We hear from Patrick McGrath, EdTech Strategist at Texthelp over a series of blogs that focus on the elements of a successful vision and plan for an effective technology strategy.
Digital natives. A phrase that’s caused more than a little discussion between educators since it was first coined. It’s perhaps overused or maybe even simply misunderstood. At its heart it suggests that students somehow have an innate ability to use and understand technology – for the mere fact that they have grown up around it. Sure, technology is integrated into the very fabric of society. It’s integrated into everything we do and how we communicate and relate to the world around us. It’s there to help us be more productive, to motivate us and often to distract us.
For the students in our classrooms today and for everyday ahead, technology is a core part of their, and indeed, our daily lives. Despite this, they are no more ‘digital natives’ than other generations. No child is born with the ability to make an effective Google search, let alone how to deepen learning with the results. Students need help and guidance in how and when to use technology appropriately, with context and for learning. Sometimes we miss this as educators – we talk about and plan our own CPD and fail to plan student training – on the assumption that they ‘just know’, and we don’t. It’s a sweeping statement, but the most successful technology implementations I’ve seen have put student training and peer support at the heart of their programme – and it has a huge and positive impact on outcomes.
Technology should be a natural part of the learning system
So let’s not class them as ‘Digital Natives’, but let’s recognise that they have digital expectations. Expectations that assume that technology should be a natural part of their education. And in the world we live in today – that’s entirely fair and right.
Maybe we need to simply become ‘learner centric’. A focus less on teaching and more on learning. By doing this we can build on the natural motivations, distractions and approaches to communication that occur outside of the classroom and we can create even more learning opportunities.
To do this, we need to provide students with the widest range of devices and tools. We need to provide flexibility to allow students to choose the tools, supports, platforms and methods of using technology that uniquely support them. Most of all we need to provide the opportunity to use devices and tools right at the heart of learning – within touching distance, exactly as they would expect outside of the classroom. In doing so we provide independence, help to build confidence and create learners that are reflective and adaptive.
We must build this into our vision and plan for learning – it must be based on proven pedagogical principles. Devices and software should be evaluated for flexibility and their ‘fit’ for learning and help us to build a toolkit for learning. A toolkit that can help us achieve the goal of making learning personal.
We’re not rethinking education. We’re simply equipping students with the tools and skills they need to succeed. We’re putting them in the middle of amazing technology, right where they belong. We’re giving them two essential things in this digital age – choice and voice in their learning. In doing so, we don’t equip them for just ‘now’ – we equip them with the understanding of applying technology into lifelong learning.
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