Technology for learning

As digital technologies are increasingly transforming the way we work, live, learn and play, technology for learning is becoming an important driving force behind school improvement and schools.

In an age where, statistically, there are three computing devices for every person, the use of digital technologies in the classroom enhances traditional teaching methods, inspires students to create and collaborate and help them achieve more than they did in the past.

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, came up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you are born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that is invented between when you are 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you are 35 is against the natural order of things.

Douglas Adams was right. Today, young adults at university have never experienced life without the presence of the World Wide Web, secondary school students without the presence of google, primary school children without an i-device, and foundation children without an iPad or tablet. This generation, unlike those who have come before, are  digitally native.

It is odd to think back to the days where pioneering schools like Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland, who are widely known as the first 1:1 iPad school in the world, were taking the heat for doing what is now an accepted (if not yet widely-implemented) part of the educational technology stack.

“They said children couldn’t multi-task on iPads. Wrong. They said children couldn’t type on iPads. Wrong. They said children would break their iPads. Wrong. They said children would lose their iPads. Wrong. They said Android tablets would be better and cheaper within a year. Wrong. What the over-35s meant was that they couldn’t multi-task, type on or handle their iPad without breaking it.”  - Fraser Speirs, Cedars School of Excellence.

Social media, online games, multimedia, cloud computing, and mobile learning have become a pervasive and necessary part of everyday life.  More so than ever before, we are connected to the rest of the world as global citizens, and whilst this provides great power, connectivity and opportunities for communication, it also comes with great responsibility.

Whether it is connecting with new people via social media or discovering local resources recommended by an app, mobile devices provide people with constant opportunities to act upon their curiosities and expand their knowledge. The portability, flexibility, and natural intuitive interfaces enable students to develop their 21st century skills, such as collaboration, innovation and communication. Digital technology, mobile devices and tablets provide the opportunity for traditional teaching methods to be enriched, to inspire pupils and enable creativity in the classroom to be taken to a whole new level.

Technology has the power to transform the classroom. It sparks and inspires new ways of thinking and helps to redefine what it means to teach and learn. Recognising the ever-increasing importance of digital technology in the lives of pupils worldwide, education systems which support technology for learning, aspire to provide pupils with every advantage in preparation for their next stage of learning and the life that lies ahead of them.

As an important part of this process, schools must recognise that effective deployment of digital technology is not simply a case of the installation of hardware and putting devices into the hands of pupils and staff. Schools must be committed to providing teachers with ample opportunity to take part in professional development to further their skills, collaborate and discuss new apps and technologies on the market, to create a learning environment which enhances and transforms learning in the classrooms.

These schools are helping to redefine what forwarding thinking school provision looks like, as we seek to equip children with the skills required to grow from the learners of today to the leaders of tomorrow.

With thanks to Melissa McBride, Head of Primary at Hartland International School.

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