Some thoughts on technology integration

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Technology for technology’s sake is never a good idea. Headteacher Anne Pontifex considers the integration of technology in schools and details some of the ways her staff and students use it.

Technology is now far-reaching, touching almost every part of our everyday lives. It seems almost natural that schools are beginning to develop and implement technology into classrooms and use it in innovative and creative ways. I feel there is a place for technology in every classroom, and when used seamlessly it can make 21st century learning possible.

Like many, our school – St John Bosco Arts College – is just starting to fully explore the potential technology can offer to both students and teachers. We have recently moved in to a new school building and we now find ourselves surrounded by new tools and ideas which years ago seemed almost impossible. What interests me most is how this exciting new technology can be used and how it can have an impact on engagement and enhance learning for the better.

The different tools and resources available for education are developing daily, new ideas continue to emerge and are changing the dynamic of teacher-to-student learning. Successful integration is the seamless use of digital tools to help build a deeper understanding of the subject at hand.

When integrated successfully in to the curriculum, technology can aid learning and provide schools with new ways to access source materials, collect and record data, deliver opportunities to understand the links between multimedia and learning, and provide education which is relevant and up-to-date.

Twenty-first century learners are capable of engaging in new technology much faster than years before, you only have to look around to see children navigating an iPhone or iPad – it has become force of habit. Why not embrace this change we are seeing and use young people’s engagement with these gadgets towards their learning and education?

Setting up a new ICT suite, equipping your school with iPads or creating a Twitter feed might instantly create the illusion of a 21st century environment, but it may not have an impact in the way you expected, or work effectively between students and teachers. That is why understanding why you should integrate these tools is just as important as the how. Understanding the benefits and rewards, and even the pitfalls of such integration are all serious aspects which need to be given thought.

Why integrate technology?

The start of the September term saw a pioneering change to the national curriculum, ICT has been replaced by the computing curriculum. The shake-up now means that children as young as five will learn about coding, working out algorithms, debugging and Boolean logic.

Some may question why, as not every child will want to enter a career related to computers, coding or technology. But the importance is within the skills harnessed and developed through the subject of coding – to solve problems clearly, to pay attention to detail, to use complex reasoning, among others. 

The same logic applies to using technology in classrooms. The skills learnt through this medium are what will stay with the students, even if their passions lie elsewhere.

Putting technology in to the hands of students also prepares them for the modern workplace, encourages them to discover and create content on their own, and helps them to understand the importance of using these tools safely. Technology has given students the opportunity to become active participants in their learning, they can create blog posts, interactive presentations and discover exciting resources – all at a click of a mouse. 

Today’s news can be today’s lesson

One of the easiest and most effective methods of integrating technology in to education is to incorporate current affairs in to the curriculum. The internet and social media have made accessing up-to-date content easier than ever.

On-going issues affecting the UK and afar can be used to add context to a subject and encourage students to explore these topics in more depth. What’s more relevant than including a live broadcast from that day, perhaps regarding the general election, to show students how politics is shaping their future? This access to up-to-date content is a great learning resource and can form the basis of further research topics, class discussions or debates.

More than just text 

Using multimedia platforms can help students to empathise with past events and shine new light on a certain subject, which is particularly useful when studying significant time periods in history. Using videos, images and sounds can add a new dimension to learning but it can also increase attention levels, trigger questions, encourage engagement and help pupils to share their ideas and collaborate more freely. These multisensory learning techniques achieved through technology also cater to all learning abilities and styles and enable students to use their personal areas of strength for their studies.

Handheld learning

We recently launched a successful application to receive 200 iPads to use in our classrooms, provided by the Wolfson Foundation, a charity that awards funds to drive excellence in education. We have been able to integrate this technology in to our lessons and use it in creative ways, especially as a tablet can offer much more freedom than a computer. 

For us, this includes using the iPad’s motion sensor for hands-on learning, documenting science projects and trips with the camera function and accessing a range of educational apps available such as Google Earth – which can make calculating distances and route-planning come to life.

Not just for technology’s sake

The most important aspect of using technology in education is the way it is used. With the extent of new gadgets now available, it could be easy to think technology, not think learning. But if technology is applied in such ways to support education, then integration can be successful. 

We have recently began using an interactive homework tool on our website, which students, parents and teachers can use to check homework deadlines, see the homework set and access further resources. As well as students using the tool to balance their workload and meet their deadlines, it gives parents the opportunity to take a more active role in their child’s home learning. As a school, this tool has allowed us to monitor our homework policy and keep in touch with students and parents online. 

The influx of technology has broadened the possibilities for education, the opportunity to interact with new technology and produce better content for students is still developing. 

I believe successful integration of technology is when it is used to support curricular goals, when it allows students to be intellectually challenged all while giving them a glimpse in to the modern working world. 

Although the shift towards technology is exciting, what excites me most is how this technology is influencing student engagement and achievement.

  • Anne Pontifex is headteacher at St John Bosco Arts College in Liverpool.

CAPTION: 21st century learning: The new school building at St John Bosco Arts College

    


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