Digital Teaching and Learning

Digital Teaching and Learning

Category: In Class
Digital Teaching and Learning
by Dr. Neelam Parmar

Digital Teaching and Learning

The integration of mobile technology in classrooms is no longer just a nice-to-have option in teaching and learning. Indeed, it has now become part of the educational process for the 21st century generation, where the choice of device is also no more the focus of discussion. Regardless of whether the school has adopted one of the popular online collaborative platforms, be it Google, Windows or Apple, what is and will always be of utmost importance, is how the teachers are integrating the technology in their teaching practices and what learning outcomes the children produce.

The introduction of subject specific educational apps was initially and is to an extent as yet, the most common use of EdTech in schools. Educational apps have been found to appeal to children and add variety to teaching and learning. In the classrooms, teachers use them to enhance and enrich their lessons in specialist areas, such as in practicing multiplication tables, learning phonics, conceptualizing Maths equations, or encouraging writing and creativity. Indeed, I even have a full spreadsheet of subject related apps to meet curriculum objectives. But we must also be careful, as educational apps can also be used as a playful learning tool having little or no pedagogic instruction, resulting in limiting impact on the user (Parmar 2014).

Integrating Technology into a Digital Teaching Workflow

While technology is slowly but surely becoming part of the educational process, it is still separate and not integrated into the student learning experience. Due to this, many schools find themselves in a situation where technology is used as an add-on effect with insufficient integration into the curriculum. There are concerns that schools have not yet become good enough at the kind of technological pedagogies required to make the best use of it in the classrooms and therefore, technology is used as a substitution with no functional change in teaching and learning, rather than as redefinition, where technology can be used to enhance new tasks which were previously inconceivable (SAMR Model).

In order to create great digital teaching where the use of technology can amplify learning and development, an appropriate EdTech pedagogic workflow, that incorporates traditional elements of teaching practices and the use of current mobile technology becomes necessary. This pedagogic workflow is the disappearance of walls and enclosed structure of the classroom, in which both the teacher and student can communicate seamlessly through various digital channels and in which they become co-learners. This can be constructed using a virtual classroom platform. It is about the use of a blended learning approach where technology becomes transparent and in which the student and teacher can flip between pen and paper to online tools for capturing digital data and to share information among themselves and peers. It should include a seamless and effective feedback and assessment journey, which can take place in real time with the intent of creating more successful achievement outcomes using options such as the Google or Microsoft Classroom eco-system.

It is the curation of all materials in one location, highlighting areas of metacognition and differentiation, sewing together various teaching resources of videos, images, worksheets, quizzes and content, linking them to external applications such as YouTube, e-books, and subject specific apps that are both transferable and available to the students anywhere, at anytime and in any place. To be clear, it is the facilitation and instruction of learning processes from teacher to student within a collaborative and mutually beneficial manner, and in which the student becomes their own teacher, rather than the more directive methods of teaching practices. This shift of mindset in understanding ‘teaching’ vs. ‘instruction or facilitation’ is the beginnings of creating an appropriate EdTech pedagogical digital teaching workflow. The term teaching can be quite misleading and often takes a top-down approach, as seen in most schools still today. When teachers come to understand that through technology, they are offering instructional processes (facilitation), a digital teaching workflow can be better understood and created.

It is important to remember that technology has the potential to amplify great teaching and is there to help teachers to do their job more efficiently and effectively, and not to replace them. It is also vital to recognise that teachers are still the catalyst who should facilitate these instructional processes in an educational technology environment. If schools have decided to adopt mobile technology as a strategy within their educational culture, then integrating it effectively into the curriculum should become a priority. This understandably does not come easy and requires teachers to think creatively, laterally and to the extent, as digital natives (the generation of people born during or after the rise of digital technologies), so that they can use technology as a tool to promote and extend their students’ ability to learn on a daily basis. At the end of the day, the killer app is still the teacher (Parmar 2014).

-Dr. Neelam Parmar – Director of E-learning at Ashford School