Why technology is only half the answer in education

I can show you things using technology that can amaze and astound you. Give me a laptop, a Chromebook or an iPad, and after an hour you’ll wish you had stuff like this when you were at school: augmented reality, cloud collaboration, coding, stop-frame animation, podcasting, video editing, music production, 3D modelling, endless paint and pixels, wow moments and a round of applause. Stick me in front of a class, and I can engage them with some of the most amazing tools on the market. They’ll be absorbed and busy, making stuff and developing skills and working together.

Which is great. When you see it all in action, you’ll think “This is what it’s all about”. But you’re missing something. A question that needs to be asked. One that can easily be forgotten when you see all the energy and technology in the classroom.

Did learning happen?

Just because children are engaged and busy does not always mean that learning has taken place. Don’t get me wrong, engagement and enjoyment help a great deal when trying to drive learning, but they do not equal learning. And learning is what children are expected to be doing in a classroom.

The people who know how learning happens are teachers. It bears repeating that tech doesn’t teach children, teachers teach children (It’s a mantra of mine. Forgive me if you’ve heard it before). So, when we introduce technology into school to “transform learning and teaching” we need to pay heed to the people that will make that happen. Devices in themselves are inert, full of possibilities, but powerless when being used by someone who doesn’t know how to use it for learning. The car a wonderful thing but unless you teach people how to drive it, and adequately, it’s about as much use as an inflatable dartboard.

What technology can do is elevate and accelerate some of the things that teachers do to make that learning happen. For example, one of the most potent things teachers do is to model a concept or an idea for children in a way that will help them understand more deeply what it is you are trying to teach them. You’ll remember the diagrams you had to copy in science or the drawings in textbooks showing you what an ox-bow lake is (I’ve still no idea, I was off that day). These are still valuable, but we can extend the range and quality of our modelling by utilising technology to do things which would be impossible 20 years ago. That could include virtual tours of museums, augmented reality objects in your gym hall, a Google Earth tour of dozens of real ox-bow lakes in your area or visiting a double helix in Minecraft – the possibilities are endless and cut across curricular areas. They just might be the thing that makes an idea “click” in a young person’s brain.

What we advocate across all of our transformation projects in education is to match the investment in technology with investment in teachers. Professional learning is so critical to the success here and teachers need to know how technology can support those things that make learning happen – feedback, modelling, guided instruction, creativity, mastery learning among a dozen others – they understand learning, they just need to learn how to integrate technology to drive that learning in ways which are meaningful, relevant and engaging to them and their students.

At XMA our digital learning team are entrenched in using technology for learning. As experienced teachers across primary and secondary, we know how to leverage technology to make learning happen for teachers and students. We have ways of supporting the teacher journey with technology for learning that will help realise the ambition of the school. We’ve delivered professional learning to thousands of teachers and leaders and we will continue to do that and we’ll continue to advocate that teachers lie at the heart of transformation in education. Teachers already deliver great outcomes for our young people but we’ll leave this post with a quote from George Couros, author of “ The Innovators Mindset:Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”

“Technology will not replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational”

To meet our Digital Learning team and find out more about what they do visit here

Written by Michael Conlon, Education Transformation Consultant @ XMA