Over the past few months, there has been a ‘disturbance in the force’ – pardon my Star Wars humour. It started late last year when NAPLAN released its latest report on the ICT literacy skills of students in Australia based on the 2014 tests. The report stated that the ICT capability of students has declined despite the investment of the government in technology in the classroom. Last week, there was an article in The Australian on a Sydney school principal ‘banning’ laptops at the school because he believed they were a “huge fraud” and a waste of money. Now, what will be what I believe to be just another part of this chapter and not the end in itself comes another article from the SMH reporting that Sydney schools are banning laptops because they believe “it is doing more harm than good”.
After spending $2.4 billion dollars on technology in the classroom the government failed to provide teachers in schools the funds they need in order to receive effective professional ICT development. Handing out laptops to teachers without training can only create such an effect as it has today. Teachers as a result of the lack of training, have started to see the negative effects instead of being witness to a transformational change in education. Eventually, despite the pressures being placed on school principals to continue using technology in the classroom, they are forced to decide to ban technology use and save the limited funds they have left or available for other educational resources where they would see better value from its use.
Then there are those schools that want to provide their students with digital skills like St Paul’s Catholic College and have rules that ensures that students have at least one day away from their typical screen time.
Yet, it must be hard for those teachers in schools where this is happening to hear about the Young ICT Explorers of today. There have been some remarkable achievements over the years. Such is so that it does demonstrate what can be done.
It is no wonder then that the ICT capability of students are declining. Unfortunately, unless there is adequate funding provided to schools to allow teachers to take part in effective professional ICT development this trend will only continue. In a nation that is trying to prove itself digitally to the rest of the world, this could have a disastrous effect sending Australia's digital economy – which in itself has a stronghold in every industry – to its lowest performance in history.
According to the ACARA CEO, Robert Randall, “the decline in performance is of concern, and there is a need for a renewed focus on the teaching of digital technologies in schools.” The expectation of teachers that technology will develop student ICT capability itself is one that can no longer take place. Proficiency levels of students in NAPLAN tests need to improve. To add to this, as these tests focus on higher order thinking and achievement of specific knowledge, understanding, and skills relevant to sophisticated use of information and communication technologies – it is time to go beyond just using technology in the classroom and develop student ICT capability.
Technology in Australian Classrooms
When it comes to using technology in the classroom, as a primary teacher your ultimate goal should always be to ensure that when children use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that it is done in meaningful and purposeful subject-related contexts. By doing this, any technology for classroom use becomes transparent in such a way that the children hardly notice that they are using it to achieve the learning outcomes set by you as the teacher.
In other words, teaching with technology in the classroom should always be about developing student ICT capability and learning with technology should be about integrating ICT in key learning areas to provide students with the opportunity to develop the understanding that ICT is tool that is designed for a specific purpose such as for learning.
The integration of technology in the classroom is not done by waiting for the next big technological development to come around. According to SchoolNews.com.au, this has the risk for schools that it may come at the expense of students’ interpersonal, cognitive, critical thinking and communication skill development.
For teachers in Australia, this is a must as it ensures that students are able to achieve the curriculum requirements in relation to the development of ICT capability in key learning areas.
A balance is required for you in schools to ensure that you enhance student learning and skill development. Along with the following six points below, I also encourage the following tips to get the balance of using technology in the classroom right.
- Use several ways of communicating;
- Channel creativity;
- Ensure collaboration between students;
- Focus on sensory involvement in technology use in the classroom;
- Media free moments;
- Support digital citizenship.
At ICTE Solutions Australia, we promote the use of the following teaching strategies for primary school teachers in order for you to enhance learning with technology in a positive manner.
Plan and seek to develop all the components of ICT capability
Research supports the valuable principles concerning the development of concepts and skills. Routines, ICT techniques and processes must be taught correctly. You will need to manage the evaluation, monitoring, and planning in relation to the higher order thinking skills.
Focus on the concepts behind the ICT techniques/skills
This involves challenging naïve ideas about handling tools. For example, when students spread out text on a line, you could show the effect of adding extra text so that the spaces move to a different position on the line.
ICT PD for Teachers the Key to Effective Technology use in Schools
The thought of banning technology in the classroom in an ever-increasing online and digital world is something that just should not be in the minds of teachers. Digital technologies in schools should be embraced by all staff and the key to eliminating any doubts about technology use in schools is effective professional development for teachers using technology in the classroom.
Researchers have long been emphasising the power of professional development for teachers in ensuring the effective use of technology in schools. The technology that our online PD for teachers focuses on is generic and content-free. Examples include:
- Word processors;
- Graphics software (drawing and painting);
- Desktop publishing;
- Web creation programs;
- Coding program.
Schools using technology in the classroom will make effective use of such programs in the classroom by promoting ICT professional development for teachers that ensure that their staff is able to make sound instructional decisions that support the use of technology in the classroom alongside meaningful context-driven. Instructional decisions that involve the best teaching strategies with technology in the classroom and that is found below:
- Stimulate and structure learning.
- Organise ICT effectively in the classroom.
- Monitoring and intervening appropriately when using tech in the classroom.
- Evaluating the use of technology in the classroom efficiently for future planning.
- Assessing student capabilities in ICT.
These are just some of the ICT teaching strategies that we encourage teachers to embed in their classroom practices in our online PD. Should technology be banned in schools? For us, the answer is no. What is needed is the support of senior management in schools for professional learning in ICT teaching strategies that will enable teachers to harness the potential of technology in the classroom today. To learn more about our online courses for teachers using technology in the classroom, click the button below now.
We can help you today through our online professional development for teachers using technology in the classroom. Learn more about integrating technology in the classroom Australia from us today.