Developing Student Autonomy with ICT

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

The development of higher order skills whilst teaching ICT capability is what makes it stand out from just teaching ICT skills and techniques.

ICT capability requires the development of higher order knowledge and processes, not just the practising of skills and techniques. So it is imperative that you focus your teaching efforts on the higher order skills of students.

The ramifications of you not doing so will mean that there is a danger that context-based technological skills will become the sole focus of teaching activities.

For example, common generic software suitable for developing ICT capability such as spreadsheets in mathematics and numeracy lessons, and word processing software used in English/literacy lessons may fail to make a link between the use of technology and their subject aims.

In fact, it is unlikely that either subject knowledge or ICT capability would develop in such a context. It is the higher order skills that are important to success, and metacognitive knowledge is paramount.

So how do you help your students become autonomous users of ICT?

This involves giving them the right knowledge they need in order to select the appropriate tools and resources for the solution. Students need to recognise when the use of ICT might be appropriate or effective.

A good example of how to develop autonomous learners would be to discuss with students the different software available. It doesn’t mean to go into great detail but share with them what they are, what they are mostly used for and then go further and explore various key features of them and question students as where and why these features would be used.

In primary education, students love to show their creative side and if given the chance they would choose a particular software that they would think will demonstrate their creativity the most. For example, if you ask to write a report on something some may choose PowerPoint over MS Word. The latter is the one you want them to use as reports are typically documented and Word has the features and functions to enable this better.

The next step would be to ensure that they actively plan and evaluate the use of ICT in the problem situation. Students typically plan for projects in ICT activities.

How often do you get them to evaluate the use of ICT at the end of the project

Then there is teacher intervention – how did I say this was going to help?

Along with displaying your own enthusiasm towards the use of ICT to help with the development of the students’, they also have to articulate their thoughts about the opportunities, processes and strategies which they have experienced. This could be in the form of verbal, written or email and must be interactive.

Students should consolidate their thoughts in the end through reflecting formally on their ICT learning. If we encourage students to reflect on the use of techniques across contexts and situations, they are more likely to generate principles, ideas and strategies that are widely applicable.

In terms of processes, the particular techniques and the sequence are not fully determined by the goal, and the user needs an understanding of both the goal and the tools available in order to make appropriate choices. Sometimes the choice made will not produce the desired effect, and a different technique will be tried. Reflection on this mistake will lead to learning which improves the user’s ability to make an appropriate choice in the future.

Concepts are developed through verbalisation of activities and by reflection on experience – particularly experience which is carefully structured. As a teacher it is important that you model the decision making process to students. If you model the techniques of strategic planning by thinking out loud in front of students, you will demonstrate to them the questions that might arise during the process.  

Secondly, give students the responsibility of planning a task and coach them by asking focussing questions at intervals to guide them towards a viable plan.

Finally, involve the students socially in planning, monitoring, evaluating and reflecting through whole-class teaching.

To conclude, I am going to leave you with a lasting thought from a quote I read once, it said:

"A good coach guides the child’s progress through a task by asking questions that focus their attention at critical points, but leaves the child believing that the plan was his or her own."

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