This is Part 2 of our Q&A with Datacom Education Specialist Anita L’Enfant on the evolution of technology in education in Australia.
1. In your experience, what contributes to teachers being successful in using technology in the classroom?
It is really important for teachers to be successful in their changes when implementing a technology-enabled learning program. We always recommend taking small steps and implementing a workflow and system that embeds technology in the classroom rather than just adding in games and activities to use the device. For this to happen, there needs to be good technology choices at appropriate times in the learning experience and ongoing professional learning that supports teachers in the pedagogical changes they need to make — not just in knowing how to work the device. Teachers need time to explore, play and experiment with technology in the classroom, just like all learners.
2. What are some of the ways we measure the effectiveness of technology in the classroom?
There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of technology in the classroom because it depends on the learning outcomes you aim to enhance. In almost all studies into technology-enabled learning, the level of student engagement increases dramatically. This is shown both in the amount of time students spend actively engaged in learning at school but also in drops in absentee rates.
One of the world’s earliest “Learning with Laptops” trials in the U.S. measured literacy achievement and showed significant increases in writing achievement by using laptop technology in the classroom. These results have since been replicated all over the world. The Victorian iPad trial in 2011 also reports improvements in student learning outcomes, increases in independent learning and improvement in parental engagement. In measuring the effectiveness of the use of technology in the classroom, schools must also ensure they plan and implement a change in teacher practice.
3. Can you give some examples of how you’ve seen successful outcomes with technology in the classroom?
One of the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom is to duplicate the teacher. The teacher puts a whole unit of work online — video instructions, screencast lectures, links to websites and explicit tasks —, and students are then able to work through the unit at their own pace. This means students can spend more time on a particular concept if they need to or move ahead if they are able using this technology in the classroom. Having all the tasks and resources easily accessible frees up the teacher during class time to support students individually or in small groups without having to waste time keeping a whole class on task.
Other examples where students are involved in using technology in the classroom include creating something that demonstrates their understanding. For example, students might use a music creation app to create a song about sustainable water use or a stop-motion animation to demonstrate how the digestive system works.
Students are also using augmented reality tools to link the learning process to a final product. This allows them to video the process they went through in a learning project, with their reflections and observations, and link this to an image of the final product, which could be a robotics machine or a piece of artwork or a chemistry project. All of these uses of technology in the classroom encourage reflective learning, which we know enhances the learning process.
4. In your opinion, how has use of technology in the classroom evolved in Australia and where do you see it heading next?
The revolution is that technology in the classroom in Australia is now in the hands of the learners — all of them, whenever they need it. Device availability, affordability and mobility mean technology has become just another tool for learning like pens, pencils and paper. The focus is no longer on the technology but on the learning. I see educators in Australia using technology in the classroom as more of a connection tool in the future — allowing teachers and students to connect with knowledge experts from around the world, with communities that have similar or completely different needs andenhancing the links between student, school and home with the individual learners’ needs. Everything we know about learning is that it is enhanced when there is a strong partnership between these three entities. In that way, the best use of technology in the classroom will continue to enhance and support what we have always known about good learning practices.