Be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing How to make an impact with tech in your classroom

There has been much talk in the media lately about technology in education, the large sums of money involved and the limited impact it has had upon results.

The OECD report on the surface of things looked pretty scathing. That's because popular media always looks for the big title to draw readers in. When you scratch beneath the surface though there are some things there that can really help. As Steve Wheeler writes about the report:

"It calls for new approaches to integrating technology into teaching, because at present technology use is not optimal...What the report is actually saying is that technology is no substitute for good pedagogy... It also suggests that technology can be a distraction for students if it is poorly deployed... Both conclusions tell us more about the pedagogy prevalent in schools than they do about the potential of technology." ~ Steve Wheeler

This of course makes absolute sense. Deploying technology without thinking about all the angles in to schools is like trying to cook a 1000 cover banquet without planning the menu. It is simply ridiculous. Yet it still happens, which is why we persist in seeing headlines like this in the media. As we see now, just like the Nesta report from 2012; if the conditions for success aren't planted long before technology hits the classroom; what's the point?

For teachers, half the battle with using tech is often the confidence to have a go yourself and to allow your students to have a go too; the other half is then to make that use purposeful, and not just shoe-horned in because you've been told you should use it.

SAMR image by Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist

SAMR provides a useful framework to help with the thinking about purposeful tech but as this image hopefully illustrates, it's not quite as simple as you'd think. Word for example could reflect use which ranges from substitution right up to modification. iOS gives a massive wide range of options to how you might use your technology. As for Google, the opportunities across nearly all of the Google Apps for Education Apps give opportunities across the SAMR range. And then there's the fact that actually, SAMR isn't even a ladder.

Some people reading this might not know what SAMR is so please take the time to read up on it - it really can be helpful in your thinking about how to purposefully use technology, which leads nicely on to the first of nine ideas for how you can effectively start to use technology in the classroom.

"My biggest takeaway from your book was SAMR - it made me realise I should be using technology for purposeful reasons, not just because I thought I should be using technology." ~ Abbie Mann 

use tech for a purpose

That's right... This isn't anything to do with SAMR or anything else. Just make sure you are using technology to enhance learning. Don't just use it to tick a box on your performance management or as a panacea for bad teaching.

"Technology can amplify great teaching, but just doesn't replace poor teaching." ~ Andreas Schleicher

Use it for purposeful reasons and perhaps think a bit more deeply than asking your pupils to use technology for research. If you're looking to tread lightly in to the world of using tech then why not ask students to demonstrate what they've learned this week in the form of a word cloud.

From a lesson taught by @vicki_theginge

In the words of this teacher:

"...compared to summing up on post its/exit tickets I got to see so much more of what they knew." ~ Vicki Vincent
Build it and they will come...

choose the activity for learning

This means adopting a pedagogy first approach to your use of technology. The TPACK model develops the idea of PCK. PCK is that blend of pedagogical and content knowledge that you have as a superb teacher that you use in the classroom every day. TPACK takes it to the next level and asks you to add technology to the mix. As shown in the diagram below, TPACK is about blending your knowledge of pedagogy, content and technological knowledge to create rich, inspiring, relevant and authentic learning experiences for young people.

TPACK broken down and explained by Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist

As noted in the image above, TPACK is truly meaningful, deeply skilled teaching with or without technology. This is absolutely spot on. In the many schools and teachers I have worked with it is those classrooms where educators are making informed choices about their use of technology where it is having the biggest impact; not schools where technology use is dictated to teachers, not where technology use is forced upon people ill equipped to use it.

A pedagogy first approach is absolutely essential if you're going to make the use of your technology purposeful so that it enhances learning. If you start your planning with the technology and then make the work sit around that then you're going to come unstuck. Gimmicks too will be seen through pretty sharply by your pupils too. Learning is tough. Technology can help, sure, but it won't do it for you.

In order to make a good omelette you need to break a few eggs...

Don't worry if it doesn't work as expected

I can't remember whether it was my old Head Teacher John Wells or me who said that teachers are the masters of pedagogy and students are the masters of technology. Either way, it's something that has stuck with me. Digital leaders are an absolute must in my estimation to ensure the success of technology use across the curriculum to support learning.

Some pointers to help get started in your use of technology when you might need some help

Started in the UK some time ago by Kristian Still after reading about them in the US, Kristian worked with Dan Stucke and saw the impact that they could have in schools. Taken on some time after that by the SSAT, the initiative faded over a while. Jump forward a year or two and there more digital leader groups around the country but no real coherence or link ups between the schools. At this point following a conversation between us both, Sheli Blackburn and I started the digital leader network and tried to promote digital leaders more across social media and beyond. Since then Sheli has worked tirelessly to promote digital leaders in the UK and beyond. Her work has seen her nominated for all kinds of strongly deserved awards.

Having Digital Leaders in your classroom to help when things go wrong, or running sessions to support your professional learning on how to use technology can be transformational in a school. I cannot urge you more strongly to start them any more than I am here. If you'd like help, try checking out the #DLChat hashtag on Twitter or use the links above. The Digital Leader chat takes place every Thursday night at 9pm GMT.

"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail..." ~ anon

plan carefully so tech enhances

If you fail to plan your use of technology then there's every chance it might not work as expected. If you aren't too sure then ask for help if you need it. There will be someone in your school, be it your school tech coach, digital champion or student digital leaders. Either way, plan it and if it's your first time - try it out first. Don't expect something you've prepared at home to be able to work in school straight away. Internet filters in schools can be funny things. Make sure it works before trying it out live in class.

A good analogy here might be in the planning of a Science lesson. It might be that you've taught a certain experiment based lesson 100 times, but even so - whilst the planning on the 101st occasion might require a little less preparation; it still doesn't mean you won't prepare. You will still take the same safety precautions and testing as you always do. Prepare your use of tech with the same level of focus. Learning is too important to leave to chance. If you aren't sure, ask.

Play it cool...

don't use tech if it does not enhance learning

Hopefully you work in a school where you embrace the potential of technology without the pressure of having to use it every lesson. If you do, it's something I would question. As written by Matt Pearson some while ago, there is no magic learning dust that flies out the back of an iPad.

Created with images by Greencolander - "Lego Peoples" • Âtin - "Mad Gunman" • Owen H R - "066/365" • psiaki - "X-wing plans" • Tim Green aka atoach - "Ice"

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