Bridging the digital divide between what Marc Prensky coined digital “native” students and digital “immigrant” teachers will mean a rethink in education as the pace of technological change picks up. Fundamental to this shift is the way teachers view technology as something new and innovative, while their students just regard it as a normal part of everyday life. It just is.
Let that sink in.
Throw in a recent PwC study that showed teachers lack confidence when it comes to using technology in the classroom and it is the teachers who have been thrown a steep and uncomfortable learning curve. Two trends seem to emerge from this discomfort: either a passive use of technology for watching clips or reading websites, or denial by not using technology at all.
Many teachers feel they simply cannot compete in the attention economy against the power of the internet. After all, the web provides a slew of distractions: games, social media, YouTube. Add to that for every 30 students to keep an eye on, there are 30 screens to supervise. Students can easily hide their device as they aim for a new high score on Fortnite.
Griffith University lecturer Jason M. Lodge warns the prevalence of technology can hinder rather than help. “The most scarce and precious resource that the internet is designed to capture is attention,” he says. “The very same resource that is required for students to learn effectively.”
Then there’s Murphy’s law and technology. Frozen screens, uncharged devices, and a network outage can really disrupt the flow of a lesson.
But the tide of technology is not going to reverse, so teachers do not want to be caught on the wrong side of history.
Effective use of technology in the classroom means putting the pedagogy first. Throwing technology into schools is an expensive exercise if it does not serve a purpose.
That is the argument of Michael Cowling from Central Queensland University, whose visit to the EduTech conference forced him to think hard about the role of technology in the classroom.
“I’m not questioning the ability of teachers to develop good lessons; I’m questioning how they will be able to integrate technology into their class for maximum effect without a full understanding of the technology and what it is capable of,” he writes.
Google can see the gap and is attempting to close it with professional learning.
Effective professional learning
Choosing the right type of professional learning to help close the technological gap is key. Making time to master a new piece of technology is important. But not as important as understanding how that technology can be harnessed to supercharge student learning gains.
Teachers need to be shown the promise of technology so they can focus on its potential rather than its pitfalls.
They can become part of a school-based professional learning community. A meeting once or twice a week with colleagues can provide an environment to discuss and solve technology-related issues in the classroom as well as allow peers to share knowledge.
Building a technology-rich classroom has the potential to transform student learning and lead to greater engagement. Students are screaming out for challenge. We know this because they look for it in sports teams and online games.
Becoming more confident users of technology in the classroom requires teachers to become the students for a while.