Over the last few decades we have seen our world and our human experience rapidly transform thanks to technology. This unstoppable shift to ‘digital’ comes with some threats, from hacking to data security. Whilst increasing technology in the classroom comes with many benefits, from online teaching software to virtual learning environments for teachers, just like any change, it also brings some risks.
There is little we can do to completely stop the downsides, as they simply come inherently with many of the benefits, However, we can work to better understand them as teachers, and hence minimise their negative effects.
Here are just a few ways that teachers can better understand and adapt to the importance of technology in education:
- Keeping up with new tech and new skills:
Rapid technological change increases the need for consistent professional development, as new skills need to be learnt and new jobs need to be filled. However, the inertia of many institutions (especially large and traditional colleges and universities) against change keeps them from being able to keep up.
Many of the measures taken (such as ‘technology policies’, ‘teacher growth plans’, and ‘department restructuring’) are ineffective and don’t create the rate of change necessary. This means the change must really start on a classroom-to-classroom basis, with each teacher personally adjusting the way they teach. This takes a lot of effort on each teachers’ part, because they have to be educated in new skills before passing that knowledge on. This is why true top-down professional development is the way forward for many institutions.
- Finding the perfect balance:
All change creates a false dichotomy between traditionalists, who stick to tried-and-tested ways, and progressives, who pick up on new methods despite a lack of proof of their efficacy. This is never more so than with technology.
Both sides have their fair arguments, however as society progresses so too must the way we teach. So surely the best way of moving forward in education is by having a clever balance between tradition and progress. In these situations is it pertinent to ask ourselves ‘How can we use technology in the classroom in a planned and consistent way?’
- Technology costs, so how can we make it affordable?
With changing classrooms comes increasing overhead costs – both financial and intellectual.
From a financial point of view, the only way that educational institutions will be able to afford the capital investment that technology requires is through ongoing planning and preparation for it. This can either come from cutting back from other areas, although why risk being understaffed, or reaching out to external means, through part privatisation or ‘academisation’ (turning into academies), which is also something many schools and parents don’t really want.
From the intellectual point of view, educators are increasingly required to be many things: experts in teaching, technology experts, pioneering early adopters, and finally, master managers of the entire process. Surely that is too much for one teacher!
Ultimately the only thing that can help alleviate both these costs will be increased funding and support from the government.
- Function > Form
Technology is always aging and fragmenting across hardware generations (for example, iPhone 7 vs. 8 vs. X). Whilst this can be frustrating, it isn’t always a bad thing either.
If technology were the same across the board, just as notepads and pens are, then they’d become just as ubiquitous as notepads and pens are. But technology remains first a consumer industry, so its evolution isn’t going to slow down or homogenise anytime soon – at least not whilst there are crowds of people queuing to buy the latest version!
However this ever-changing landscape, whilst disorientating, should encourage a re-focus on the learner: such rapid progress and change can have the effect of de-emphasizing technology entirely, so instead of focusing on ‘what’ and ‘which’, we can focus more on ‘why’ and ‘how’.
- Change requires our best thinking
Just like all times of change, this one requires a clever approach and collective good thinking. This involves avoiding jumping to conclusions, or drawing erratic extrapolations on too little data, or expanding biases, or refusing to consider alternative solutions.
Rapid change, and in particular rapid technological change, creates constantly new circumstances – which require a smart approach to ensure that the technology is serving us and not the other way around.
Also check out our article: Is Digital Technology Changing Learning And Teaching?