I remember fondly, my time as a young and plucky probationary teacher. Exploring the realities of classroom practice and experimenting with new pedagogy. I recall quite clearly the time when my first classroom was equipped with a single desktop computer. Today, it is equipped with 30 desktop computers, a projector, an interactive whiteboard, a visualiser, an A3 colour printer, a laser printer and even a 3D Printer.
Yet, one could argue that somewhere on this journey, my pedagogy has lost focus and that there remains disconnect between my ambition for interactive learning through technology and the realities of my practice.
Let’s explore this concept…
From the teacher perspective, the learning environment could be seen as technology-rich, including the integration of teaching aides; an arsenal of technology placed at the teacher’s disposal. They all place emphasis on teaching with technology. When used effectively, such technology can enhance the learning experience, though the actual use of technology in this sense remains teacher-centred and the emphasis is not placed on learning with technology. The control sits predominately with the teacher.
The flipped perspective, from the student’s point of view can be very different. Looking out across the lecture hall or the classroom, the majority of students will likely be writing notes with pencils and paper, reading from hard copied text and engaging in the rhetoric. There is nothing wrong with this approach and it is a valid practice; but to create an environment which enhances the learning experience and places the student at the centre of the process, the two perspectives must be aligned.
Given the high costs of technology at a time of economic challenge, it is unlikely that every classroom or lecture theatre be equipped with a plethora of mobile devices. Yet, some schools have made this a priority and this has created a divide in opportunity. Ergo, the role of portable technology such as personal smart phones and tablet computers may offer an alternative, and more sensible solution.
By bringing your own device (BYOD) to school, it may allow the technology to be introduced into the learning process.
For those who understand the theory of learning, there will be an additional cognitive load, in that our children and young people will need to learn how to use the technology before they can begin to learn with the technology; though in reality this is probably one and the same. We are thus preparing our young people to engage and experiment and to develop attributes which will support their employability in the future years. There are critics who rightly highlight the privacy and safety issues. This must be addressed head on and not avoided, as it is the culture in which our youth are growing. It makes perfect sense to instil a responsible confidence from the outset.
I have two children aged 6 years and 4 years respectively. They can both unlock and navigate my collection of devices and they can run the applications which interest them. They both own their own tablet computers. Yet, in many schools they would not be allowed to access the internet or use their own devices to support their learning. My oldest asked me a few days ago to check the Ethernet cable on the router. I wasn’t even aware that he knew what an Ethernet cable was.
Early evidence suggests that young people who learn with portable devices can learn much faster than their peers and they tend to perform better in assessments. There is a stimulus when pupils use technology which is not necessarily there in the traditional classroom setting and in today’s technological world; it is how the next generation expects to engage in their learning.
Students will have access to smartphones and portable devices at home, but when they go to school they are faced with policies that tell them they can’t use common websites such as YouTube, or perhaps they may be prevented from bringing their own devices into the classroom in the first place. It is no longer a question of whether or not we should be using this technology; it is now about how we integrate it appropriately and so that every young person has equal and fair access to it.
BYOD then, could be seen as evolution. The push between what technology can offer and what society demands is caught in a cycle of growth and innovation. In twenty years’ time, the technological concept and the realisation will be very different. It has happened before and it will happen again. As we look to the future and as we develop smarter technologies, we must also align our attitudes and behaviours. If we don’t do anything, the next generation will by stifled by schools and they will become the barriers which we work so hard to remove.
Follow Lee on Twitter www.twitter.com/leeandrewdunn. Thumbnail via tecca.com and florala.com