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.
Each student we have in our schools is unique and reacts differently to different situations. How we connect to who they are as individuals is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. As teachers, it is so important to find ways to build rapport with our students so that they develop a trusting and positive working relationship with the teacher in the school community. By going out of our way to connect with a student on a personal level can have an exponential impact inside our classroom.
Year 3 students participate in a Laptop Bootcamp on a weekly basis with myself, the Education Technology Coach, to support their transition from iPads to MacBooks. This is primarily skills-based with meaningful connections to their units of inquiry. The first week of the Laptop Bootcamp found me faced with a Year 3 student who was having a challenging time. He wouldn’t listen to the directions, leading him to become frustrated when he was unable to do something. He wasn’t open to asking for help or receiving support. He didn’t want to do it, stated he couldn’t do it and that he didn’t want to even use them. He began disturbing other students and preventing them from doing the task at hand. No matter what I did to try to help ease the task, his negative attitude and mindset prevented him from being successful. I walked away from the class knowing that I had to find a way to reach this child and that the flow of the class for the rest of the year would depend on it.
With the clear goal of finding a way to connect with the student, I tried to figure out a way that would know that I genuinely cared about the student. The first thing was to look for him in the playground at break and ask him what kind of mood he was in today. He told me not a good one, which led to further discussion of some things he was struggling with outside of school and we brainstormed how he might go about changing these things and also how he might be able to change his mood at school. I wasn’t sure how successful I had been with the one interaction and knew it needed to be a reoccurring pattern for him to begin to develop trust.
The next day I saw him and asked about his evening and how he was feeling about things today. While his mood had shifted slightly, there was still more that needed to be done. I needed to find a way that made him feel unique and special. So I did what anyone would do before moving on. I asked what he thought about a secret handshake just for the two of us. He looked at me kind of funny and then showed me one he wanted to have.
Every time I see him whether it’s on the playground, in the hallway, or in the classroom, we do our handshake. He lights up with a smile knowing that we have the coolest handshake in town. In class, gets a reassuring ‘You got this’ with a handshake as a combo as he heads back to the desk and tackles the challenge of the day. This week, not only was ready and listening as soon as I got started, but he also finished the task and started helping other students be successful.
What could have been an ongoing and constant challenge in the class became a positive experience for a student and an opportunity to empower him to support others and be a leader in the classroom. Never underestimate the smallest gestures and interactions. One gesture might make the largest difference.
As an Education Technology Coach, I support a lot of my students in making films using iMovie. iMovie comes with a set bunch of songs, sounds and jingles that can be used within the film. However, after a few films, students seem to continue to choose the same song, making it a little bit repetitive as a teacher.
One of my favourite resources is Free Music Archive. It has thousands of songs that can be legally downloaded and are Creative Commons licensed. Students can search songs by artists and genres but also by mood to help the music best fit the theme of the film. This also allows me the opportunity to teach students how to properly credit the artists of the songs at the end of their films.
Available at: http://freemusicarchive.org/
I feel a combination of a social constructivist approach to learning in conjunction with connectivism is how I view the educational pedagogies I find most beneficial in practice. There is a need for students to construct their learning for a sense of ownership and engagement. However, the idea of the social aspect and connections is key with the growing digital age. Siemens (2005) suggests connectivism is a way to learn from other network and their experiences including technology to gain actionable knowledge.
Some of the new learnings I have had are:
1. Participatory technologies impact information environment greatly (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). Looking at the benefits of participatory technologies, it is clear that these tools have substantial benefit in the classroom. From increasing engagement and ownership to increased reflection and engaging in dialogue with others, students are truly developing the ability to construct new knowledge together (Farkas, p. 85). I believe that when students feel they are a part of the active learning process and it is made available for others to see, they will increase their effort, which in turn improves achievement as suggested in Farkas (p.85). In order for this collaborative approach to reflection to be successful, a constructivist and connectivist pedagogical approach are needed. Teachers need to change their pedagogy and teaching to allow for new technologies to transform their classroom.
2. There needs to be a change in information literacy instruction (Farkas, 2012, p. 82). With the change in the digital world to provide an increased wealth of resources to our students, we need to be thinking more critically as teachers about how we explicitly teach information literacy to help students become information literate (Farkas, p. 89). While we are becoming more connected, we also have to be more critical in analysing and evaluating the resources and knowledge we find (Farkas, p. 88). As teachers, we need to be instilling in our students the idea of online rights and privacy and how to support them in being safe and secure online. While participatory technologies have many benefits, we need to be aware of who has access to them and how they may engage in them. Teaching students how to change their settings to ensure the class only has access to their blogs may be a way to overcome some of these challenges as well as teaching students how to provide constructive feedback online. Thus, teaching transferable skills is key as our world of digital resources continues to grow (Farkas, p. 89). These conversations shouldn’t be happening in one classroom or in the library; rather the dialogue about information literacy belongs in each and every classroom (Farkas, p. 90).
Farkas, M. (2012). Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy. Library Hi Tech, 30(1), 82-94.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.
Distance education is often approached with mixed feelings with it being a good solution for some students to access learning from anywhere at anytime or an excuse for procrastination. As someone who is taking a distance education Masters degree, I see the value in distance education and am making it work for me living in Singapore and working full time.
There are also instances where distance education is useful for our students. Some students travel for competitive sports and take online classes or are homeschooled. But is there a place for distance education in a typical school with classes every day?
I believe the answer is yes - if students have access to resources at home and if planned out appropriately. Flipped classroom learning or blended learning environments allows students to learn content at home while using class time to explore problems and answer questions, taking the learning deeper. It uses a combination of online learning and in-person experiences (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 207).
This type of learning is something we are currently trialling for professional development with teachers. We have created a 10 week course where teachers are exposed to different technologies each week with tasks to complete. The weekly tasks are posted on a blog and class discussions take place through Edmodo. Teachers also have a blog of their own to share their learning and reflect on their practice. The course can be done completely online but there are 2 drop in sessions where participants can work through the course or use the time to ask questions of the two technology coaches leading the sessions and plan for how to integrate these tools into their classroom.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].
TPACK is a framework that supports the integration of technology for effective classroom teaching. It combines technological, pedagogical and content knowledge as a way of thinking to support teachers in ensuring the use of technology is appropriate, thoughtful and effective during the planning stages. As a technology coach, my expertise lies in technological/pedagogical knowledge, where I support teachers in integrating technology for their specific content in a specific context. It is also important that I balance when digital technologies are appropriate and maybe not so appropriate to ensure that teachers move beyond just using a tool.
It is not enough for teachers to use technology for the sake of using technology; rather, technology should allow new learning opportunities that would not have been possible before (Mishra & Koeler, 2008).This makes me think of the SAMR model.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura created this idea of SAMR model for technology integration to help teachers understand that technology can reach many levels of higher-order thinking and create opportunities for our students to use technology to do things that traditional methods failed to allow for. As technology use moves up the chart, it moves from enhancing the learning experience to truly transforming the experience for students. This is where we allow students to really push their thinking and abilities through the use of technology.
Some examples of each of the components of this model are listed below:
- Typing a story in a word document
- Completing an online task, print it and submit to the teacher
- Using Padlet as a wonder wall with students including images to enhance
- Text-to-speech function for students writing a paper
- Screencasting on the iPad to explain a mathematical concept
- Students using Edmodo to communicate online at home and at school
- Students bringing their stories to life by animating and recording voices
- Students creating an e-Portfolio full of videos, web 2.0 tools and documentation of experiences with reflections by self, peers, teachers and parents
For the SAMR model, it is understood that the use of technology may vary across all four but it is important for teachers to think about what the real purpose is of the technology. If teachers are only ever using technology for substitution, is this really a good use of technology? Would the students simply be able to not use technology and achieve the same desired learning outcomes? When we move towards modification and redefinition, we are allowing students to develop their critical thinking and creativity skills as they show their learning and understanding in new and complex ways. The more we think about technology integration through TPACK and SAMR the more our students will be able to have meaningful learning experiences.
When technology, pedagogy and content knowledge all exist, it is about understanding the balance with the ever changing technology to ensure that best practice of teaching is always being exemplified in the classroom (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 9(1), 60-70.
Mishra & Koehler (2008). Keynote address [YouTube]. Available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iCPLTz7Z-Q
At the start of a new school year, I remember being excited about showing my Year 5 students our new class website. I showed my students all the different components of the website and with great enthusiasm asked, “What do you think?” I was not expecting the rather honest response that I received. “Well Ms. Mac, it is kinda boring.” After accepting the initial shock, there were a few different ways I could approach it, but I felt it was best to ask the students for some feedback and suggestions.
Immediately, a flurry of ideas came bursting out of the mouths of students as we generated a list of possible ‘updates’ to our class site. From there, they started breaking off into teams to work on different aspects of the site from creating page banners to redesigning the resource buttons to creating an introduction video to the individuals in our class. The website came alive the moment the students began designing it to reflect who they were as a community.
The next day, the students wanted to brainstorm jobs they could have in the classroom and instantly the role of ‘techsperts’ was established. This role would be for two students each month who would provide support and be the first person of contact for students to seek out with their questions when it came to technology. No longer were students asking me ‘How do I….’, which allowed me to support other students in need. Together, the students would problem solve their technological issues, brainstorm creative ways to display their findings and provide constructive feedback to improve each other’s digital work. Digital peer coaching empowered the students to use their knowledge to help others while consolidating their own understanding of the knowledge and skills.
Students also wanted to make sure their parents knew what was going on in their class each week, but from their eyes and not just the teacher’s. To solve this problem, they created weekly slideshows called the 5EM Files that were embedded in the website, with each student having a slide to design in whatever way they wanted and to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions about the week. Every week, students created these slides without any support from me as the teacher, but yet the quality and enthusiasm for creating and sharing grew with each passing week.
As the year progressed, the students continued to push the boundaries of expectations by using technology as a means to express themselves and support each other. This happened daily in classes with students creating individual inquiry presentations to share, digital posters to advocate for a cause, developing their class assembly featuring a fully green-screened newscast with commercials and even students teaching lessons to the class. Technology was never the main learning intention, but through technology the students were empowered to show who they were and share their knowledge and abilities.
Role of the Teacher
In these moments, it was evident that I could not be the teacher I once was and needed to change the role I played in the class community to support the facilitation of learning and creating. As students worked, I moved around the room asking questions, acting as a soundboard and giving small suggestions where necessary. No longer was there one teacher, but a room full of learners and educators who were willing to share and build upon each other’s ideas. The biggest change in my role was to not say no when students had an idea, but rather ask them how they were going to do it and support them in the process from planning to executing.
The Importance of Student Voice
When students are given choices and have an opinion that matters, they are invested and engaged with what they are learning. By allowing my students to take the lead, through the use of technology, they began taking ownership and constructing an environment that was conducive to the collective community. Every student knows more about something than the teacher. Often, it is just a matter of tapping into the community of experts that will allow these students to shine. It has also been shown that encouraging student voice influences academic achievement. The use of technology helps students find the right medium to showcase their knowledge and share with others.
Developing student leaders with technology will not happen overnight. Rather, it is about developing a culture of collaboration and community in the classroom. Start by asking students what it is they want to do and what their opinions are about technology use and then, most importantly, actually listen.
Students are full of great ideas, so even just allowing them to explore the possibility of one idea might be the spark that brings out the digital leaders in a classroom. This could be as simple as asking them what resources they want to use to publish their writing or if an expert with website design would support another student who is just starting out.
By providing students opportunities for agency in their classroom, they will develop a multitude of transdisciplinary skills. Students may collaborate online through Google Docs or Padlets or design innovative projects requiring organisation, time management and problem solving. They often develop critical research skills as they navigate the digital world through the curation resources and notetaking. They might demonstrate their communication skills through developing a public service announcement video and publishing on YouTube or writing a blog together. These skills can be explored both digitally and by interacting with others in a learning space. Allowing them to explore which way works best for them will lead students towards a path of staying motivated to create and being curious.
Extending the Opportunities
As I transitioned to an education technology coach role and out of the classroom this year, it was important that I still found ways to support student leadership beyond the classroom setting. I had seen so much growth in the students’ technology skills as well as immense personal growth through encouraging them to take the lead that I wanted to find suitable avenues to continue to support them.
After talking to some students, a digital media team was developed in the primary school. While I had some ideas of things the students may want to do, I first asked them what they wanted this group to become. The students decided to create weekly webcasts featuring the news for the week, special features and upcoming events that they would plan, film and edit. The key to the success of this group was ensuring all students had a role that was valued and roles that they could rotate through so everyone could try every aspect of the team if they wanted to. From anchor to editor, videographer to director, everyone was valued in this inclusive community. They also filmed each primary school assembly to share with the parent community on the school website. Throughout the year, other projects have taken form, such as creating posters for school events, banners for exhibitions and photo slideshows that are played on screens around campus. When guest educators visited the school from overseas, it was powerful to give students the opportunity to share how technology impacts their educational experience. Their words from experience were far more meaningful than mine, as these students are the ones using the digital resources and tools every day to promote and explore their inquiries, learning from their mistakes, growing and ideating.
Technology continues to be an amazing tool for supporting student needs and bringing out the best in students. Student leaders can demonstrate confidence in developing who they are within a community and as individuals. With a little support from a teacher to encourage the exploration of innovative ideas, students can flourish as incredible student leaders.
*Originally published on Education Technology Solutions at :https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2016/08/making-students-voices-heard-leadership-digital-age/
Younie (2006) suggests that the UK ICT implementation had many challenges at the micro level such as slow internet and lack of technology in schools. In an international school, this is very much the opposite. We have a plethora of resources available to use with quality internet speed, funding to support new technology initiatives, education technology coaches to support staff and students and access to a number of different platforms for technology. The biggest challenge at the school micro level is that we have comes back to teacher training. With all of this technology and the international school turnover rate, teachers are constantly needing to be trained and upskilled to use the technology we do have effectively. At times, I wonder if so much technology being available to staff can be overwhelming. My role as a technology coach is to support teachers in figuring out what technologies are best for which task to make the learning meaningful and the technology integration enhance their learning.
Thinking from my Canadian experience, it is sometimes challenging for schools to gain buy-in on policies that were created by individuals who are not on the ground working with children and the technology every day. There is often a disconnect between a policy being created at the macro level and practice at the micro level. Policy creating takes time and with the changing of technology so quickly, it is essential that a policy for ICT implementation is created with this mind to allow for innovation and change. It is also important for policies to be reviewed and reflected on a yearly (at minimum) to ensure that what is written fits the needs of what is happening in reality.
I think international schools are unique to government schools as the school has more control over the policies for education. This can be both good and bad. While we don’t have a government creating the policies for us, we do still need to answer to certain governing or accrediting bodies. Firstly, we have our board of directors that oversee what happens in terms of policies in the school. We are accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) as an IB World School as well as EduTrust (Singapore governing body). Our policies and procedures need to meet the needs of all of our accrediting bodies. This can be tedious when each are slightly different while also creating policies that meet the individual needs of our school community. The Singapore government requires are quite different than an inquiry approach for the IBO, which can be challenging when creating policies. WASC and IBO are more similar in their accreditation processes and expectations of evidence, which makes creating policies at the school level easier when the accrediting bodies are aligned.
Our school looks to a lot of other schools who are similar to ours to see what they are doing. This greatly influences our own policies as we combine various policies to meet the needs of our community. While we borrow some, we also have to make sure our policies fit our specific environment and community. Therefore, we are constantly reviewing, adapting and ensuring that our policies are guiding us forward.
We do not have any ICT specific planning documents that we use. For next year, we are generating a large database of appropriate, tested and vetted technology resources for staff that support the different ICT skills in the PYP (International Baccalaureate, 2011) for teachers to reference. If the resource/software is not on the list, then they must apply through a Google Form explaining their rationale for wanting to use the resource and how it would be incorporated into their teaching and learning. This will help us gather more data on how and what teachers are using technology for in their classroom. In addition, our budget serves as an inventory of paid subscriptions and purchases every year. I also create various documents to keep a record of technology resources such as a spreadsheet with the various iPad apps stored on the iPads at different grade levels. Overall, I create a lot of my own planning documents for various tasks to demonstrate how I’m planning out technology integration across the Primary school so it’s been great to see some examples.
International Baccalaureate. (2011). The Role of ICT in the PYP. UK: International Baccalaureate.
Younie, S. (2006). Implementing government policy on ICT in education: Lessons learnt. Education & Information Technologies, 11(3/4), 385-400. doi:10.1007/s10639-006-9017-1
As an education technology coach, I can definitely relate to the article by Devolder, Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur (2010). On any given day, I am switching the hats that I wear in my role many, many times. I’m constantly moving from a coaching role to a consulting role to a coordinator role to an advocate and back again.
I would say the majoring of my time is split between leading professional development by supporting students and teacher and planning for implementation. Planning allows me to collaborate on curriculum development and changes with our teachers (Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010, p. 1652). I meet with year groups each week to support them in the planning process. I also spend a lot of time developing new school initiatives or developing policies related to my role. In terms of implementation, this includes me getting into classes to co-teach and support teachers and students. This role also always me to work toward implementation through formalized professional development sessions or one-on-one coaching.
As per Lai & Pratt (2004, as cited in Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010), my role does have a budgetary and resource allocation component but it is also shared with the director of education technology. Therefore I am not the one making the budget but suggesting ideas and reviewing others’ proposed purchases. In addition, I have to ensure that the resources we have are working for what we need them for and advocate for more resources when necessary.
In terms of the ‘nuts and bolts’ that Marcovitz (1998, 2000 as cited in Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, van Braak & Tondeur, 2010), I try to minimize my role in the technical and repair component of it. This is the role of our IT manager who is phenomenal at the technical side of our operations. That being said, teachers still come to me regularly to fix their problem. It is important for me to acknowledge when I am capable of supporting them and when I need to refer them to the experts. When possible, I do try my best to problem solve with teachers as it can be frustrating when things aren’t working and it is also part of my emphasis on building relationships whenever possible.
Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, R., van Braak, J. & Tondeur, J. (2010). Identifying multiple roles of ICT coordinators, Computers & Education, Vol.55(4), pp.1651-1655.