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What comes first - the teach or the tech?

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Started by Karen Spencer 09 Jan 2012 1:28pm () Replies (1)

I remember justifying my purchase of a smartphone two years ago. I wanted to be able to work while travelling, catch up on reading, listen to music on the bus, I reasoned. Pretty unremarkable rationale.  Nothing for Steve Jobs to be worried about.

What I didn’t expect was the way it seemed to change the way I worked and organized aspects of my life in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. So much so, in fact, that I felt inexplicably bereft when I recently mislaid it (the phone, not my life). Would I have worked so hard on my photography if I hadn’t had access to all those apps in my pocket? Would I have managed the work-home-children juggle so easily without that access-anytime flexibility?

So - what came first? My needs – or the technology?

In September 2010, the-now-sadly-defunct BECTA published a report on the ways that digital technologies impact on learning. The assertion that caught my eye was that

“ICT has reconfigured classroom practice in the project schools in important ways.”

What causes teachers to adjust their practice? Can the affordances of technology alone open up possibilities to learning that teachers had not thought of before – and does this impact on the pedagogy they use?

And, how far is it risky to assert that the technology can drive pedagogical shift?

The report’s two key findings are interesting:

  • When teachers make changes to activities, room layout and processes, to accommodate technology, it makes new forms of classroom practice possible. In particular, this impacted on differentiation, inspiration, coherence and engagement
  • Resource-sharing, access to the internet for research and access to read-to-hand tools can widen the variety of learning practices.

But was it the technology alone that caused shift?

The report also highlighted the there were themes that were central in the classrooms and schools that experienced change: evolving vision and leadership, a developing infrastructure for out-of-school learning; multifaceted staff development and the role of students; redefining learning spaces.

While technology may be a catalyst for change, it can’t happen without corresponding change in the surrounding infrastructure, a lift in the capability across the organization.

So, even if the tech does come first, the report suggests you need some pretty sound teaching structures in place to keep it flying in a way that will make a difference.

And that smartphone needs a fairly harassed mother who adores photography to make the most of what it has to offer;-)

[Source attached: Crook, Harrison, Farrington-Flint, Tomás, Underwood, (2010), The impact of technology: Value-added classroom practice. BECTA: The impact of technology_value-added classroom practice (BECTA_2010)]


[Originally posted inthe e-Leaning Research Network, April 2011]

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e-Learning: Technologies

e-Learning: Technologies

Where we explore how different technologies can support learning.