We live in a digital age with one new technological revolution seeming to swiftly follow another. Some survive and almost seem to take over our world whilst others fade as they are rapidly replaced by the newer, faster and better. Do you remember podcasting? Billed as the communication and learning tool of the decade, it faded because it just wasn’t tangible enough to matter.
Within the world of education, savvy teachers keep a watchful eye on technology and dream up ways of using it creatively in the classroom. There are many technological revolutions on our wish lists but as ever, funding issues wither the dreams of video conferencing or tablet PCs for all pupils. Hotspots of innovation, backed by funding, do exist but they are few and far between. Some years back I visited Kingscourt School in Hampshire to see their ‘semi-paperless’ school in action. The head had no office as his work environment was on his tablet PC and each teacher had a tablet with all their lessons, planning and all the important school documentation on it. They would simply enter the classroom, dock their tablets and wirelessly display the work on the interactive white board. It worked for them because all staff were well trained in its use and the system was fully supported.
Introducing technology and digital resources needn’t be costly and in some cases it can be completely free. You’ve just got to look around for what’s out there in cyberspace and identify if, and how, it can help improve learning and teaching. The introduction of new technology, like new books and other resources, can initially create a peak of motivation in pupils and teachers but it’s ensuring that the enthusiasm continues that is important here. Some years ago, a school I worked at introduced an electronic voting system to be used in lessons and the teachers received extensive training on how to use it. On the first few occasions, the teachers and the children were excited by the innovation but after a while, the repetitive nature of the way the technology was used and the time it took to prepare and test the activities soon meant that it now sits, dust covered, in a corner of the staffroom.
Key to the success of technology is making sure you understand exactly what it does and what it can do to help learning and teaching, being confident in its use, avoiding overuse, ensuring that its use can be varied and knowing that the cost of it is commensurate with the projected shelf life, not only of the hardware but also the concept.
I’ve managed to negate the last issue by finding technology that is free to use and which has the potential for a number of different uses so that it rarely looks stale. The other benefit of the technology is that much of it is day to day or simply marries technologies with which we are familiar. Even teachers who are fearful of technology will be confident users in no time and who knows, may even become the technology detectives of the future, tracking down new ways to make learning fun.