It's the teaching, not the tech

Recently I hosted a teacher from another Catholic school north of the river in Perth who came to have a look in my classroom and see how I am integrating ipads in 5G. I was conscious that she wanted to gather new ideas and I wanted to be able to supply them for her. Later in the day we were able to chat about her school environment and I was finally able to articulate what I have long been suspecting is happening in schools: teachers are undervaluing themselves in the shadow of classroom technology and devices.

I have become aware that many schools have implemented 1:1 device schemes or have banks of ipads or laptops that students can access. However, not all these schools have got the necessary on-going expertise between the IT personnel who service and supply the equipment and the classroom teachers expected to utilise this technology (immediately and with great effect). Such a gap has given way to the ever widening ICT gap I have spoken about in a previous post. But, I feel like we're forgetting something here.

We seem to be so enthusiastic about the new ipad or app that we are starting there, rather than starting where we should be, ie. with the needs of our students and the curriculum. For teachers, I think we should all take a breath here and relax, because that's what we already do and we do it well! We teach kids, we plan according to the curriculum content. It's a mistake to plan your activities around a new app or a new device. To my mind, that seems to be the same poor thinking associated with 'teaching to the test' or 'drill and kill', things we know simply do not work.

It's about the student and the next stage of their learning journey. So, if I know that my class need to work on their fluency and comprehension strategies, I should be thinking about a Reading Project that I could differentiate to accommodate different needs, source some quality texts, plan activities and pre/post assessments and evaluate and share my results. So far, so good. While I'm doing that I then ask myself; is there a way I can supplement this learning by using technology? (NOT, what app should I use). I might use AudioBoo to record a few minutes of my children reading so I can listen to their pronunciation, phrasing and assesss the pace of their reading at their instructional level. I might decide to set an activity that requires them to select an excerpt from their novel that will highlight their most expressive reading and get them to record podcasts using GarageBand which I upload to SoundCloud to be able to embed on my class website so their peers can use Popplet to write up an evaluation of each other's expressive talents. I might then email their Popplet peer assessments with an accompanying QR code linked to their SoundCloud recording to their parents in order to share their progress and celebrate their learning achievement. This is how technology supports the process, not technology in place of the process.

In the image above you can see a few of my rockstars gathered around the good old-fashioned large piece of paper with a task card I made that we used in a Maths activity. I wanted them to take their previously learnt skills using fractions and combine them by proposing a way to be able to solve and prove solutions to adding and subtracting mixed fractions. Students of different abilities were grouped together to act as support and encouragement, each used a particular coloured texta so I could identity who worked on what, I included a QR code to a website with helpful step-by-step instructions if they needed further support and I told them that I wasn't only assessing their mathematical solutions, but their group dynamic and teamwork skills as well. Technology was supplementary, not the substitute for traditional teaching. (Of course, I photographed them and posted it here on my blog but I cannot help myself - I'm a website nerd = totally addicted).

Teachers should feel proud of their expertise and knowledge base. Devices aren't replacing that, because you can't replace that. It can complement and assist, but it doesn't start with the technology, it starts with the teacher.

JS

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