In The Box Technology
Ricardo Fox & Maurice Rehu 2013
Often we talk about the impact of technology on education and the engagement that it has on children. What we will look at in this article is the importance that teachers have in relation to the use of technology in the classroom and some of the development and challenges we are now seeing in teacher practice.
As Principals we do not want technology to recreate education, we want it to revolutionise it. Alan Kay (1991) suggests that reframing innovations is common place in education with technologies. We need to shift this thinking and be comfortable in being able to execute this in the education sector. Our point we hope to clarify in this article is that teachers must take technology to the next level to inspire their students and peers to make a difference.
So lets explore the box. It is normally brown. It holds our technology from the factory. If we take the contents out it is empty. It has some stickers on it, normally outlining what is inside. The box in itself is fairly simple and void of anything wonderful or spectacular. The box does not have an impact on technology, learning or teaching. When that box arrives in the classroom the teacher has two options; to open the box and use its contents or to leave the contents in the box. More often that not the technology will be taken out of the box by the teacher with excitement and enthusiasm. They will have a play and love the technology when it lights up. It is new and tangible. But it is what happens with the students the following day that is vital to the outcomes of the Principal and Board of Trustees decision to implement such technology and devices into the classroom.
In our observations of staff we have found an important correlation between teachers who enable effective use and those that have ineffective use. It is the clear that those teachers that have knowledge of good and sound teaching have more successes, and those who are able to also create innovative programmes with technology have even greater success. This is not a new concept and is historically accurate and correct. Teaching is a highly complex activity that draws on many kinds of knowledge. Teaching is a complex cognitive skill occurring in an ill-structured, dynamic environment (Leinhardt & Greeno, 1986). Successful teachers are able to facilitate the students in which technological tools best suits their learning needs. Technology will not impact on learning and knowledge building unless there is sound teacher practice, particularly in formative assessment (AfL). Teachers who have knowledge in AfL found it easier to effectively support their students in using the correct tool to support their learning and next steps.
It is important at this stage to distinguish the changes with how professional development has morphed (Fox & Rehu, 2013). In the past the base knowledge of teacher education has been on the content knowledge of the teacher (Shulman, 1986). Today teachers development has changed its focus to pedagogy on classroom practices (Ball & McDiarmid, 1990). We have found that being at the coal face staff have been forced to be innovators and create these new and exciting programmes and thoughts and ideas for others to copy and implement. Professional development has become professional learning and now professional learning morphing to professional collaboration. (Fox & Rehu 2013)
Teacher motivation is essential to getting technology up and running and out of the box. Studies have shown that teachers suffer more than other professional groups from the occupational lack of motivation (Neves de Jesus & Lens 2005). Teacher motivation connects with teachers attitudes to work. It links with teachers desire to participate in the pedagogical processes within the school environment. Therefore it could underlie their involvement or non-involvement with technology opperating in schools. The teacher is responcible for transfering the schools vision and mission to the students in the classroom. If a teacher has the technological facilities and the learning environment for teaching optimal learning they tend to contribute significantly to the overall improvement of the school (Ofoegbu, 2004). Teachers have both intrinsic and extrinsic needs. Both motivators need to be supported by the management and governors of the school. The aim of the school should be to build on and enhance the intrinsic motivation for teachers to teach effectively and at the same time, to supply some extrinsic motivation along the way for school improvement (O'neil, 1995).
Teachers must be encouraged and challenged to have a change in their thinking. Mumtaz (2000) highlights the role of pedagogy and suggests that teachers' beliefs about teaching and learning with Information communication technology (ICT) are central to integration. Prenzky (2001) identifies those born before the 1980s as digital imigrants, an individual who was born before the existence of digital technology and adopted it to some extent later in life. Those born after 1980 as digital natives, an individual who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts. We have formed the name for the generation born after 2000 as the digital iAgers, an individual who has known technology and understands concepts to further their thinking. Mindsets from teachers should be discussed and understood. An open forum where teachers feel comfortable to share their feelings towards technology is important. It is fine to fit into any of the three groups but it is important to accept and acknowledge that as digital natives and digital imigrants, we are limited with our skills. We need to think how we engage our iAgers as they are the heart of the matter and have the skills to lead their learning with technology. We must change how teachers think to be successful and support our learners is using what comes out of the box.
So back to he box. Fairly often technology doesn't get past the box stage. Through lack of support, confidence, motivation, collaboration, understanding, thinking, guidance and knowledge. We have heard too many stories where technology is sitting in the teachers desk or cupboards. The reality is that unless teachers are motivated to shift practice and change their thinking the technology may as well stay in the box.
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Kay, A Interviewed in BYTE (1991) 16:11, 1991, p.43.
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