Unit 6 – Changing practice
- My own progression with technology. As I reach the end of a long teaching career it is interesting to look back and reflect on the changes that have occurred over the last 45 years, or even longer looking back to my first years as a student. Can you believe that I remember using thin slate pencils on blackboards as we sat cross-legged on the floor in prep.? It can’t have been for long as we definitely had chalk as well. Then it was on to pencils and finally in Grade 3 pen and ink (remember inkwells and the ink monitor – always a messy little boy with blue blotches all over him!) As I watch my three year old grand-daughter navigating her way around an iPad, playing games, watching TV shows and listening to music it is hard to comprehend this incredible advance. Or my thirteen year old grandson making movies and inventing computer games!
- I think myself lucky to have been in a profession which has, relatively speaking, moved with the times. As a TL I have had to make decisions about computerising the library – which system to go with; the introduction of PCs into the library setting – how many do we have, where will they go, what will we allow students to do on them? Then moving on to the present where it is part of my role to encourage students to use new and interesting applications which can enhance their learning in so many ways.
- The opportunities to collaborate with colleagues – not just in my school, or region, but around the world are so much greater now. Who would have believed that you could watch Ken Robinson on Ted.ed giving a lecture practically live? Or respond to Neil Gaiman on Twitter? Or read the New York Times as it goes to print? To me it is still quite mind-boggling. In many ways it is moving so fast now that my head is spinning and I am finding it quite difficult to keep up. That’s why a PD opportunity such as this has been so worthwhile. Yes, I used blogs and Facebook and Evernote etc. before, but the PLN has helped to put it all into some perspective and fine-tune my knowledge.
- Impact of technology on us as citizens. Where to start? To know the extent to which we depend on technology these days you only need to consider what happens any time there is a power outage and the electricity goes off. Everything from the lights in our home, to access to our money in the banks, to traffic jams caused through traffic lights not operating, to medical emergencies if power is limited in hospitals. It almost seems as if the world stops – and that’s without even considering that we can’t access Facebook on our computers (well, I suppose there is always the battery, and the iPhone….) or watch iView to catch up on Call the midwife!
- Over the last few decades the effect of technology affects every aspect of our lives. I suppose I am speaking from a middle-class first world perspective here, as there are some places in the world not affected so much on a day-to-day basis – yet they are getting fewer and fewer. Witness the reach of the mobile phone in China and Africa over recent years. The point is that good citizenship must now encompass digital citizenship. The dangers of being uneducated, or too quick to believe information without checking its sources, can be demonstrated by events such as the Boston bombing where some citizens incorrectly identified suspects posted on social media – an act which could very well have had tragic consequences.
- Use of technology in learning. Examples of how technology can be used positively are too many to mention, so let me give a couple of examples. A number of teachers at my school are starting to use Jings to enhance learning and to assist in assessment. One teacher prepares a Jing for most classes where he introduces new work or concepts. Students who miss the class, or who require extra assistance, can watch the Jing at home through the teacher’s blog – and rewatch it a number of times until they gain full understanding. Another teacher uses a Jing for assessment whereby students email essays or assignments and the teacher corrects them through the Jing explaining why she has assessed in such a way and suggesting ways of improving the work. By modelling new and effective ways of learning these teachers are empowering young people to do likewise, to experiment and generate ideas of their own.
- The important phrase in the previous paragraph is ‘to enhance learning’ . Using technology for its own sake, whether it be BYOD, 1-1 computing, computer labs etc is merely finding another way of educating with pen and paper – and an expensive way at that. Technology should be providing new opportunities for creativity, motivation and understanding. It should be leading students into an exciting future that offers new methods of learning, learning that extends beyond the classroom.
- 5 characteristics of an effective learner.
- 1. Curiosity – ‘Curiouser and curiouser’ said Alice. But she didn’t stop there, she went on to discover how and why and who and why. For learning to be a continuum that doesn’t end with the gaining of a certificate, or degree, or doctorate, the learner needs to retain her sense of wonderment and curiosity. Why did that pavlova fail? How does a butterfly eat? Who will be the first female Pope? When will Australia recognise the contribution of its indigenous population? What is the value of mindfulness? The world is full of so many unanswered questions and learning is a life-long pastime. The ability to see the way others think and feel, through Twitter and blogs, can bring new insight.
- 2. Resilience – As the world seems to move faster and faster, and change becomes the one constant, developing skills of resilience becomes essential. Technology doesn’t always work for us and there are times when you need to go back and start again. Today’s learner is developing skills that will soon be superseded. The jobs that they train for will not be the job they will still be doing in twenty, or perhaps even ten years time. The ability to be flexible and adaptable will form part of the resilience that will be necessary for all learners to acquire.
- 3. Motivation – One of the consequences of developing one’s own skills base and being responsible for one’s own learning is that the learner can no longer rely on someone else to motivate them. Whilst this has always been true, the use of technology exacerbates this need. Keeping up with recent innovations, learning better ways to complete work, being creative with your own thinking requires enthusiasm and personal incentive. Organising your learning with tools such as Diigo and Evernote may assist in helping you to sort out, or categorise, hat you know and where you are going with it. A disorganised mind finds motivation more difficult.
- 4. Mindfulness – this might seem a strange characteristic to suggest for learners. In its simplest form mindfulness means ‘the art of conscious living’ or paying attention to the present in a non-judgmental way. For students it might mean thinking about what you are doing and why, in other words being analytical, and mindful of the effect of your actions on yourself and others. Being responsible social media and technology-users is essential for students in managing their digital footprint. It is also an important role for teachers and teacher-librarians in encouraging students to be accountable in their use of technology.
- 5. Creativity – ‘technology’, in the broadest application of the word has always led to creative thinking, or been a result of creative thinking. From the invention of the wheel, to Egyptian hieroglyphics, to Gutenberg’s printing press to Babbage’s computers, technology has meant progress and innovation. Information technology is the latest revolution, speeding up the creative cycle with new inventions appearing almost daily. I remember seeing on a show on ABC called ‘Beyond 2000’ the concept of banking using a plastic card in a hole in the wall. I was astounded to think this would catch on! Now we don’t even need the plastic card, just a computer or phone to move our millions around. Is it only 7 years since iPhones appeared? Watch a class of Year 3s using iPads to write and illustrate a story, or a class of Year 6s making a movie about their trip to Canberra. The young Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg took the tools of computing and created something world-altering. The sky is the limit as far as creative use of technology is concerned. Watching a Canadian astronaut singing David Bowie’s ‘Space oddity’ live on YouTube from an International Space Station says it all!
“I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today….”