[Category: Before Class]
Technology use needs teachers
by Leon Hady
There are many terms that quickly took on a life of their own in our internet age. Traditionally academics held the keys to the creation of these words and phrases, but nowadays many can be popularised by bloggers or journalists who have given us ‘bromance’, ‘sext’ and ‘photobomb’. One popular term that is relevant to education, which came from a blogging academic, was that of the ‘digital native’ and it has gained much traction when discussing notions behind modern student learning.
The idea puts simply that the digital landscape of tools and communication are second nature to students of today. They are ‘native’ and thus fluent in the use of the items that the earlier generation would have to be trained on, like Microsoft Word, Google Chrome or Apple iPads. In fact sometimes, the digital natives have an expectation for all devices to speak their language and often surprised when they can’t apply the same processes of use to other everyday items. This is very clear in my own household, where my pre-teenage daughter, who can work her way through any app store, locate an item, download and use it, tries to swipe a new TV wondering why it is not responding.
A common notion is that students who are digital natives, will simply ‘know’ how to use things that are electronic. This isn’t that strange an assumption; growing up around any language or common action would allow you to get to grips with it quite readily and as most students have had to use computers and touch screen devices as well as the internet readily, all of these are second nature to them.
However skill of use does not equate to quality of use. We may all know how to ride a bike, and can bring out the skill when forced to, even if we are not regular users, such as when the tube strikes hit London, but as many YouTube videos from such days attest, this does not mean we do it well.
Indeed most casual bike riders can get from A to B and most of us cook and make basic meals, and they are skills which can become second nature, but by no means are we automatically excelling in either. Similarly, going online to locate and watch a video requires a far lower set of digital skills than shaping one’s own learning pathway and then excelling in it.
It is often assumed that because things are online students will automatically know how to use them, but from all my work in schools and while being a huge enthusiast of technology promotion for teachers, I feel the expectation of students knowing how to use and do things simply because they are online, is far too presumptive.
Just as students may know how to read basic letters, they won’t necessarily know the intricacies of how to read to learn; the nuances of reading between the lines; being judicious with sources and picking up on the smallest of clues. Quality reading still needs much teacher direction in a journey of accomplishment. The same goes for e-learning.
From working in schools where I’ve been in charge of implementing school-wide e-practice, to a Head of school were Ofsted commented on how well developed our e-learning systems were, to founder of an e-learning company that is used by over 60,000 students and over 50 schools, time and time again I find it is teacher up-skilling in technology that is a key factor in learner success, not the digital readiness of the learner.
We must not confuse the ability to do something basic, with the ability to teach or learn. Just because something is ‘there’, be it a single resource or a huge digital repository of lessons, plans and gamification, it does not mean that learners will adapt to them wholesale, or even know where to start.
It is clearer and clearer that the teacher, far from being removed from the process of student learning, is now more vital than ever.
Not only are they still a key factor in dispensing information (internet access has stopped teachers from being relied on so heavily here) but they are now key to students understanding pathways of learning, syllabus requirements, technology use and of course application of ideas to demands of the world and work.
As many teachers know, it is dangerous to automatically assume an ability of a student in any given subject. It is always best to ensure the foundations are firm to ensure the learner is fully equipped for the journey ahead. This applies to technological abilities as well as any subject skill. Yes there are students who will quickly master ways of working with materials and technologies, just as adults will, but we shouldn’t assume competency to use VLEs and applications, simply because they are ‘that generation’.
Good teachers are just as vital to the learning and the ‘how to learn’ processes now as ever before.
Leon Hady is the founder of TuitionKit, for more information please visit the TuitionKit website