Sunday, 21 April 2019

Why Technology in Education is Important


Why would we use technology in education? This is a question I’ve been asked before and one I ponder over frequently. It’s easy to answer with, ‘we live in a society where technology reigns supreme, so we need to make sure our students are prepared for it’, but I think the answer goes much deeper than that. We need to think of what the technology allows us to do rather than the technology itself and where the technology allows the learning to go for our students.

In this blog post, I will explore the following reasons we need to be using technology in education:
·       Improving digital literacy skills and help our students to become multi-literate
·       Preparing students for the jobs of the future.
·       Engaging students


I will also look at examples of how Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, social media and Skype and the iPad have transformed learning.


Digital Literacies and Multiliteracies

It’s common when out and about that you would see a toddler in their pram holding either a smartphone or a tablet. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all seen it and I know I have internally questioned if that is a good idea or not. What’s interesting about this though, is that this is kind of proof that children now are digital natives. They are accustomed to receiving information quite quickly and have developed a preference for graphics over text and games to work (Prensky, 2001). By the time they go to school, they already have knowledge of how some device types work and would therefore be partly digitally literate. Digital literacy includes the technical skills required to operate a computer or mobile device (Walsh, 2011). I think we can all agree that we need to have a certain level of digital literacy skills to navigate life and no doubt, these skills will need to be greater in the future as technology advances. What is important for us as teachers is to ensure that we pass on the skills necessary for our students to be fully digitally literate which not only includes how a computer operates but how they are able to navigate the online world safely.


What about our students multiliteracies? Multiliteracies can be interpreted to mean that literacy is no longer merely text and that due to changing technologies we make meaning from text in many different ways and from many different forms (Povey, Stevens, & Summerell, 2013). We are bombarded with a multitude of text types from print, image, movement, graphics, animations, sound, music and gestures. How then can we ensure our students are understanding what they are seeing? Without the use of technology in education, our students will not develop the necessary skills to support them in navigating the online world such as decoding, critical thinking and problem solving. What better reason to use technologies in education than this?

New Text Types (Summerell, 2013)


Jobs of the Future

“By 2030, what we do in every job will change.” (The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), 2017). This is quite a bold statement, one though, that is not so far-fetched to imagine. We only need to look at how work has changed in the last 20 years or so to understand that much more change is possible. FYA (2017) discuss in their report the skills that our children will need in order to successfully navigate the future workforce such as being able to constantly respond to new information and new technology when making decisions, and; being problem solvers and communicators as well as drawing on technology knowledge (p. 7).

With the disruptions to the workforce due to automation, Institute for the Future (2011) list virtual collaboration (p. 12), new media literacy (multiliteracies) (p. 10), computational thinking (p. 10) and cognitive load management (p. 12) as some of the key skills that the workers of the future will need in order to adapt to changing work environments (see Figure 1). Without the use of technology in education, our students won’t develop these skills and we, as teachers will have failed in our duty to prepare them properly for their own futures.  


It is abundantly clear that technology will play a major role in our lives long in to the future. What is also clear, is that technology will also change things beyond our imagination and we need to be sufficiently prepared for these changes as they arise.


Figure 1 (Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute, 2011)

Engaging students 

One simple argument for the use of technology in education is that it engages the disengaged. I know from personal experience that students seem much more engaged when they are using technology, especially in new and creative ways. Not only are they more engaged but again, from personal experience, behaviour management becomes less of an issue as a result.

In Episode 1 of the Leading Change podcast (Arnott, 2017), Peter Holmes from Mount Ousley Public School in NSW describes how he struggled to manage the behaviour of one of his students. When getting to the root cause of the negative behaviour, it was discovered that the student hated writing. To try and engage this student to turn around this behaviour, he was allowed to use a laptop instead. As a result, his writing turned around and behaviour no longer became an issue.  

One thing that we need to consider as well is that technology is a big reason some of our students read. Reading, as we all know is a fundamental skill but not all students are motivated by physical books (or in a lot of cases, by reading texts they are told to read in order to ‘move up reading levels’). We need to take note of those students that are motivated by technology as it is a good lead in to reading for pleasure (Faulder, 2019). I know students that would gain just as much from reading an online comic book or in-game text because that is what interests them.

Then, of course, this ties in to what teachers know of technology and if they are skilled enough to provide students with opportunities that are engaging. Are our teachers able to use technology to redefine learning with technology as described in the SAMR model (Puentedura, 2006) or, do they have the right mix of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge as described by Mishra and Koehler in their TPACK model (2006)?

How have iPads impacted on learning?

For me, I would be lost without iPads in my classroom. In fact, I think if I was ever asked to work in a school without them, I would seriously consider not working there (unless they let me introduce them). The best thing about iPads is the wide variety of creation based apps that are free and widely accessible by my students. I am a big believer in giving students choice in how they present their learning and iPads allow this to happen. It also gives an opportunity for cross-curricular learning.

A good example of this was a writing task that I completed with my Year 3 students in my first year of teaching (2015). My students were studying a unit on ANZAC Day and they were asked to write a persuasive text to the Prime Minister of Australia during World War 1 to convince him not to go to war. They were able to publish any way they liked but I wanted to make sure they were using emotive language and listening to themselves using it to see what it sounds like. Some students used an app called Tellagami which allowed them to create an avatar of themselves as well as take a picture of their writing and record their voice. This task covered writing, speaking and listening and digital technologies and had a much bigger impact on their learning than if they did this simply on paper.


Using Tellagami for Persuasive Texts (Summerell, 2016)

The beauty of using iPads for writing is that students have such a wide variety of choices in publishing their work. They can use apps like Keynote, iMovie, Clips, Seesaw, Explain Everything, Stop-Motion Animation, Book Creator, Google Docs and the list goes on.  This gives students a chance to explore other skills such as video editing, creating for an audience, illustration. It also gives them a better eye for editing as they have a chance to re-watch their work. It also opens them up better for peer feedback. It can also better connect them with world by being able to share work with their families instantaneously using apps such as Seesaw or sharing to YouTube or a blog.

In my STEAM class, iPads have allowed our students to create their own computer games with coding apps. They were able to use the iPads throughout the entire process of immersion (watching and practising with game tutorials), planning (using Seesaw to design and plan their video games), creating their games and then presenting them to the school community. They also used them to reflect on their games using Google Forms. iPads allowed everyone to be at an even playing field. Majority of students are quite capable with the use of iPads and therefore, no one is really ‘smarter’ than anyone else.


HGC GameCon 2018 (Hazel Glen College, 2018)

How Web 2.0 Impacted Learning

Web 2.0 describes how the internet changed from ‘static’ web pages to collaborative and dynamic experiences such as social media and blogging (Technopedia, n.d.). This was a real shift for education as it opened the doors to the world for our students. For the first time, they were not only able to share their work with the world but they were also able to communicate and collaborate with others as long as they had an internet connection.

Blogging has played a very big role in my teaching career as I have used it to share my personal learning experiences with others as well as to share the work my students are doing. It has made everything I do transparent and has created conversations with others that I might not have had without it. Twitter as well (as a micro-blogging platform) has allowed me to have rich discussions with other educators around the world that have improved my thinking about education and helped me to understand what I value most.

For my students, I have been able to use Twitter as a platform for them to ask important questions or wonderings they have about certain things related to what is happening at school. I have also used blogs in a similar fashion as it has provided them with an opportunity to form an interactive online community where the focus is on sharing and learning (Heskett, 2009).

Web 2.0 opened the doors for student portfolio platforms such as Seesaw which allows student work to be shared safely with family and friends online and creates a new platform for communication.

One of the greatest examples of how Web 2.0 has impacted learning in my context has been when my students were learning to compare and contrast their own city community with that of another rural community (I actually wrote about this experience here). Not only were they working on their mapping and spatial awareness skills by looking at online tools such as Google Maps, they were also able to use Skype to discuss similarities and differences with other students over 400km away. What was wonderful about this learning experience for my students was to see how their perception of city versus country living changed when they realised children had much the same interests as they did.






It’s fairly clear to see that I value what technology allows our students to do and where it can take them in life. I don’t want to be the teacher that is stuck in the ‘old ways’ and ignoring the world we live in.  I will finish with a quote from John D. Couch, Apple’s first Vice President of Education which I think perfectly sums up why we need technology in education; “Just like the telegraph system of yesterday, transformative technologies that exist right now have the ability to rewire education, and ultimately, the way we design our classrooms today will define our society tomorrow.” (2018, p. 218).



References

Arnott, K. (2017, February 6). Leading Change: The Technology in Schools Podcast. On Episode 1: Saved by Technology [Podcast].
Couch, J. D. (2018). Rewiring Education. How Technology Can Unlock Every Student's Potential. Dallas, TX, USA: BenBella Books, Inc. .
Faulder, M. (2019, February 2). Reading for Pleasure. Retrieved from www.enablling-environments.co.uk: https://enabling-environments.co.uk/2019/02/02/reading-for-pleasure/#more-158330
Hazel Glen College. (2018, July 25). HGC GameCon 2018. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rEUU8cQS514
Heskett, T. (2009). Blogging in the Classroom. Westminster, CA, USA: Teacher Created Resources, Inc.
Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute. (2011). Future Work Skills 2020. Palo Alto, CA: Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teacher's College Record, 108(6), 1017 - 1054.
Povey, R., Stevens, L., & Summerell, D. (2013, March 24). The Theory of Multiliteracies as Proposed by the New London Group. Retrieved from www.criticalliterac.blogspot.com: http://criticalliterac.blogspot.com/2013/03/multiliteracies-and-new-and-emerging.html
Prensky, M. (2001, October 5). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved from www.marcprensky.com: https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Puentedura, R. (2006). Transformation, Technology and Education. Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/resources/tte/part1.html.
Summerell, D. (2013, March 26). New Text Types. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/rF7H81Ap0dg
Summerell, D. (2016, July 18). Using Tellagami for Persuasive Texts. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/z51AKdjwDdQ
Technopedia. (n.d.). Web 2.0. Retrieved from www.techopedia.com: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4922/web-20
The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA). (2017). The New Work Smarts. Sydney, NSW: The Foundation for Young Australians.
Walsh, M. (2011). Multimodal Literacy. Newton, NSW, Australia: Primary English Teaching Association (e:lit).


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