Technology or the use of technology in the classroom has fast become an increasing presence in the classrooms of today. Teachers get swamped from the barrage of marketing material loaded with the latest new developments in educational technology. However, what there is a lack of are the additional support that is needed in order to effectively use these new technologies. Mr Robert Randall (CEO of ACARA) stated in relation to the last NAPLAN ICT literacy results that teachers cannot depend on technology itself to help develop student capabilities. Effective pedagogical strategies is crucial then if there is a change in the decline of capabilities of Australian students.
Without going into these results in too much detail, it does demonstrate what is occurring in classrooms today with technology.
Within every Learning Area of the Australian Curriculum there is the ICT General Capability. In my last article, I discussed how teachers need to change their views on it and see it as more than just an opportunity for their students to learn various techniques with the technology of their choice. It also stressed how one of its key ingredient – higher order skills – needs to be taken into account. Now learn how you can effectively teach ICT capability by practicing methods that encompass all the components.
ICT capability is a mix of five different components so it pays to plan and seek to develop each component. Student use of techniques and skills is the predominant part of this capability. For many years I was one of those teachers who believed that a set of instructions given to students about how to do something was great. That is until I discovered and learnt about the negative effect it has on student learning. As ICT capability is concerned with a student’s ability to make effective choices it is imperative that they are able to do so. Handing out instructions may be great for learning techniques, but that is all it does. A more appropriate method would be to teach the techniques in a whole-class or group setting providing the minimal amount of support you can provide and then to withdraw it. Techniques should be learnt by copying what you do yourself. For example, in one of my primary lessons I was demonstrating to students how to programme the beebot to make a square. It was first demonstrated through a whole-class discussion on the whiteboard then I followed it up with group and then individual demonstrations. After that, I instructed each student to do the same. Helping students to learn new techniques like this encourages them to use their higher order skills. The other purpose for this method is that it aides in the assessment of the capabilities. I was able to determine if they were could follow the instructions after the whole class and group discussions.
It is also suggested that you help students associate the actions involved in a technique with the effect it achieves (Kennewell et. al, 2000). By having a name for the technique and/or the effect has been found in studies to have had a positive impact on their learning. Don’t however, present the name to students as something extra to learn as it important that is recognised as a means of communicating and thinking about the actions and its effects.
Next there are routines but these are merely techniques that have become automatic. So for this particular component students primarily learn this through practice. To use another example of mine, namely the beebots, along with monitoring student techniques learnt, I was also noting how they were learnt. In other words were they hesitant, steady or fluent and this would provide me invaluable information for future planning. Students who for some reason cannot pick up these routines can be provided with focused practiced tasks for homework if possible – as ‘practice makes perfect’!
Processes are multi-stage procedures and is best taught by discussing with students what it they are doing at the process level as opposed to just identifying the next technique. An idea would be to use various images and analogies where you might find it to be helpful for students to gain a feeling for the whole process. Kennewell et al. (2000) provides the example of students searching a flat-file database. They need to keep in mind the information they want to display and the type of criteria that will limit the search. By thinking of a database as a stack of cards, then they will be able to understand that the computer will look at each card in turn, checks the criteria and then writes down the required information on the list. The predominant source of learning is when there is a combination of techniques in the multistage procedures in a range of problem situations. Students need to develop autonomy in the use of techniques through their active involvement.
As discussed earlier, higher order skills was pointed out in another article. Skills that you will need to model will include the planning, monitoring and evaluation of the work that is conducted in class. This is best achieved using a whole-class teaching method. You can also ask students strategic and evaluative questions to encourage students to think about their own work. They can then even ask each other the same questions later. HOS is best developed in an environment that encourages exploration when opportunities are presented to decide which technology to use and how to use it. Teacher intervention will play a crucial role in this development as it is unlikely to be learned without it.
Finally, concepts or conceptual understanding is also a key component of student ICT capability. A method that you could use here is to use whole-class teaching to discuss the examples and non-examples, both with and without ICT, to emphasise the significant features of the concept behind the skills. Such a strategy is also an excellent way to get around any issues you may have in the classroom in relation to technical difficulties. Having a contingency plan like this will prove handy. Remember to include a reflection task at the end to further enhance their conceptual understandings.
As it can be seen here, the teaching of the ICT general capability in the Australian Curriculum can be achieved by using the above strategies. Your aim should be to enable students to become ICT capable through your own learning of various software and provide the right support for them in order to make effective choices about which technology to use and when and if to use it as well. Develop each component of ICT capability in your lessons that involve the correct use of software that is turn supported by your effective teaching strategies.
Completing this course will contribute to 4 hours of NESA registered PD addressing 2.6.2 and 3.4.2 of Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient teacher accreditation in NSW and Victoria.