Speaking to educators up and down the country, it’s clear that the conversation has long since shifted from whether or not technology has a place in the classroom to how can we get the maximum benefit out of it. Whether you want to really engage pupils, personalise learning, or offer increased autonomy in how young people learn, technology offers endless possibilities for tapping into a deep well of resources and expertise.
The myriad of educational tools available for use in the classroom was a hot topic of discussion for a group of education bloggers and teachers like Lee Parkinson (@ICT_MrP) and Julian Wood (@Ideas_Factory), who recently attended an event hosted by Capita.
The first thing that they universally agreed upon was that you need to begin with making sure you have a clear picture of your school’s IT capability. Teachers can be really held back from innovative technological approaches to learning if the infrastructure isn’t in place. Ensuring tools run smoothly is crucial. Imagine for example, how frustrating it would be to start an exclusive and thoughtfully-planned video link up with a renowned expert in history based in Dubai, only for the internet to drop out. With the right network capability, there will be fewer disruptions and more meaningful learning can take place.
Work smarter, not harder
It wasn’t long before the matter of growing workloads for teachers cropped up, an issue that most schools grapple with. There was an agreement that technology can play a vital role in easing this concerning administrative burden. One easy-win suggested was Seesaw, a digital portfolio for storing pupils’ assignments. Gathering evidence of a child’s achievements takes just a couple of clicks to add a photo or note to the child’s profile. Another lovely touch is that children can login and upload their own art or writing work, ticking the IT skills box too.
Our group of bloggers felt that making good use of social media was another way to save precious time. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are great tools for finding new ideas, inspiration for lesson plans, or for problem solving. The bonus is that you can meet some amazing and inspiring educators you can draw support from to help you boost your pupils’ progress. A great place to start is @UKEdChat or @ICT_MrP on Twitter, both packed with informative and practical advice for choosing and implementing the best tools in the classroom.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the contributors, the feeling in the room was that technology offers great potential in accelerating learning for pupils of all abilities. Using mobile phones or tablets as learning aids – perhaps to view a podcast or to work on collaborative assignments – can really encourage cultural shifts in how pupils learn independently.
This focus on active learning is energising but needs to be managed carefully. Despite, or maybe because of, the greater flexibility in how key skills are learned and assessed, good lesson structure remains important. Frequently reviewing and reflecting on any new teaching approaches can help ensure it is having a positive impact on achievement and allow thing to be tweaked if this isn’t the case.
It is, after all, the teachers themselves who are the experts in planning inspiring and stimulating lessons for their pupils. The right technology simply offers an extra toolkit to help bring their lessons to life. Used innovatively and judiciously, this approach can ensure every child makes good progress and help ignite a love of learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.