Many would-be educational innovators treat technology as an end-all and be-all, making no effort to figure out how to integrate it into the classroom. “Computers, in and of themselves, do very little to aid learning,” Gavriel Salomon of the University of Haifa and David Perkins of Harvard observed in 1996. Placing them in the classroom “does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”
So wrote Michael Hilzik in in a recent Los Angeles Times article Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in the classroom? More than once I’ve expressed my thinking on this topic. No way can technology replace teachers. No way can Google replace teachers.
It is without a doubt, I feel, that the role of teachers will continue to retain relevancy in our schools. Indeed, it will be teachers who guide students in how technology can be successfully harnessed. It will be teachers who will seize technology, adapting and innovating it as a tool for improved learning opportunities in our schools. Integrating technology into the classroom and into the school curriculum is the domain of teachers, not the inventors of the technology.
My thoughts concur totally with Salomon’s words. Placing computers in the classroom
does not automatically inspire teachers to rethink their teaching or students to adopt new modes of learning.”
A number of schools in Victoria are enjoying the recent bulk purchase of iPads. They’ve been put into the hands of teachers with the intention of rolling them out to students in a couple of months. The expectation, of course, is that teachers will use iPads to successfully engage students in the learning process.
Most definitely the approach is ambitious. But then, aren’t all revolutions?
Hanging back, waiting for time to tick by, hoping that the latest new fad will pass us by, is a technique employed by many of us. We’re all human, aren’t we? Fear of failure is real. Feeling intimidated by technology is understandable. Changing teaching methods is threatening. And with all the demands placed on teachers ….. well ….. it’s just plain inconceivable to find more hours in the day to take on more professional learning.
There’s not one of us who doesn’t employ the ‘tomorrow’ syndrome.
So the scenario that we’re seeing in many schools today can really be regarded as a clever ploy by our school administrators. Give teachers the tools, give them a time frame, provide in house learning opportunities and re-shape the learning environment to include students as teachers really is a great way to inspire an educational revolution.
How great will it be to see the levelling of the playing field between teachers and students? How great will it be when we all accept the fact that our ‘teacher’ title does not mean that we know it all? How great will it be to have the confidence to walk into a classroom and ask our students for help and guidance? How empowering will it be to both teachers and students to feel the joy of learning? How great will it be for teachers to be role models to students, to show them – first hand – the joy that can be derived from lifelong learning!
Ensuring that teachers learn new skills and feel confident and competent to use these new tools in the classroom is a key to the successful integration of iPads into our schools. Adopting some of these ideas may assit the process:
- Provide teachers with ‘chunks’ of time to sit down and play. A snatched hour here or there, a staff meeting, or a short professional learning session on day one of the year, is simply not enough time for anyone, let alone the novice user, to embrace, learn and master the intricacies of a new tool such as the iPad.
- Don’t expect teachers to only pick up skills after hours. While some teachers will embrace this opportunity, others will rightly throw up their hands saying the obvious: “I’ve got a life outside of work!”
- Create opportunities for teachers to meet and share. Innovate, re-think and re-imagine previously tried professional learning formats. Try introducing an AppChat in which teachers can share and chat about new apps discovered.
- Breakdown the barriers. Put a call out to students asking who among them is an experienced iPad user and would like to work with a teacher to develop skills.
- Utilize the train the trainer model so that a teacher who has mastered a new app can train another teacher on how to use it as well as how it can be used in the classroom.
- Have teachers meet in small clusters either within subject departments or across subject departments so that they can chat and share.
- While using iPads in the classroom won’t change the content of what is taught in the classroom, it will change the way content is presented and the way students engage with the subject matter. Set up brainstorming sessions in which teachers can look at an app and together come up with ways it can be employed in the classroom.
- Mix and match skills. Have teachers rate their own skill and use this as the basis to provide staff with mentors or buddies with whom they can partner in their learning.
- Recognize that the process of learning in teachers echoes that of students. Some learn more quickly, others more slowly. Some are confident to play with the unknown, others are reticent. Provide professional learning sessions that ensure teachers don’t feel like failures.
- Create situations in which all teachers feel empowered and excited by what they are learning. Never forget that learning begets learning: the more you learn the more you want to learn. If this is what we aim for among our students, why shouldn’t it be what we aim for among our teachers?