Technology has transformed my teaching!
My practice as a teacher has been transformed by technology. When I began in the classroom 21 years ago technology meant one PC in a corner used mainly by my HoD and I rarely got near it. Now tech is an integral part of my working life. I cannot imagine trying to teach without using tech. To those that argue that research shows that technology has no measurable impact on learning I can only suggest they must be blind, its benefits are ubiquitous.
Those of my colleagues that know me well might be be rather surprised that I have suddenly come out in favour of tech and its revolutionary and transformational impact and ongoing potential. It may make more sense when you read my personal Top Ten Applications of Technology that have most revolutionised my history and politics teaching over the years:
1. GOOGLE. Oh my goodness it is flippin magic! Ten years ago it was useless as there was not so much useful info available but now any time a student asks a question the answer can be found in moments. Was Sir Francis Walsingham an MP asked a bright yr13 girl recently? No problem, yes Charlotte he was, for most of his career. If I have a mental block about Jacobins or Jacobites lovely, magic google is there to save me.
2. MY DATA PROJECTOR. My classroom has had one for five years. Now whatever I have found through my googling can be shared with the whole class. A kid wonders what this ‘Chinese Opera’ was that Chairman Mao’s wife reformed. Tell you what, I won’t do an impression, I’ll just find a clip! Which brings me on to the that holy grail of teachers…
3. YOUTUBE. Oh if I could write sonnets I might write one to thee oh wonderful saviour of teachers. I returned to work after a long maternity leave only four years ago, knowing NOTHING of Youtube. How can it be that something has so quickly become utterly indispensable? How did I ever teach A level politics well before its advent?
4. EMAIL. I’m not entirely sure it is a good thing that I seem to spend more time on emails than in front of a class but it is undoubtedly a wonderful tool for workplace communication. Was it only 10-12 years ago that I spent most of break time hovering hopefully near the colleague engaged in chat, that I urgently needed a word with? Behaviour in schools is helped immeasurably by good communication between teachers and between them and their students.
5. WORD PROCESSORS. The communication of knowledge from teacher to student has been totally transformed in the last 20 years. I can make resources designed specifically to meet the needs of MY class. They can spend much more time working with, discussing, organising material they are learning. For better or for worse the experience of A level is no longer one of endless note taking and once they have mastered the detail my students can refine their essays again and again.
7. SHARED RESOURCES. Someone in our department makes a resource, saves it and hey presto it is there for everyone to use immediately or tweak. The time saved is incalculable. It was oh so very different when I began teaching.
6. DATABASES. Ours is called isams. I can log in and within seconds I have student details, timetables, class lists and exam entries all just there. Databases have been around a while but only more recently become really usable by the ordinary teachers.
7. REPORT WRITING. Anyone else remember those sheets where each teacher had to write a comment? If you were last and messed up you had to drop notes in all the other teachers’ pigeon holes asking them to re- write. Mind you, I do miss the shared banter as we all sat in a room together daring each other to include the most unlikely words in our writing. I remember someone once laying down the challenge of fitting in the word ‘voluptuous’ and there was always the chance to re-hash the urban legend of the teacher that got away with a report in which the first letter of each line spelt out *TOSSER*.
8. IWB. OK I’ll admit I barely use mine but some of my colleagues love it and make great use of it.
9. VISUALISERS It is really useful to show all sorts of things to the whole class, especially good work.
10. EXCEL Keeping track of data was so much harder when my career began and spreadsheets are so useful…in the right hands.
Apologies if my list made you choke or perhaps some just rolled their eyes at my sheer naivety, stuck as I am in the dark ages equating the use of this sort of technology with grand visions of e learning. However, I would say you need to get a grip. Some of the uses of technology on my list have only been very widely used in schools for 5-10 years. Take it from a history teacher, that is rapid change. Schools are inappropriate institutions to be at the forefront of technological innovation of any sort because for example, my primary role is to teach my students some history and politics not to road test every latest IT gimmick just in case it turns out to represent ‘the future’. The financial and learning opportunity cost of waves of failed initiatives is mammoth and our pupils deserve not to be experimented on, however noble the intention.
If applications of technology are genuinely useful they won’t need the hard sell from industry ‘thought leaders’, government diktat or a punitive observation or inspection regime to ensure adoption. I don’t remember any of my top ten fabulously useful tech applications being really forced on teachers (except maybe IWBs on those that don’t really need them). In fact if coercion is necessary one can safely say the applications are not that useful. I’m so tired of going on courses to hear people tell me that *their* vision of what technology *should* achieve *must* be adopted in the name of progress. If a significant proportion of the staff and student body seem to be dragging their heels, not using that wonderful ipads as they should, perhaps it would be better to assume those uses are more trouble than they are worth, not that users lack vision. Some of the practices I have been told make universal ipad use in schools worthwhile are pitiful.
I think the saddest irony is that there is no reason to doubt that tech could continue to totally transform my practice and thus my students’ classroom experience. There are lots of great uses in different subjects. However, while energy is endlessly expended developing ‘solutions looking for problems’ who is actually identifying and really working on the real problems that tech can address?