When it comes to teaching with technology in the classroom, we as teachers should never forget that the technology is there to serve two main purposes – firstly, to help students develop their ICT capability, and then to enhance and support the subject content. Earlier this year, I wrote an article on how you can not only create opportunities yourself but also look for areas in your Learning Areas in the curriculum that indicate the use of technologies and plan ahead to exploit these opportunities. Later I wrote another article about the difference between developing student ICT skills and ICT capabilities. In this article, I will explain how you can ensure that you are teaching ICT capability proficiently in your discipline by using effective teaching strategies or pedagogies as they are known that will help your students to develop their capabilities with ICT whilst using it to support their content learning. Integrating ICT in this particular way will play a crucial role preparing them for a knowledge based economy that relies heavily on ICT and it will also improve your own teaching skills as you become ICT capable yourself.
Teaching with technology to develop student ICT capability need not be an issue for you in your classroom anymore. It is important to begin by remembering that not all ICT that is available at your school has the ability to develop student capabilities. For example, there are so many subject-specific software being used in the classroom. However, this would more likely help yourself to become ICT capable than your students. Teachers have more control over this software than students do. Software like this would partially develop their capabilities. For a student, they need to have full control over the technology or software itself and there must be a high level of decision making too. Typical examples of this type of software would include generic software and much of this can be easily integrated into your work.
The wide variety of software in schools today can make it difficult for you as a teacher to decide what software to use for students. It can be quite easy to fall into the thinking that by using the more sophisticated software that is available you would be developing their capabilities further. However, this may just constitute little more than the development of further techniques. If this does ever come across you, remember that progression in ICT capability is only facilitated when you use more sophisticated software in response to the demands of the tasks. Never use it for the sake of it. When developing student ICT capability in the classroom your aim should be to “broaden and elaborate contexts, and use more sophisticated software as a consequence of the increasing elaboration of curriculum contexts, not as an end in itself”(Kennewell et al., 2000).
Higher order skills is a key component of ICT capability and it is what distinguishes it from ICT skills. Students must be able to make decisions about what techniques and skills to use in order to create an ICT solution to a particular problem. It is about choosing that knowledge, monitoring its progress and evaluating the solution made. It is imperative, therefore, that the method you teach with technology in the classroom is conducted in a proficient manner as it will impact on this process. With much software at the students’ disposal then, it leads to your ability to guide students to be able to make the correct decisions about the right ones to use. Recently, in one of my own classes I was getting the students to write down a list about various aspects of a topic they were working on. Despite, my attempts to get the students to use MS Word for this purpose I still noticed that there were some that made inappropriate choices and used PowerPoint. Using my own example it indicate to you that it is not such an easy process and that is true. However, the development of student ICT capability is not something that come to a halt once they leave the classroom. It is a continual process so for myself it means having to continually talk and discuss with students why they use different software. Another way this could be achieved is to perhaps discuss the choices of software available to them before you give them the task. For example, instead of just handing out an activity and expecting them to use something like MS Word, discuss what is available to them. Their choices could be between MS Word, MS Publisher or another program of a similar nature. For you it means knowing enough about the software in such a way that you can guide them to make the right choice. Enabling students to develop greater autonomy over the selection of ICT tools and resources is vital if they are to progress in their learning.
Another important part of this process is the active participation of students in the planning and evaluation of the ICT solution. One year, I had students in my class learn about animation as I had planned for them to become short film makers and create an animated feature using stop motion techniques. It was a slow and long process but once they got into it I did see much learning taking place. They did everything from initial ideas for the storyline to the filming and editing themselves.
Decision making by students is crucial if they are to develop their ICT capability. There will be no doubt occasions in your lessons when students will have problems. Remember this is an important part of their learning – they must find and overcome these difficulties. These difficulties must not be however, too large or too small. Having this type of interference too large can mean that the student may not have enough processing power left to apply the software to the problem. On the other hand, if there are too few difficulties then it is unlikely that ICT capability would be develop further by the lesson. So it is significant that in your planning your maintain a balance between the factors according to the objectives of the activity.