By Michael Hilkemeijer
In the 21st century classroom, in a society that is knowledge-based and dominated by ICT it is important to ask the question ‘what is the role of ICT in teaching and learning?’
The role of ICT in the primary classroom is as complex but very powerful tool.
However, what it comes down to is your understanding of ICT concepts and their relation to other areas of the curriculum because ultimately, the role of that ICT will play will depend on your decisions in the planning phase of lessons.
It comes down to deciding upon the educational purpose of the activity – will you focus on developing student ICT capability, or use ICT to support learning in another area of the curriculum, or both?
Of course, the decisions that you will make will be influenced by the level of capability in ICT of the children themselves. A significant part of your planning should consider this factor. However, this also means that the role that ICT will play in an early childhood learning environment will be different to that of a Primary classroom.
This raises the question ‘what ICT skills do teachers need’?
Teacher Capabilities in Technology Integration
Let’s face it. There will be no way that you will ever be able to learn all there is to know about ICT and the skills that come with it.
As a teacher in early childhood or primary education, you do need to be competent and confident users but this does not mean that you need to know the answer to every question.
It is not a question about what teacher ICT skills is required but rather do you have a working knowledge of the software so that you are able to plan, support and assess appropriate activities as well as predict likely difficulties with problem-solving.
It might be okay to say that teachers need to have ICT skills to these great and wonderful new technologies, but I know being a former teacher myself I wonder how on earth am I ever going to learn all that.
The important thing to remember is that you do not need to know every ICT skill/technique that is out there because developing student ICT capability by effective technology integration in the classroom goes beyond the ability to use certain ICT skills/techniques.
It includes having conceptual understanding and making use of higher order skills. You don’t need to teach ICT skills per se but teach the concepts behind them and be able to judge the decisions the children made in order to complete a product.
Technology integration in the classroom is about ensuring that children use their higher order thinking skills, in order to make choices as to how to apply the ICT techniques/skills that the have learned, that will enable them to execute the process, and in so doing demonstrates their ICT capability.
Here is my advice to you. Using ICT effectively is about developing your understanding of what technology has to offer.
For any software that you want to integrate in the curriculum ensure that you:
- Select the appropriate opportunities – will it facilitate, enhance or extend children’s learning?
- Make explicit links between related knowledge, skills and understanding – can it be used across a range of different contexts? For example, graphics programs have this capability and as a consequence may provide opportunities to make explicit links in knowledge, skills and understanding in mathematics and art.
- Model appropriate use of ICT - an example would be cropping an image from a digital camera and transferring the result into a word processor to illustrate an activity sheet.
- Demonstrate or intervene at the opportune moments – for example, demonstrating a new skill such as altering the size of painting tools or intervening to assist a child to delete a multiple copies of a saved image to save memory space.
Today there is so many new technological developments promising a lot of educational value.
Don’t feel like that you need to know all of them. Just pick one program that you are familiar with and that the students will use.
This is important because firstly, it won’t limit their development. It is better for the students to work with a small number of versatile programs and progressively develop their ICT techniques/skills and confidence in these through carefully structured activities than it is to try to learn how to use a large number of programs superficially.
Just be aware of the capabilities of any program that you will choose to use – the ICT potential - as these will be significant in the choice of software for any teaching and learning activity.
How can you improve your capabilities in technology integration in the classroom?
Some of the barriers to ICT training for teachers include age, resistance and the lack of belief that ICT can make an impact on learning. However, it is only through joining continual ICT training for teachers that you will be able to become confident users of ICT in the classroom.
As a teacher, you are faced with the constant challenge of refining and learning techniques to keep up with the increasing demands and expectations of students. They expect that the teaching and learning across the curriculum will be rich in digital technologies.
Continual professional development for technology integration in the classroom is the answer to how to improve the ICT skills of teachers.
You and your colleagues need to either have developed an early years digital pedagogy or a primary digital pedagogy.
Many might be under the assumption that their technology skills are sufficient but their ICT skills will most likely be limited to what is in their home and work environment as a result of using it every day.
By becoming a member of our ICT in Education Teacher Academy you will gain access to over 60 + technology integration professional development online workshops that will develop an attitude and aptitude with digital technologies.
Be able to share a willingness to use them in the classroom effectively and demonstrate how you understand how and why they should be used.
While teacher ICT skills are important they are just part of the puzzle that you as a teacher need to effectively teach students today. Develop an understanding and judgement about how to use those ICT skills that might already know appropriately by becoming a member of our Academy and gaining instant access to all our online technology integration professional development now.