Using Technology in teaching effectively

by Monika Kern, Professional Learning and Innovation Specialist at Expanding Learning Horizons

Much online discussion has been created by Andrew Douch’s recent blog post entitled Teacher: “I don’t have time to use technology in my teaching.” (1)

Douch quotes Steve Jobs, who has said that a computer is like “a bicycle for our minds” (2) and contrasts the effective and ineffective use of technology in teaching, to the skill of riding a bicycle. Teachers’ reactions to this have been mixed with further questioning being the result-

What is required for Technology to be used in teaching effectively?

The technology referred to come in many different forms: Desktops and laptops, tablets and smartphones, projectors and interactive whiteboards are all examples of technology currently seen in classrooms today. The way these tools are utilised in the classroom vary widely depending on the age of students, the subject / Key Learning Area, or the type of access to technology, as well as teacher confidence. The use of technology is no longer an optional extra, as the Australian Curriculum clearly outlines under ICT Capability (3):

The Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) recognises that in a digital age, and with rapid and continuing changes in the ways that people share, use, develop and communicate with ICT, young people need to be highly skilled in its use. To participate in a knowledge-based economy and to be empowered within a technologically sophisticated society now and into the future, students need the knowledge, skills and confidence to make ICT work for them at school, at home, at work and in their communities.

The skills that students need to develop extend beyond the mere use of any one device, they learn to “access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively […] and transform the ways that students think and learn and give them greater control over how, where and when they learn. (4)

Learners need teachers to support the development of these skills, so they, too, can ride what Steve Jobs’ so aptly called the mind’s bicycle. It helps if teachers themselves are confident technology users, but we now understand that they are no longer required to be an expert in all aspects before they are able to effectively guide the learning in their classrooms. In fact adopting a lead learner mindset, which might include learning with and from students, can support student learning. As students grow in confidence and develop stronger peer learning relationships, they begin to drive their own learning forward, as creators and producers. This is quite different to the traditional model of learning in the classroom, which sees students as consumers of knowledge, which as Jobs would say would be like wheeling the bike. Technology is most effective in learning when it is infused throughout the curriculum at all levels of schooling.

In order for Technology to be used in teaching effectively, a suite of necessary parts need to come together in unison to produce such an outcome. While the focus is on classroom practice, this cannot be successfully achieved without

  • Sound infrastructure
  • Access to suitable devices, and most importantly
  • Ongoing and deep professional learning.

As 21st Century educators, our teachers need a clear understanding of how pedagogy drives the technology change to enhance and transform the learning.

The team at ELH are working with schools across Australia and New Zealand, offering a wide range of tailored professional learning programmes and workshops. In consultation with your School community, we develop tailored learning plans with professional learning activities, to meet staff needs. We support teachers to develop confidence with the use of technology in their practise, guide staff as they begin the journey to reflect on their own pedagogical practice and in turn develop 21st century skills in their learners. Many schools and colleges find the framework of 21st Century Learning Design used by Expanding Learning Horizons to be a solid and practical accompaniment to their own learning philosophies.