Written by Marty McGauran
Over the past five years I have worked with 20+ primary schools, both teachers and students, with the chief goal of enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology. The piece of the puzzle I have discovered is missing for the majority of teachers is the ‘WHY’. I believe that until teachers (& students) understand the ‘why’, the use of technology in a school community will remain superficial, sporadic and have minimal positive impact on learning and teaching. So let’s explore what I mean by understanding the why.
Here’s a version of a conversation I’ve had countless times when I question teachers about how they’re using technology in their own classroom:
How do you use tech in your class?
We use things like Google Slides and have students create presentations for their projects.
The kids really love it, they’re so engaged. They can insert images, change the layout, colours and fonts as well as just email me the link when they’re done. They’re better at most of this stuff than I am!
Let’s keep Google Slides (as it is such a widely used tool) as our example and this time let me answer the same question:
How do you use tech in your class?
At times students will use Google Slides.
[Choose from one or many of the following]
Slides allows feedback to be more efficient through commenting and suggesting. Teacher→Student or Student→student feedback can be delivered synchronously or asynchronously through the use of comments.
Slides allows students to embed self recorded video (screencasts or even directly using the webcam and the new Record to Slides Chrome extension) where they explain their thinking behind their learning. This provides much greater insight into learning than just a written response as well as increases accessibility for students with typing or written language deficits.
Slides allows my students to use a text to voice tool. This supports students with diverse learning needs to be more independent as they can have the written instructions on each slide read aloud. Slides allows my students to use a text to voice tool. Students listen back to their own writing to enhance the editing process. They are more readily able to self-identify common punctuation errors such as run-on sentences when it is read back to them.
Slides allows my class to work simultaneously on a collaborative file. Each student has their own slide and is encouraged to refer to (but not click, highlight or edit) other students' work for ideas or support. This allows classmates to act as peer tutors “by example”.
Slides allows my students to publish their work to a school website and have the link published in the newsletter. Having an authentic audience beyond their teacher and classmates encourages them to not only create work of a premium standard (who isn’t going to put that little bit extra effort in knowing it’s being published to the community?!) but also consider carefully the purpose and audience.
In combination with Google Classroom, I can efficiently share out an individual copy of a template to every student. I am then able to monitor progress remotely and efficiently of every student through the Classroom dashboard. I am more readily able to identify an individual student who is finding it challenging to begin a task or perhaps going down the wrong path.
Whether you are a leader in your school or just evaluating your own technology use in your classroom, remember to ask the simple question: “Why am I using technology in this way?”. When planning a lesson or learning sequence, every time technology is utilised it should be with purpose and a very clear justification as to why. If there is no clear justification...then have students write it on paper, create posters, build with clay or discuss in a small group. Teachers should be discouraged from using technology for technology’s sake.