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Ideas, resources and expert opinion on implementing digital technology into the classroom.

Key Takeaways

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Digital technologies should be embraced as the exciting field that it is.

 

Introduce children to skill-based use of ICT, such as coding, robotics, 3D printing, programming, animation, filmmaking.

 

Teach computer science. For younger children, computational thinking can be taught with non-digital games and puzzles, and free teaching resources are available. 

 

For older children, computers can provide the ability to create rich content such as images, video and interactive presentation.

 

Digital technologies can support learning and inclusion for children with special needs. Assistive technologies can aid children with learning difficulties, working with their strengths, to get around their challenges.

Digital technology can offer new ways of learning, and opportunities above and beyond what can be achieved with pen and paper. 

 

Dr Maryanne Wolf, the director for dyslexia, diverse learning and social justice at UCLA believes that digital technology should be embraced as the exciting field that it is. She recommends that children learn coding, programming and specific ICT skills in parallel to 'decoding' (reading) in print.

 

This would allow children to develop knowledge and understanding of the way digital technologies can be used, as well as developing skills such as planning and sequencing. 

 

New Zealand has numerous courses offering coding, robotics, 3D printing and programming for children. Some offer free programs to schools.

 

Pauline Cleaver, the Ministry of Education's Senior Manager of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning has given examples for young children of learning that meets the new digital curriculum. "To a 5-year-old, 'computational thinking' might mean learning how to give step-by-step logical instructions, which was an early part of learning about algorithms, and might not involve using a device at all." Excerpt from article 'Teaching students digital technology doesn't necessarily mean more time online.'

 

To improve digital reading skills, Dr Maryanne Wolf advises that children be taught to read in print form only for the first 3 to 4 years of education.

 

She notes in an interview with Tonya Mosley, "using our knowledge of the differences in reading strategy on print versus paper, we can teach students first how to become fluent and complex readers, and then which strategy/mode of reading to choose for which task. This allows children to learn to read at a rate which allows deep reading and comprehension to develop, and to develop critical thinking skills. From this point, educators can teach strategies to help children select the best mode of reading."

 

When searching for information and filtering, reading on a device might be best. For complex text or articles (over a page), printing or consciously slowing down to allow comprehension can be a better option. Complex novels should be given by schools in paper form.

 

"For serious literature (of the sort you contemplate, and potentially reread), general wisdom is that print may be best. However, for foreign language or organic chemistry texts that include adaptive learning tools (such as intermittent quizzes and guidance back to the appropriate passages in the text explaining what you missed), there can be clear benefits for digital." Excerpt from an interview with Naomi Baron, Linguist and expert in technology and language.

 

One meta-analysis found that inquiry-based learning was the most effective use of devices. In this study, devices were not found to be effective for game-based learning or, to the author's surprise, collaboration.

 

Digital technologies can support learning and inclusion for children with special needs. Assistive technologies can aid children with learning difficulties, working with their strengths, to get around their challenges

 

Skill integration

 

When delivering tasks or projects, giving students time to think and plan before searching for information online may help to develop critical thinking skills. 'What do I already know? What different resources could I use to find information?'

 

Clear policies

 

Some schools have clear digital policies online, so students and parents are aware of expectations, such as this example from Ponsonby primary school

 

Further resources

 

Linda Liukas has an inspiring and positive TED talk about teaching children about computers, as well as her delightful 'Hello Ruby' children books that teach the concepts of programming without requiring a computer. She has developed a site for games that teach skills such as coding and algorithms, and has a section for educators

 

'CS unplugged' is a collection of free teaching material that teaches computer science to young children with non-digital games and puzzles. Digital resources are available online and in book form as a free download.

 

Use technology as a tool, not an approach to education
 

Technology is not introduced into a vacuum. It is therefore important to identify carefully what it will replace or how the technology activities will be additional to what learners would normally experience, (Higgins, Xiao and Katsipataki, 2012).

 

Experts suggested that the use of technology in the classroom should be a tool, not an approach to education, (Hattie & Yates 2013, Higgins, Xiao & Katsipataki, 2012; Taylor, 2013). 

 

In researched interventions, technology is best used as a supplement to normal teaching rather than as a replacement for it. This suggests some caution in the way in which technology is adopted or embedded in schools, (Higgins, Xiao & Katsipataki, 2012).

 

This view is echoed by Lee Parkinson, a primary school teacher who trains other teachers in the use of ICT. He believes digital technologies should only be used to 'go beyond what can be done on paper'.

 

He describes a beneficial use of ICT in the classroom as "the ability to create rich content such as images, video and interactive presentations, share information globally and communicate with other people," (Guardian, 2015).

 

 

 

References not included in hyperlinks:

 

Higgins, Xiao and Katsipataki, (2012). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation - Full Report. 

 

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/The_Impact_of_Digital_Technologies_on_Learning_(2012).pdf