If there is ever to be a more challenging learning area to teach in schools today then it either has to be about teaching with ICT or teaching about ICT (digital technologies). As an experienced ICT teacher, I can honestly tell you that there has never been a dull moment in my classes. My experiences is partly due to the many great conversations I have had with students but also as a result of working within an industry that has a tremendous influence and impact on our lives. What makes it interesting is the continual changes that are occurring within society and the need for teachers to integrate ICT effectively so that students meet the requirements of their future professions and be ICT capable/literate.
The ability of teachers to challenge students with ICT in the classroom is crucial if this goal is to be achieved. Children today are fluent with technology even more than the generations before them. As a teacher, you need to set challenges for students with ICT that will help them progress further in their capabilities. Studies conducted in the UK () have indicated the lack of challenge presented to students in lessons can have a negative impact on a student’s learning. More recently in Australia, the national curriculum and assessment authority (ACARA), released a report on the state of the capability levels of students based on the 2014 ICT Literacy NAPLAN results. It indicated that there was a “significant decline” in the level of capabilities of students as compared to the previous results. So there is enough evidence, therefore, to encourage you as a teacher to use the right support and challenges through adjustments to accomplish this tomorrow.
It is important to remember that increasing the level of challenge for students does not mean giving them more sophisticated software to use. Progression in student capabilities is not achieved in this way as it will only teach them new techniques. More sophisticated software should be used because the task demands it. Your aim should be to broaden and elaborate contexts and to use it as a consequence of the increasing elaborations in the curriculum. Challenging students could simply be related to the subject context, or the style and mode of presentation. An example might be asking students if they have thought about changing the size of the text, including another picture or modifying the content if they are working on a slide.
Of course, you cannot challenge someone unless you know what they are capable of doing and gauging the level of challenge for ICT activities can be difficult, particularly as the children progress. For example, a student might be highly efficient at using on piece of software but inexperienced with another. Despite this, you will find that those students who are confident users of ICT will be able to transfer their knowledge and skills across a range of various software.
Assessment of capabilities will help you to determine where a student is at, where they are heading and where they should be. It requires you to be able to effectively develop student ICT capability by planning and seeking opportunities to develop each of the five components that constitute ICT capability. Once you have done this, then it is possible to link it to forward planning and be able to set challenges for individual students according to their capability levels. I also keep records of each student’s capability to help me accomplish this.
In my view, a student can also be challenged intellectually by ensuring that when you teach ICT capability that you place emphasis on the development of higher order skills. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog on how teacher intervention can aid in the growth of student capabilities. If you have a set of questions set down for the planned moments, the unplanned moments and also at the times when you want to drive learning forward more, it is a great method to keep students thinking and on their toes throughout the lesson.
Finally, the teaching of ICT capability itself draws upon many opportunities to challenge students. One of the methods that I use myself when introducing new ICT skills to students is that I would begin with a whole class discussion or demonstration. I find this very useful as it allows me to ascertain their capabilities effectively later. So I would start of like this then move onto a smaller group demonstration but not spending as much time as I did before. Then if needed an individual demonstration. It is important that while I did that I do not actually give any instructions to the student. Modelling my thinking and actions is very important as it will help them to make decisions themselves about what they need to do. Higher order thinking skills is crucial in the development of student ICT capability. The effect that is taking place is that am therefore challenging students to be able to replicate my thought process and learn new skills in this way. Remember it is when a student is able to make the right decisions about using a technique to achieve a certain task that they are demonstrating their capability.
To conclude, it is my belief that challenging students will only become more difficult for teachers in the future. With many students being more tech savvy than teachers themselves as they get exposed to every new technological advancement that comes their way. Despite this, as a teacher you do not always have to know everything about technology to be able to challenge them. My advice to you is to simply choose a number of small programs that are flexible in their application and try and master them. Be ready for when a student comes up to you and ask you for help or even if they would like to use something like a particular software or hardware that you may not even heard of. You can challenge them with technology by allowing them to do this as long as it also helps them to create the solution you are after and develop their ICT capability.