A guest post from Rachel Jones, author of ‘Don’t Change the Lightbulbs’ and the forthcoming ‘Teacher Geek’.
1-to-1 schools are becoming more commonplace in both the state and independent sectors. Many schools trial different types of technology and do extensive research before deciding which platform will suit their school setting best. In addition there is a recognition that teaching staff will not only need training, but also time to grow their confidence using technology as part of their teaching. This aside, there are some common mistakes that schools and teachers make when using technology, which I hope to explore here to help you dodge them!
1 – In the classroom
When teaching using mobile devices one of the most common mistakes is to adhere to a ‘sage on the stage’ position. You know, teacher at the front, children sitting in front of you getting on with work. What this can lead to is children being distracted by the technology, and not focusing on the learning as they become off task. I personally don’t think that this happens much more often than if the children did not have devices, but it is worth consider that in terms of a behaviour management strategy you can teach either from the back of the room, or at the very least walk round to ensure that the children are using the technology for what they are supposed to be – learning, not playing Angry Birds. On iPads you can also double click the home button to see what children have been looking at in case they savvy up as you approach and close down the illicit app or website. I am all about building relationships of trust in the classroom, but sometimes you need to show children that you understand enough about the technology that you can tell when they are off task. You might like to consider asking children to turn off Airdrop or iMessage, as these can be weapons of mass distraction in the classroom.
How much children will be distracted will depends on how purposefully the technology is being used. I would steer clear of any tasks that you can do on paper, or simply using devices as word processors. A lot has been written about the SAMR model, but try and aim for tasks where the technology brings something to the learning that it would not of have without it. For example, blogging cannot be achieved on paper, and have a global audience for work does marvels for driving up standards on literacy as well as refining subject knowledge.
2 – Setting and receiving digital work
Learning takes place when children are given effective formative feedback. In a non-digital classroom that often takes place in a fairly traditional way, and is effective. In a classroom where there is technology being used schools can use these tools as part of the way in which they not only assess learning, but also give feedback. What is really important is that students have a consistently good experience of these things cross-subject. many schools are able to set work digitally using their VLE however often standards of digital feedback are inconsistent. It is relatively simple for example, to set work in FireFly, however marking/giving feedback is more tricky. It is worth keeping in mind that children should produce work in the same app (or at least limit the choice) so that you are not switching between marking a Pages document, and a Comic Life cartoon for example. Alongside this teachers need to ideally be confident in giving feedback in mediums other than writing comments. I would suggest that making ExplainEverything videos is a fabulous way to provide feedback, as teachers can import the student’s original work and create for them bespoke feedback on how to improve next time. Another very effective tool is Google Drive, which can be admin-ed via Google Classroom, where you can look and comment on student work *as they are writing it* and thus correct any inaccuracies before the child misunderstands a concept entirely. What absolutely must not happen is that children do not receive quality feedback on the work they are producing. To my mind a grade is simply not enough sent via a VLE – they need to be show how to improve and good work be appropriately praised.
3 – Mistakes at whole school level
Many grown-ups (teachers/ parents/ SLT) fall into the trap of assuming the kids will be technology experts. This is just not true, and you will need to train them for using the devices for learning rather than say social media or gaming. Simple things like how to set up folders in Google Drive, or how to cross reference work on paper with Digital work will be not only taught, but also reinforced by every teacher so that good habits will form. Some children are naturally more interested and many schools now have Digital Leaders in school to support the use of technology for learning. It is a massive mistake not to do this, as not only as you empowering the students with an important role, but they can also become involved in both peer and staff training which is a huge plus for any school.
Another mistake which many schools make is to try and block all social media. Yes, children will make mistakes using it, but it is far better for them to make those kind of mistakes in the nurturing atmosphere of school where we can help to educate them on how to best use social media. Gone are the days when blocking Facebook would stop children accessing it, now with a plethora of apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and YikYak – the school has to support children in how to safely use social media and navigate any potential issues which may arise.
There are only some of the common issues that can arise when using mobile devices. Remember, when introducing them into your school you need to celebrate good practice, and give it time to embed. Navigating common problems is something that can be done, but every school is different and so therefore will the problems be.
Rachel Jones, is an eLearning Coordinator interested in creativity and innovation in the classroom. She thrives on trying new things and engaging and empowering students. Her blog www.createinnovateexplore.com was a finalist in the 2013 EduBlog awards and 2013 Innovation Awards. She was recommended by The Guardian as a must-read edu-blogger for 2014, is a tech blogger for the Huffington Post, and was on the Education Foundation ‘Innovators of the year’ list 2014 and 2015. The book she curated, ‘Don’t change the lightbulbs,’ topped the education sales charts, and her new book ‘Teacher Geek’ was released this month.