Since joining the world of twitter last September I have started to understand and appreciate the wonderful world of sharing and talking across the cyber world. This wonder has grown day on day. I have become increasingly interested in how technology can work in the classroom.
I’ve heard many speak about technology and e-learning in the classroom in my first year as a teacher. Inspiring talks at local teachmeets, chats on twitter, CPD sessions on iPads and Apple devices, amongst other things. Whilst these ideas and talks filled me with a certain sense of excitement, it was with trepidation I walked away, and plodded back to my traditional worksheets and textbooks…
I can guarantee that statements like “technology is the way forward”, “all the kids are using it” and “it’s the future” have all been said in the ear-shot of a teacher or educator within the last twelve months. I know I have heard it again and again. I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.
The student magazine which I run from school on a Monday has evolved into a digital space where articles can be listened to and watched have become more interactive; a natural progression from the more out-dated paper based magazine we published last year. Students attending the club have the opportunity to use the iPads for a more personal purpose; collating information on something they are interested in writing, and informing others about.
With KS4 I introduced the idea of a forum space where students could reflect, respond and share ideas on a text. A year 10 GCSE class were given an extract from ‘ the Crucible’, and asked to respond critically to the extract on a sharing forum on-line. The beauty of this task was that their responses were updated in real time, enabling students to respond to comments and interact with one another across the classroom. Despite the difficulties we faced logging on, the outcome was worth it. the forum was saved. This enabled us to revisit this task at a later date once we had the knowledge and understanding of the text, to add to and reform previous statements.
For those less able students Chrome Books and iPads are, quite frankly, a god send. Students who have difficultly writing at length (GCSE controlled assessments or coursework) have a word processor which tackles some of difficulties they face. Those students who are looking to express themselves or present work in a different way have a range of Apps and programmes to achieve this; making their work individual and interesting.
But is it the answer?
With ever changing GCSE specs (in English at least) and more emphasis on SPaG, word processing documents (with spelling and grammar checks) and using technology to perform or deliver an answer cannot always be deemed “the way forward”. I would agree that learning is more interesting and engaging with the use of electronic devices, and I agree there is a place for it within the classroom. However after completing my PGCE in an E-Learning school I am still sceptical. Each and every student had their own laptop, but each and every student had their distraction; however engaging there will always be those who chose to abuse this privilege.
Not everyone can avoid ‘technical issues’ either, when whole lessons rely on the use of technology inevitably something goes wrong. Making sure teachers are competent using technology to begin with is a mammoth task, let alone the students. Personally, I have to rely heavily on students knowing their passwords, being able to log in efficiently and then, sometimes helping me out when instructing the class how to use a specific App or programme. Training staff in how to use these devices is a project in itself. Moreover, you have the cynical teachers who just point-black refuse to pick up an iPad because they believe there is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned book or encyclopaedia.
Saying all that, as long as the use of technology enhances the engagement and enjoyment of learning they are a constructive and favourable choice in the classroom, and for now at least they are firmly placed in my classroom; whilst I get to grips with the technicalities!