Thursday, 26 April 2018

Using Technology in the Classroom - Engaging Teachers

Last week I wrote about Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and why I think they are important. When thinking about what I wanted to write about for this week, the theme of teacher's and learning kept popping up. Something that I've been thinking about for some time is how I can help teachers to better engage with technology in the classroom and how I can overcome some of the blocks that get in the way. It's something that I can be found discussing often with some of my colleagues as it is a big part of my role.

Why is this important you ask?
I pondered this exact question for quite a while. I have to think of it in different parts; firstly, why is it important for teachers to utilise technology (effectively) in the classroom? Secondly, why is it important for the students? These questions cannot be answered alone though and I'll do my best to try. 

I believe teachers need to be aware of where their students are headed in their life time. It is no secret and no surprise that the world our kids will grow up in is going to be digital; more so than what it is now. As teachers, we have a duty of care to ensure we are giving our students the best possible opportunities to be successful in a rapidly changing world. We aren't effectively doing that by asking them to constantly memorise facts or to fill in worksheets. Using technologies in the classroom gives us a chance to take a back seat and let students take over and show their learning in many different ways. They can now show what they know and make things more meaningful to them. 

The McKinsey Global Institute recently released an article regarding the automation of the workforce up until 2030. The article wasn't all doom and gloom for employability, however, it highlighted the way jobs will shift and how people will need to re-skill to remain viable. What I took from this article is the importance of developing key 21st Century Learning skills like critical and creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration and computational thinking. These are skills that historically speaking weren't that important in the education system. In the past, schools wanted compliance, order, ability to be able to repeat something. They wanted students ready to leave school and go straight into factory jobs. Their skills of following orders and doing the right thing would be rewarded with promotion (if they were lucky). 

Where am I going with this? Well, it's simple, if teachers are using the technology as a tool to enhance learning, then students are going to be able to adapt to different systems and ways of learning and in turn, develop and possibly even master some of these important skills necessary to be employable in their future.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend professional development with Kath Murdoch (of 'The Power of Inquiry' fame) today. I found what she spoke about in regards to Inquiry related specifically to where we want our students to go and how I think technology can help shape their learning. One of the questions was how we can engage teachers in accepting and embracing Inquiry into their classroom (or how can we change habits) and what really stood out for me was that it is important to get outside of our comfort zone. Funnily enough, I had only read the same thing that morning in Kasey Bell's book 'Shake Up Learning' (I like how Kasey describes the comfort zone as a 'danger zone').

As leaders of Innovation in our school's, we need to get people out of their comfort zone. Even if only just a little to start with. If we find easy ways for teachers to engage with technology, they will be more likely to delve further into the 'rabbit hole' down the track. They will learn quickly that they don't necessarily have to be teaching about the tools, they are guiding the use of them and deeper learning is happening instead ("it's not about the app, it's about the learning" - Kasey Bell, Shake Up Learning, 2018).

This will/ should inspire greater use of these tools in much broader contexts. Recently, I showed a colleague a way that they could engage more students in goal setting using Seesaw. They hadn't seen anything done that way and saw value in giving it a go. Not long afterwards, this teacher was searching for me to let me know how well it worked and how amazing it was to give it a go and see success. From something so seemingly simple, this teacher has now been given a huge confidence boost and is most likely thinking about other ways to use the same tool to get great learning outcomes.

As I sit here re-reading this post, it's easier to reflect on what I think is working well to engage teachers to use technology more meaningfully. I think this list sums it up best:
  • Be an enthusiastic advocate for technology integration in your school. Be excited about technology and enthusiastic about its uses
  • Model effective use of technology. Don't just expect it from your staff, show them how, share your ideas, ask them what they think they could do with this new information
  • Explain the why. Don't expect people to instantly understand the importance. Share articles about the future of jobs, contextualise the skills needed for the future and invite questions about it (inquire)
  • Celebrate even the smallest successes. High fives to staff for trying something new, sharing successes in the lunch room, 'bragging' about how good it is to see to leadership
  • Invite people to share what has worked well. Ask these teachers to share in a meeting their success (or failures) and what they could try different next time. Invite staff to present their new skills at Professional Development sessions, empower them to keep trying new things
  • (politely) Challenge others' thinking. Don't be afraid to ask someone, "Why are you doing it this way?" and be open enough to be challenged yourself. Stand by your convictions and be a voice for the students.

I think it is clear that this is something I'm passionate about. It's also something that I am far from an expert at. I am still learning myself but one thing I am confident of is that the future is changing much quicker than a lot of people realise.

I leave you with this amazing video about the future of jobs. Whilst your watching this I want you to notice how it makes you feel. Does it shock you? Can you see examples of massive change underway that you hadn't thought too deeply about? When you go back into your classroom, what can you give your students that prepares them for this new world?

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