By Michael Hilkemeijer
Almost a year ago, two articles were written about future trends in technology in the next decade. One was from ACER (Australian Council of Educational Research), and the other by a journalist for the Forbes website.
Neither writer could predict the possible changes to society to occur in the next year. This is despite a Professor from Monash University stating that “we should expect considerable change to unfold” in the years ahead.
The Professor goes on to say that it is “more useful to focus on educational challenges” in the coming years. Both articles were very thought-provoking and represented people’s predictions at the time with one looking at the trends to come while the other, reflected the possible challenges in education.
The one thing that they did have in common was the fact they focused on the use of digital technologies in education. They both pointed to the need for student ICT literacy.
Today, after such a global event has occurred and shaped our lives, the many reasons why we need to integrate ICT into education still exists.
However, this pandemic will be something which none of us will forget, and when I say that, I mean that in a way that many of us have experienced.
If there one word which I do believe has kept people and businesses afloat these days, it is online or digital.
Coming back to the need for student ICT literacy, which was an early conceptualization of digital literacy, this memory of this event will doubt impact their decisions in the future.
The Compound Need for Student ICT Literacy
I believe that the reasons why ICT literacy should be developed in education should now actually be compounded.
There should be much more emphasis placed on the integration of digital technologies in education and the subsequent development of student ICT capability and ICT literacy.
If the younger generations who will remember this global event are to be making digital decisions, then we as teachers need to act now.
3 Main digital competencies that have emerged:
- Computer science;
- ICT literacy
- Computational thinking/digital technologies
The world I think has certainly woken up to the need to be online and to have digital/ICT literacy. Since the beginning of the 21st century, researchers have been emphasising the fact that the students who lack ICT literacy skills will be ineffective and inefficient to work in the future.
Now it is not hard to understand this given the current global climate. These students will be unable to communicate their ideas effectively using technology and thus may struggle in overcoming obstacles to full civic participation.
Looking more specifically at how this would affect the workplace, the negative consequences of lacking these skills have been well documented in the past and point towards the more relevant fact that there will be new openings in the economy for those who are highly skilled technologically proficient workers.
Awakening to the need for such skills will be the key to ICT literacy development in schools today. It is imperative that our students develop ICT capability and ICT literacy which will in turn enable them to reap the benefits of digital technology in the future.
Overcoming the complacency of Technology with Teaching Strategies
There is a real danger with the omnipresent of technology in our lives which is the complacency we all have with it.
We all take technology for granted. Research (Kennewell et al., 2000) has clearly made links between the technology of the past such as TVs and that of present, indicating that ICT without being supported with high impact teaching strategies with technology, may well become a medium for fun rather than one for learning.
Student exposure to ICT is not sufficient in itself to expect that they develop ICT capability and ICT Literacy.
ICT capability, for example, is more than just the teaching of ICT techniques which many teachers have accustomed their teaching practices to.
Teaching in the next decade will need to be focused on embedding meaningful activities with purposeful subject-related context.
This will require new pedagogies with ICT that is evidence-based and that will lead to increased attainment in ICT capability and ICT literacy.
Setting the Foundations
If students today are to become highly ICT literate and technologically proficient then the foundations for this need to occur in early childhood education and care.
Young children begin their educational journey with a varying degree of ICT literacy.
With the Australian Curriculum as an example, providing the opportunity for teachers in early childhood to exploit the benefits of technology in early childhood education, through meeting the outcomes given in the EYLF, preschool and kindergarten teachers alike need to adequately learn how to teach and assess ICT capability.
The essence of this was summarised earlier in a statement by UNESCO (ICT-CST 2008a: 9):
“New technologies require new teacher’s roles, new pedagogies, and new approaches to teachers’ training. The successful integration of ICT into the classroom will depend on the ability of teachers to structure the learning environment in non-traditional ways, to merge new technology with new pedagogy, to develop socially active classrooms, encouraging cooperative iteration, collaborative learning, and group work. This requires a different set of classroom management skills to be developed. The key skills of the future will include the ability to develop innovative ways of using technology to enhance the learning environment, and to encourage technology literacy, knowledge deepening, and knowledge creation.”
Young children need to learn how to use ICT as tools. Studies have found that key capabilities in ICT include:
- To make and make sense of texts – developing skills in the use of images and sound to convey information, ideas, and feelings.
- Using electronic media to record information, ideas, and feelings about themselves, their activities, and their environments, to share these with others.
“Just as it is every child’s right to become literate, he or she should have the right to become a skillful user of ICT. Children should…experience ICT as a tool with vast possibilities for communication and information retrieval/sharing” (Sheridan & Pramling Samuelsson, 2003, p. 267 as cited in Bolstad, 2004).
The Role of Primary Education
Through early childhood education and primary education, the educational pathway for ICT capability and ICT literacy have long been set in both the EYLF and the Australian Curriculum.
With early childhood teachers providing key data on child ICT capability and ICT literacy in their transition statements, primary teachers can pick up the mantle and ensure that learning progression and continuity in ICT capability and ICT literacy occurs.
The Australian Curriculum has emphasised through the learning of its general capabilities, both ICT capability and Literacy, that learning progression in capabilities can predominantly take place in primary education. From Foundation to Year 6, there are four levels of progression.
With literacy being a key focus in primary education, teaching literacy with ICT will not only enhance the learning of literacy skills but also will develop ICT capability. This is the most effective to develop ICT capability in the classroom.
One teaching method with technology that they must apply is the continual assessment of student ICT literacy and ICT capability through formative assessment in primary school.
This is important as most ICT activities are practical and judging a finished product will not clearly indicate a child’s level of ICT literacy or capability. Routines and ICT techniques require, for example require a combination of a series of sub-skills, some that are more sophisticated and/or efficient than others.
A finished product may not reveal the methods used to complete the task.
Therefore, primary teachers need to ensure that student ICT capability and ICT literacy is developed sufficiently in this phase of education.
Supporting Teacher ICT Capability and ICT Literacy
It is imperative that if student ICT capability and ICT literacy is to be developed that teachers are also supported in this process.
In terms of this, a teacher’s ICT capability represents much the same as a student’s capability in ICT.
For a teacher, as with a student, it is NOT about learning new technological or ICT skills because let’s face it, we will never be able to keep up-to-date. Instead, it is about developing an understanding and judgement about how to use those skills appropriately.
Teacher ICT capability and competence is the key to ensuring that student ICT literacy is achieved. Expertise needs to be gained starting from early childhood to primary education.
In relation to early childhood, the online PD approach you use should:
- Involve teachers in setting professional development and training agendas;
- Take place in working classrooms;
- Involve small-group collaborations between teachers;
- Build on teachers’ existing knowledge about curriculum and practice;
- Are based on a specific project that teachers plan to implement in their own classroom;
- Are linked to educational theory;
- Provide time and opportunities to experiment and reflect on new experiences; and
- Involve learning ICT skills on a “need to know” basis.
It is my belief that the same criteria should be for primary education too. Online PD workshops can provide you with alternatives to going face-to-face, especially if restrictions are still in place and lockdown procedures still occurring. You may also feel a bit more comfortable from your own workplace or home environment.
Here is how you optimise technology in the classroom that will lead to ICT literacy:
Step #1. Analyse the situation
Download these teacher self-assessment tools to determine what you need to know about:
- Classroom organisation
- Developing ICT skills
- ICT in other subjects
- Implications of ICT functions for curriculum areas
- Monitoring and evaluating
- Planning for progression in ICT capability
- Potential for ICT learning
- The National Curriculum
- Using ICT to support teaching and learning
Step #2. Establish a starting point for ICT learning.
As I mentioned earlier, each child enters your learning environment with a degree of ICT capability. It doesn't matter if you are a preschool or early years Primary teacher, it is all the same.
Set up a practice ICT activity, one where you clearly can identify the ICT techniques needed, and give this to the students at the beginning of the school so that you can build on this throughout the year.
Next, you have to monitor and intervene these ICT activities so that you can track their progress. This can all be recorded successfully using a ICT skills tracking sheet.
Step #3.Plan and seek to develop each component of ICT capability
ICT capability is best developed in meaningful context such as that of literacy. This is perfect for any teacher!
Focus on their routines, ICT techniques, concepts, processes and higher order thinking skills.
For example, have a name for the ICT technique is very helpful, but is has to be recognised as a means of communicating and thinking about the action itself and its effect.
Next, join this accredited online workshop to learn more about how this works in your learning environment.
Step #4. Embed formative assessment in primary school education
Dylan Williams once quoted "for any teacher, examining the relationship between 'What did I do as a teacher?' and 'What did my students learn?' is the most powerful focus of reflecting on your practice."
I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to ICT literacy as most things are practical.
Focus on one particular software that the students will use regularly and that you know and are familiar with. This more important than giving them a range of software and allowing them to develop superficial skills.
This will not develop their ICT literacy.
Instead, choose one which especially they can transfer the skills they have learned as they progress throughout the year.
Understand their rate of learning progress and ensure that you are familiar with what constitutes learning progression in ICT capability.
Why do we need to integrate technology in the classroom? If not for revolutionising the learning process, but to prepare students for a life where such a pandemic may occur. Even before this one, experts were saying that it was not a matter if but when.
It will happen again and as educators, we pray that we will and are distilling sound capabilities in ICT for our students. The generation of students today will be the ones making digital decisions in the future.
By ensuring that through an integrated curriculum where students develop ICT capability and ICT literacy through the use of digital technologies, we will be setting them on the right path towards a digital future.
And when this occurs again, like today, it will be the older generation that will rely on the younger generation to help them through life.