The topic of the week is Chris Mayoh on Educational Technology in the Classroom.
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Educational technology is an increasingly important aspect of learning in all schools. We had a wide-ranging and very useful discussion with award-winning teacher, EdTech guru and now independent consultant, Chris Mayoh this week.
Chris has just returned from a year as Head of ICT in an international school in Russia. Previously, he held roles in UK schools, developing ICT in the curriculum and leading projects on Student Digital Leaders, mobile devices and even school radio. Chris also managed to take this work into a variety of different schools through a role with the Local Authority and has very recently taken the decision to become an independent educational consultant, operating mostly from the Manchester area.
Chris describes some of the uses he sees most commonly for educational technology in the UK. He sees a lot of online research and evaluation of online content taking place. In the best examples, this research is used by the pupils to create multimedia presentations – not simply a PowerPoint presentation but any one of a huge variety of products – maybe an animation to convey a message or a short film.
Mobile technology is another growth area – allowing children to take their learning outside traditional learning spaces – the playground, the dining hall, the corridor outside the classroom are all perfectly viable places to learn in all areas of the curriculum. iPads are the obvious devices but many other kinds of mobile technologies are also being used.
The recent changes in the English curriculum in computing can look a little scary, especially to non-specialist teachers but Chris thinks it’s very positive that a new empahsis is being placed on students understanding what they are learning about. In recent years, students have learned to program simple routinnes in an application like Scratch but have they known technically what they were doing? The new computing curriculum allows techers to explore what is actually going on in a bit more depth than previously. Exploring the depth of language in technology is a change for the better.
If children are not going to be programmers or coders, what good is knowing the technical aspects of programming? Chris agrees that it might be difficult to engage those students who don’t see the point of the new computing content. However, we do know that we are preparing children for jobs which do not currently exist and we can’t easily predict what they might be. We have the responsibility to prepare students for these potential opportunities later in life. If teachers are skilled in and motivated by the content, they should be able to present it in a highly-engaging way, with support from others.
How has technology use in the classroom changed in the past 10 years?
Chris says that there has been a shift in the use of educational technology from content comsumption to students creating, sharing and evaluating content. This will continue.
Paul points out that the situation across the UK is a bit patchy – you can have a wonderful, technologically literate and enthusiastic teacher but there are still others who are somewhat behind in their classroom practice. He asks:
Do schools need specialists in educational technology?
Chris points out that social media like Twitter can give a distorted view of the use of technology in the classroom. The teachers who are active on Twitter are only a tiny fraction of the classroom teachers in the UK and abroad. Teachers are expected as part of their professional responsibilities to keep up with the demands of the job – including the technical demands. So al teachers in a Primary School should be able to teach the computing curriculum. However, if students are not served well by their teachers in computing and a specialist teacher is available, then maybe it does make sense to use the techer who has the ability – or qulaifications – to provide a specialist role. Chris says it is the same as the teaching of PE, art or other subjects in the primary school – all teachers should be able to teach computing. Bringing in a specialist can reduce the competence of other teachers but it may also free up some of their time and exposes pupils to a higher quality learning experience. So, overall, Chris can see arguments on both sides.
3 things which distinguish excellent use of technology in the classroom
1. The technology should be ‘invisible’ – the learning is the focus, not the shiny equipment
2. Teacher confidence – the confidence to hand over a powerful learning tool to the learners and trust them to get on with using it without a lot of interference
3. A variety of devices available in the classroom – to enable students to learn how to choose the best tool for the job they need to do
Listen to the whole episode for lots more stories and valuable tips including Tweet of the Week!
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