NQTs and technology

Written by: Sarah Wright | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Getting to grips with technology in the classroom will be high on the agenda for many NQTs this term. Sarah Wright offers her advice

The NQT year is probably the most daunting of all. It is the first time that you are making the step out in front of the class without the “student teacher” label.

Teaching skills aside, one of the most major unknowns when starting out with your new school and students is the type of technology that will be available to you – because it might not be the same as you used during training.

Having experienced the NQT year first-hand myself, and now in my capacity as a senior lecturer who supports trainee teachers in making the transition to becoming fully qualified, here is some tried and tested advice on how to navigate the challenges technology can present in that all-important first year.

Expectations

As a new teacher you will arrive in your brand new school and be met with instant expectations of what an NQT brings along with them. Generally, schools will want to utilise your up-to-date, fresh and innovative knowledge of education and this usually involves some sort of technology.

But what if you haven’t got the confidence or experience to implement it yet? How can you make the most of innovative learning technologies in an efficient and productive way?

First thing is first – expect nothing. While you will have been told a million times before how technology can transform a classroom, in reality, it is likely that you will be lacking in kit.

Although more schools are investing in technology, the likelihood of having a one-to-one device environment combined with the latest display systems is low. So it is a case of understanding what you have got, how to use it and then planning for future investments.

A good way to start is with an audit of the equipment that is available in the school. Look at what equipment is in each room, take a screenshot of computers so you can see what software you have available and always ask what resource log-ins the school buys into.

Getting the house in order

There will always be departments in your school that use technology more than others. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of the comfort zone of your new team to go and pick up great ideas from others. If you see a particularly innovative use of technology somewhere else in school, “magpie” it for your own use.

Your classroom display is probably the most utilised technology tool in the school. They have come a long way since the days of swiping a giant protractor onto the screen – get to know your display and software inside out.

It will probably include features that you did not even know about and have massive potential to make a real impact on your teaching and learning. For instance, some of the more modern displays have an on-board system that allows you to run apps. You can even mirror devices straight up to the screen, excellent for meaningful and whole-class formative assessment.

Even if your classroom is not kitted out with the latest and greatest hardware, there are a wide range of software solutions (some of which are available free of charge) which can help you to fully exploit the benefits of using technology to support curriculum delivery – and which I will come on to in more detail later.

Top tech tips

Resist the urge to make the display your thing – the word interactive is there for a reason. Gone are the days when a student could simply scrawl a sentence with a clunky, oversized board marker. Front of class displays now typically offer brilliant collaboration opportunities with multi-touch technologies allowing multiple students to collaborate at the same time.

However, avoid becoming too focused on what the technology is capable of. I say this because your technology use shouldn’t be a bolt-on; it is not something that you use for the sake of it or because you think it’s the “done” thing.

Technology needs to be firmly rooted in your teaching and learning pedagogy and this is where you can start to integrate the technology that you know is available to you, with the teaching and learning objectives you need to achieve.

Looking at models like SAMR (to assess and evaluate the technology you use in your class) or TPACK (to identify the knowledge you need to teach effectively with technology) will help you to think about what you want to get out of it, but start with the basics of what you want to achieve as a successful NQT.

Take assessment as an example. Marking can be completely overwhelming, but using technology makes it smarter, more meaningful and less time-consuming.

Why not have students share their work to your display during the lesson? This allows for digital annotation, discussion and peer feedback. Much more effective than them waiting for a green tick by their work next week.

Creating digital portfolios of student work is also handy – besides meaning you aren’t carrying another pile home or forgetting them after the weekend, it creates a collaborative space where you and your students can have accurate and tangible evidence of progress.

At some point in your training, you no doubt had that heart-stopping moment where you lost or damaged a pen drive, or forgot it on the morning of an observation. Consider storing and sharing your resources in the cloud. If you’re lucky, you will have a display which will link directly to your lessons, meaning no more searching for your stuff before year 9 walks in...

We can sometimes get a bit over “appy” when looking for teaching and learning tools. Resist the urge to download anything and everything and instead, look to find a select few pieces to explore that will have a good impact.

Look for free software that has lots to it. One particularly good platform (available completely free of charge) is ClassFlow. This has valuable features such as built-in assessment rubrics and digital badging. Get to know them well and it will reflect on the quality of your teaching and learning.

Most importantly, technology gives you a voice beyond the classroom. Use Twitter to join like-minded teachers in real conversations about what works and ask questions in edu-chats. Perhaps curate your resources using Pinterest or Instagram for ease of access.

NQTs have a massive opportunity to make a real impression with technology in the classroom, and it can elevate your teaching and learning on a multitude of levels.

So go forth, be confident, discerning and always consider the impact that what you use will have on your students. Most importantly, do not be afraid to seek advice – technology is ever evolving and it is only by collaborating with your fellow NQTs and teaching peers that you can be sure to discover what works best for you.

  • Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University, a member of the Promethean Advocate Teaching Group and a regular writer on education.

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