I recently was asked to write a short piece for the Engage for Education website to help launch the Scottish Government Technologies for Learning Strategy. The piece I submitted was a little bit long and had to be cut down significantly.
I’ve posted the full length piece below for interest:
Technologies for Learning
I’m in that really fortunate position that I get an opportunity to speak and work with a lot of teachers. Mostly people think I speak about the use of technology in education. But really, I like to speak about learning.
I’m simplifying things here but I think for good learning to take place first of all we need good pedagogy (and we have some great teachers here in Scotland) and then secondly we need to combine this with interesting or engaging learning activities.
I make an obvious distinction between these two words. Not all children will be interested in all activities and there are some things that we require children to know (skills in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing are the obviously ones) but young people don’t always see the point. This is where, as educators, we have to make the learning activities engaging.
In my experience most children find technology engaging. There is something about its cultural relevance for young people combined with the fact that it is embedded into just about every aspect of modern day life.
Our challenge is to use technology in a creative way to develop the very best blended learning opportunities for children and young people.
Broadly speaking I think there are five ways we can do this:
1. Young people spend an awful lot of time on the Internet using a variety of web tools. The challenge for educators is to understand why some of these tools are so appealing and how similar tools can be used in the classroom. Many of these tools involve young people creating and up-loading digital content and communicating with others. Educational alternatives such as Glow Blogs now gives the opportunity for all classrooms to have a global or internal voice on their own little piece of the Internet.
2. Children are captivated by Real Time information its one of the reasons that web and video conferencing is so successful in the classroom. There is something about a video conference that demands respect from young people. Maybe its because they know it can’t be stopped and re-winded like a DVD? Website like classpress.net also allow teachers to bring real time news into their subject specialism. Similarly, the National Archives comparative real-time reenactment of the second world war on Twitter provides equal appeal and massive learning opportunities for young people.
3. Children like praise and they like people looking at their work. The World Wide Wall Display (the Internet) can provide real and authentic audience for young people achievements. Just look at the Mid Calder Primary School Website – its no wonder they won the Scottish Education Award for use of Technology earlier this year. The website gives a real feel for what is going on in the school, a real platform for students work and the amount of comments from parents demonstrates this is an effective way to open the school to the wider community. If you’re looking for a secondary example check out Preston Lodge High School, in East Lothian. They have over 1500 subscribers to the site by email!
4. The process is a lot more important than the final presentation of a piece of work. Writing is a pretty good example of this. The planning, drafting, collaboration, re-drafting and peer assessment is exactly the same for a hand written essay as it is for one that is typed up, or one that becomes an audio podcast, or a digital video, or a good on-line newspaper article, or a professional poster. The learning process remains the same but technology allows us to change the output and for some children it’s the choice of output that provides that engagement and motivation to improve the writing.
5. As I’ve already said most children find technology engaging and some of our most creative teachers are using the hook of technology to create wonderful learning environments. Computer games are the obvious example of this where in classrooms games are used as a contextual hub and stimulus for learning to spring board other areas of the curriculum. Scotland’s Consolarium continues to remain a world leader in Games Based Learning in the classroom.
The Scottish Government has recently started to consider the development of a Technologies for Learning Strategy. If we get it right it could be a great opportunity for future of Scottish Schools. Join the conversation at www.technologiesforlearningstrategy.org.uk and I’ll see you there.
National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning
Learning and Teaching Scotland