So, 2018 is a weekend or so away, the Christmas turkey and presents are a distant memory and you’ve probably already fired up the laptop to start getting your head back into ‘work mode’. What’s going to be different in your class this year? What will you focus on improving? We’ve prepared a couple of articles to help you pinpoint your priorities for the year as far as educational technology is concerned. This first article focuses on those teachers who are excellent at what they do, but just haven’t yet seen the point of using technology regularly in the class. Maybe you find it frustrating, or that it gets in the way of the pupils’ learning.
Many teachers aren’t sure what to make of the new push on digital skills. They’ve tried implementing some technology in the classroom, bringing the laptops or iPads in for lessons, but have found it to be a frustrating process. You may even have a feeling that the work your pupils produce on a computer is inferior to their written work because they concentrate less on getting the spelling and the grammar right. If so, then this article is for you!
The first thing we need to stress is that you can’t go another year ignoring the need to improve your pupils’ digital skills. This isn’t another phase that education is going through that everyone will soon forget. The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. Think about how widespread iPads have become in our world, and yet the very first iPad only came out 7.5 years ago! In other words, when your Year 6 pupils started Nursery, iPads didn’t even exist! Imagine what technology will be around when your current Nursery pupils leave primary. What about when they sit their A-levels?! Simply put, asking your pupils to create a PowerPoint or type up their story is simply not good enough any more.
This is why the Digital Competency Framework is vitally important. Let’s make this clear, the DCF is not an ICT curriculum. It’s not something that you can cover with a simple ICT scheme of work and then forget about in non-ICT lessons. We’re reaching a stage where, in a few short years, digital skills are going to be considered as vital as literacy and numeracy. Using technology in the class should become as regular and simple as picking up a pen or pencil.
Clearly we’re not at that stage yet. Nobody is expecting you to introduce some complex technology element into every lesson, and nobody is expecting your pupils to become experts at technology overnight. These things take time, and they take practise. Too often we see teachers introduce a new technology skill and then feel despondent when, at the end of a lesson, they realise their pupils’ grammar is weak, or that their analysis of a some historical event is superficial. Well of course they are! You can’t expect them to focus on the new digital skill and the language or history skills at the same time.
You need to decide that some lessons will focus solely on teaching new digital skills to your pupils, knowing that once they’ve mastered those skills then they will be able to use them confidently across the curriculum. Have you ever stood in front of your pupils and taught them how to change font in Word? Have you ever led a Focus Task on how to take a good photo? That’s how you teach a new skill, not by assuming they’ll work out how to do it themselves. Once they’ve had the opportunity to learn the skill, and to practise it, then you’ll reap the benefits as they use it to further their learning in other subjects.
So, at the start of this new year, make a few promises to yourself. Promise to stop assuming your pupils know more about technology than you do. Promise to spend time each week teaching a specific digital skill to your pupils, without expecting them to create high quality literature or solve complicated mathematical conundrums at the same time. Promise to give your pupils the opportunity to practise those new skills regularly in your class, across the curriculum. Promise to ask for advice from your colleagues who are more confident in using technology. Promise to seek out ideas and activities online (Hint: that’s what TwT 360 is there for!)