Analysing the Use of Digital Technologies beyond my 2017 Classroom

Issue: The challenge of fostering deep learning in our classrooms using digital technologies while people are saying that all knowledge can now be googled.

We are being told by the experts (and more often than in the past) to expect change and to expect it at an exponential pace due to the increasing impact of digital technologies on lives in both developed and developing countries (*1). This is putting real pressure on most teachers to adapt our teaching to this “exponential” rate of change but in our rush to embrace digital technologies (and by implication, student-centred learning pedagogies like ‘blended’ learning or ‘flipped’ learning) we seem to have forgotten that our students also need to have memorised – facts! Put in SOLO taxonomy terms it simply would not be possible to reach the level of extended abstract (i.e. deep thinking) without having gone through the multi-structural level (*2).

The belief that a digital device somehow makes a child more intelligent has been successfully challenged by many researchers in recent times (*3) but many lay-people still insist that it does. How then to successfully encourage the deep learning required in today’s modern world (particularly with so many ‘white-collar’ jobs on the verge of becoming automated that previously needed a university degree – e.g. accountancy (*4))

Locally and Nationally

The rise and rise of Mindlab has met this growing need for teachers at all levels to receive more training with digital tools and collaborative approaches. The founder of the group, New Zealander Ms Frances Valintine, established the 6-month “Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning)”. It was launched in Auckland in October 2013 (*5) which myself and almost 1000 other NZ teachers have completed to date (*6).  Ms Valintine states that “that if 15 per cent of NZ teachers are taught to implement digital learning, it can bring about transformative change in industry” (the aim is about 10 000 teachers completing (the course) over the next 5 years).

Here in New Zealand successful (and complementary) teaching and learning websites teaching for computer science have been set up by both Dr Tim Bell (and his post graduate tutors) at Canterbury University (http://csfieldguide.org.nz/en/index.html). Waikato-based internet educational ‘entrepreneur’ Michael Walmsley has also set up a portal called  as ‘code-avengers’ (https://www.codeavengers.com/about) which performs a similar function (i.e. delivering computer science and discrete structured coding lessons to students of any and all ages. As at 2016 this business employed 15 to create and deliver the increasingly wide variety of programs encompassing python, HTML/CSS, Javascript and even game development.

Internationally

Similar such initiatives have seen the creation of similar such websites by other developed countries around the world but there are also similar moves afoot in many to develop such programs as many have already embraced coding as a compulsory subject from the age of five, most recently in the UK.” (*7). Online learning portals such as https://scratch.mit.edu/ and https://code.org/, both started in the USA, are having an effect worldwide including in my rural classroom in a school of 300, only 90 of whom are students aged 13 or more (years 9 to 13).

In conclusion, it can be said that educators around the world are engaging more and more effectively with the explosion of digital technologies in teaching. The only cautionary note to be sounded is that: “The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology.” (*8)

This important group will therefore be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years so importance must be placed on training the training of tomorrow through institutions like New Zealand’s Mindlab.

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(*1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ystdF6jN7hc Digital transformation: Are you ready for exponential change? Futurist Gerd Leonhard, TFAStudios

(*2) Learning Strategies: a Synthesis and Conceptual Model, John A C Hattie & Gregory M Donoghue, 10 August 2016

(*3) Is Technology Making Us Stupid (and Smarter)? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/

(*4) The Future of The Accounting Industry In 2015, Russ Alan Prince, Forbes Magazine, 21st January 2015.

(*5) http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/77839277/changing-how-kids-learn-the-mind-lab-and-the-future-of-education-in-nz

(*6) http://m.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11406138

(*7) https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/dec/03/should-kids-learn-code

(8) http://m.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11406138

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3 thoughts on “Analysing the Use of Digital Technologies beyond my 2017 Classroom

  1. i completely agree that up skilling is vital. Education is changing, keeping up and developing yourself professionally is a sign of the times. I still wonder how much support teachers are getting to prepare them for the addition of Digital Technologies to our curriculum. There’s been lots of Computer Science day long courses etc, but that is still voluntary. There’s a really interesting Radio NZ Interview that includes Tim Bell and several other guys including one from Microsoft NZ. A quote from that interview… “Currently there is no requirement for schools to offer digital technologies, although many secondary schools offer it as a subject choice. At a primary and intermediate school level, many in the industry have complained that digital technologies is ‘ad hoc,’ relying on interested teachers who ‘get little to no professional development or support’ (Radio NZ Interview April 2015). Here is the link:
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/20174948/review-of-teaching-of-digital-tech-in-schools
    Also, teachers need to go beyond substitution now (just replacing pen/paper with a computer/ipad) and get children to use ICT to collaborate, create and design learning rather than interact passively with the technology.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really interesting blog Robert. Yes, we certainly need to be upskilling and upskilling again as more technologies emerge -we teachers are certainly lifelong learners.
    Your point about building on the basics to enable deeper learning is important I think.
    At a meet-the-parents night last week, we were asked “seeing as you are bringing in BYOD, will you be teaching touch typing?” None of us had thought about it (heck, we were going to be transforming learning with the 1:1 devices!), but surely it is a basic skill that would hugely benefit students in our digital age. I think a challenge before us is to provide appropriate stepping stones for students entering this techno world. Then we are equipping them to do great things.

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    1. Thanks hugely for your feedback here Marion; I’m not sure whether touch-typing is fashionable to teach in secondary classrooms anymore although it might be in some primary. I agree that it’s a foundational and important skill but it has fallen out of favour in recent times (I’ve worked at 4 secondary schools in the last 6 years and typing fell off the curriculum in all of them decile 2 to 9. I have to accept that these are unprecedented times. Interestingly robotics is catching a new wave of interest in schools now despite my struggling to find a niche at the school I was working at 6 years ago.

      Like

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