Are we making effective use of technology in our classrooms?

Are we making effective use of technology in our classrooms?

Are we making effective use of the technology in our classrooms? Have our schools made it to the 21st century, or are they stuck in the early 90s?

From the first moment I started working in a school, I was amazed by the IT suites and how futuristic they looked - an entire bank of machines, purpose made for education to enhance teaching and learning. Having recently completed a City and Guilds in PC Maintenance and Upgrade I felt quite knowledgeable on the subject and was even asked to create a small training video for the Local Authority. Little did I know that this was the first step towards age, not ability, being the defining factor when choosing who led ICT. Too often, I hear stories of how NQTs are asked to lead the subject because ‘Oh you’re young, so you will be good with computers’. This, when coupled with a ‘Can you just come and look at my board, it’s not working?’ has led, in my opinion, to a massive underutilisation, and importance, placed on the technology that we now have at our fingertips.

I currently lead training based on the ethos around technology in primary schools and the potential of technology in our classrooms to link every subject or key skill we teach. As I sit and ponder how far technology in our education system has come, I am left with an overwhelming feeling that we still don’t take full advantage of technology, and our schools and pupils are being held back because of this.

Talking to staff about the use of technology in the classroom

When I am first introduced to a new school, I ask if technology is used in classrooms and around the school by pupils and teachers. My most frequent responses are:

  1. Of course, my interactive whiteboard is on all day.
  2. Yes, we do lots of research and take pictures.
  3. Yes, we make PowerPoints and type our work up on Word.

My thoughts in this…

  1. Interactive whiteboards have been around for a long time now and as recently as last month, a tool that I used to create a quick spotlight was met with gasps from the children! ‘We’ve never, ever seen that used before!’ With the introduction of newer interactive panels, the ability to allow small groups of children to complete tasks together, but rarely have I seen this in practice.
  2. With the introduction of tablets in schools, we now have a vast array of possibilities in terms of how we can integrate technology in to our curricula and yet so often, there is no functional improvement over the design of tasks or use from laptops.
  3. Regarding point 3, I applaud those who use Office applications to communicate work. However, with a few simple tweaks and matching purpose to product, I believe so much more can be achieved.

But can I really blame teachers for underusing technology in their schools? The pressures they are under and the recent changes in education have made it nearly impossible to prioritise learning how to make the most of technology over the day-to-day necessity of teaching English and maths and, moreover, produce statistics to show that they have been taught to a sufficient standard. It may be a step too far, even though the rewards may ultimately help them to achieve both.

I remember something that Belle Wallace, the developer of TASC (Thinking Actively in a Social Context), said to me about technology, which perfectly sums up the situation for many members of staff in schools.

“Children are native to IT and we are all immigrants in their world.”

In many cases, I have heard teaching staff exclaim that technology is not for them because ‘they can’t do it.’ I question whether it is the attitude of those learning rather than the difficulty of the material in front of them. In the same way that we have been asked to learn and teach grammar, are we not able to apply the same learning methods to understanding technology?

There are many schools that I have visited that have embraced the use of technology in their classrooms and I imagine have seen the benefits of using it to link together all aspects of learning, and give their pupils the tools that will ultimately be more valuable to future employers as well as a more well-rounded skill set. It is predicted that there will be close to 2 million jobs in the computer science industry by 2020, but only a quarter of that number of graduates to fulfil those roles if current trends are to be believed. Is it remiss of us not to start teaching those skills as early as possible?

Embrace the tools of technology

I strongly believe that if we embrace the tools that many schools already have at their disposal and learn to implement them in all aspects of teaching and learning, we can provide more relevant, engaging opportunities that will contribute to a truly 21st-century curriculum.

Continue the Conversation on ICT and technology in primary schools:

If you would like to continue the conversation about ICT and technology in primary schools, you can find me on Twitter:@ICTUP or contact the Focus Office on 01457 821 818.


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