Imagine a classroom where three groups of students are collaborating in small groups.
One group is working independently using mobile tablet devices. At times, they will pause for discussions among themselves, but most of the time they work independently.
A second group is teamed-up around an interactive tabletop to complete the lesson. And at the front of the room, a third group is completing an activity collectively using an interactive whiteboard. While these students collaborate in groups, the teacher flows through the room to guide, advise and encourage.
Although the tools each group uses are different, their finished products can be shared and reported because the software interfaces with each of these devices. Early adopters of ICT in education have figured out how to create this type of integrated learning environment and, in doing so, have embedded ICT into both the curriculum and day-to-day lessons.
However, not all educators are early adopters and integrating ICT technology into lessons may not come naturally.
With the changes to how ICT is approached in the curriculum, there is an opportunity for early adopters to share their expertise with peers and to help others begin to transform their classrooms into integrated, interactive centres of learning. By investing additional time to learn how to effectively use classroom technologies, teachers can begin to transform the way they teach, embedding ICT into lessons.
If we consider the success of these early adopters and the technology trends in the consumer market, the current push around ICT seems to make sense, particularly when it comes to SmartPhones and tablet technologies.
Seizing this opportunity – or challenge – means understanding why this change is necessary; how to integrate emerging technologies with existing classroom technology; what instructional content and resources are available or needed; and what training and support teachers will need to confidently and effectively use these technologies.
Preparing for the workplace
Growing up in today’s digital world, students are digital natives – integrating the use of technology to learning will simply be an extension of daily activities. Embedding technology within lessons will support ICT goals, boost participation, improve productivity of learning and prepare young people for careers in fast-growth industry sectors. For example, let’s consider the use of 3D content and the booming growth of this industry.
Students are accustomed to using technology in their everyday lives away from the classroom and are tuned into new developments, including 3D through its regular use in movies and video games.
By tapping into this natural interest and understanding, 3D usage in secondary education not only emulates experiences in the outside world, but also helps prepare pupils for the workplace and provides a more engaging learning experience. The challenge for schools is how they can adapt teaching practices and materials to move from paper and 2D to 3D teaching.
Integrating and upgrading technology
Technology providers are likely to have a big drive this year to help educators meet the growing appetite for mobile devices in the classrooms, but this does not mean that existing technology is obsolete. Using software to integrate personal consumer technologies with current classroom technology, such as interactive whiteboards, schools maximise their investment.
Some Assessment for Learning software is perfectly suited to integrate devices. These programs will enable teachers to measure or assess student knowledge and understanding in real time. With this information in-hand, teachers can then modify instruction instantly and continually challenge students to strive toward higher learning standards.
Meeting ICT requirements may require schools to upgrade certain pieces of current technology infrastructures. Some technology solutions can be future-proofed and can serve as anchors for integrating new pieces into the classroom. For example, many interactive whiteboards systems and DLP projectors are 3D-ready to accommodate the growing availability of 3D content.
However, if an upgrade is needed, schools should not delay by waiting for the whiteboard of the future, as advances in technology development will continue to accelerate for many years to come.
Schools should always source technology from authorised suppliers to ensure proper initial installation and, most crucially, future support. Regardless of strained budgets, it is essential to build training into the plan to ensure teachers can effectively use the tools and the resources.
Another key element to delivering ICT-rich lessons is content. Teachers can benefit from a whole new wave of digital interactive content emerging to support ICT in education. Online forums and blogs increasingly provide educators’ tips and guidance to meet ICT goals. Online professional learning networks offer teachers the opportunity to share ideas, resources and best practices.
What comes after 2012/13?
Although the new curriculum gives endless possibilities for ICT integration, we must be realistic. Early adopters may have the experience and resource to achieve success right from the start, but for some creating this collaborative, technological environment will be difficult.
Many schools will face challenges this year as budgets are tight and they may hesitate. But, investments in education can help stimulate long-term economic growth and with some sensible upgrades and a solid integration strategy, most schools should be successful in delivering the ICT goals and creating classrooms that work for their culture and pupils.
Ian Curtis is head of northern Europe for Promethean.