Guest post from Mark Anderson, DIrector, ICT Evangelist
I love technology, it has to be said – why else would I have a Twitter handle like @ICTEvangelist. However geeky I am about technology though, I’m even more geeky about teaching and learning. We read (or at least it seems) on an all too regular basis about how using technology is gimmicky or doesn’t bring any extra learning in the classroom. More often than not it is from people who either don’t teach any more or work in privileged schools where pupils are already heavily motivated to learn. What happens from my experience however in the many schools I work at across the UK and beyond is a different story.
For a long time, decent software or apps have been the vanguard of companies that charge massive licences for their products. We see the same thing with companies who sell resources for teachers too. I understand why teachers turn to these opportunities to support their planning and preparation. Such are the pressures on teachers these days, it’s no wonder so many are reporting spending so many hours (often 60+) of their week working. The pressure is immense.
Technology though is something there to serve us, not the other way around. And it can have massive impacts on lots of key indicators for supporting learning. It can help:
- with parental communication
- relationships between school and home
- making learning relevant
- give access to information
One area around technology recently highlighted by a blogger was that of reading paper books vs e-books. They argued that reading an e-book does nothing to support learning over a real book.
I beg to differ.
There are many ways that reading or having access to books electronically has over a paper copy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that children shouldn’t read from books, but the advantages linked to learning and access to information through using an electronic copy far outweigh that of a paper copy. They are often cheaper too and much more readily available. Rather than waiting days or even weeks for a copy to arrive for a whole class, a class can access a copy of a book within moments through a simple download.
It is this simplicity, this prevalence of opportunities to access apps for learning and the ever increasing marketplace for technology to support learning in (more often than not) free ways leads me to think believe that when it comes to education technology, things simply haven’t ever been so good.
- Google Apps for Education – free
- iTunes U – free
- Office 365 – free
- ThingLink – free
- iBooks – access to free books
- the list goes on.
The number of teachers who are coming to the fore too with ideas to make schools and learning better have never been so prevalent either. The stories of the likes of Naimish Gohil (Show My Homework) and Sam Chaudhary (ClassDojo) are well documented. Only in the last few years have we heard the new term ‘teacherpreneur’ come into use across the edu-sphere.
As teachers we can make a simple choice. We can either choose to embrace technology, take it upon ourselves to undertake CPD through the opportunities provided via our workplaces, by attending Teachmeets and other free teacher-driven events or we can stick our heads in the sand. Do we choose to say that the joy of learning should be enough so let’s sit our children in rows, talk at them and hope that our joy for our subjects somehow magically translates through our expert knowledge? I think not. I think we should look at the opportunities that are available to us that can make our lives easier and make their learning far more relevant and sticky i.e. it sticks with them. That is to say, we shouldn’t throw the baby out of the bathwater. Sure, research informed pedagogy such as the idea of desirable difficulties, spaced learning taking on board our learning from Ebbinhaus’ forgetting curve – but from that knowledge we can make great use of technology to test, re-test and stretch knowledge and understanding of our children in ways that don’t even involve any marking and very little preparation.
So as I said, we have a choice.
On 4 November, I’m making a choice. I’m going to be attending the Edtech UK Global Summit in London. The event will feature speakers from around the world who are at the cutting edge of some of the best technologies available to schools, more often than not for free. This event is one of a kind. It will be a place where policy makers are gathering alongside school leaders, startups and investors. This event will be a place where if you want to get the inside track and be a part of making a difference about where technology for schools is heading or filling a gap that you see in the market, you need to be there.
People often ask me how I keep abreast of current technologies. They ask how I learn about what is out there and what is available. It is at events such as this that I learn so very much. It is at events like this where I get to speak to developers and give them feedback about where their products could be so much more valuable to educators and children.
I’m really excited about it. I might even read a copy of the Times Educational Supplement, or one of the hundreds of books in the Kindle app on my iPhone whilst on the way into London on the train.