who have varied experiences and knowledge. They are reaching out to different teachers at the school who have different skillsets depending on their research and action. They’ve emailed members of the community and different organisations as other sources of information and have gone to other schools even to gain ideas of what exhibition could be like. This provides students a better understanding of action and learning being continual, different people in your networks offer different perspectives and knowledge and that they don’t have to know everything to be successful, but how to gain the information they need. This social component of learning has allowed them to develop lifelong skills that are transferrable as they continue their education and build their network further.
Bell, F. (2010). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 98-118.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.