How technology has changed my teaching philosophy

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How is the technology I am using enhancing student learning? That is the first question I ask myself when I use technology in the classroom. If I cannot answer this question, then I am not using the technology well, and I am in fact wasting huge amounts of money that has been spent on it. I am not talking about a fancy gadget here and there. I am talking major changes my pedagogy. Below are the ways in how technology has changed my teaching philosophy.

Any time, any place, any pace

Access to the internet has dramatically changed the way education looks. No longer are students reliant on the teacher at the front of the class. If teachers are to embrace this change, they need to make sure that learning can take place any time, any place, and at any pace. This simply was not possible before the age of the internet. In my opinion, any resource that a teacher thinks their students will need must be made accessible at any time and place. For me, this means I need to create a website with all of the course content that my students need. Therefore, the learning is not restricted to just the classroom. A big part of this content should be instructional videos. Instructional videos mean that learning can take place at any pace. Students can pause and re-watch the videos as much as they like. This is hugely beneficial compared to the traditional method of teachers talking at the front of the class. In addition, text, interactive activities and games should also be made available to cater to all learning styles. The content must also be multi-level, again ensuring that all students can work at a pace suitable to them.  Click here for an example of my class site that ensures that my students can learn any time, any place and any pace.

Process is more important than content

Content and knowledge are now more readily accessible than ever. I can simply reach into my pocket, ask my phone a question, and have the answer I was looking for. This is a huge change in the educational landscape. Do we still need rote learning? In my opinion, we need to make the shift towards valuing the learning process more so than content. By doing this, we can focus on how to best apply knowledge. We want to encourage our students to think critically about the information available to them. We want to encourage our students to collaborate with one another. We want to encourage various communication skills. We want to encourage creativity. I value these 21st learning skills much more highly than any specific content. An example of how I do this in my classroom is through inquiry-based learning. Within a set theme, students choose their own question to research. The main reason for this choice is because it is the process that they will go through to complete their inquiry that is more important than the content that they are learning. Click here to view my earlier post on how and why I encourage inquiry-based learning.

Choice = Engagement

When students have a say in what they are learning, I believe they are more likely to be highly engaged. Technology allows teachers to provide their students with choice in ways that weren’t possible before. In a 1-1 classroom, I like to think that if it is set up correctly, each student essentially has access to their own personal tutor. Again, when students have access to the internet, they have access to all of the information and knowledge they could possibly want. They are no longer reliant on the teacher as the fountain of all knowledge. Therefore, students should have a choice in what they are learning. To use the inquiry-based learning example again, if a student is given the choice to ask any question that they like, they will be much more engaged in something that is of interest to them, rather than what the teacher has decided all of the students should learn. In subjects such as math, where teachers often need to teach specific concepts, we can also give our students choice over what activities they can do to learn the specific skill. This also ties into the idea of learning at any pace.

Self-directed learning

For all of the ideas above, the ability of students to direct their own learning is crucial. I believe that the most important benefit of having a 1-1 setting is that it allows teachers to set up a self-directed learning environment. When this happens, learning can be any time, any place and any pace. We can put a larger emphasis on the learning process. We can offer students a huge amount of choice in their learning. Creating an environment where we empower students to direct their own learning, rather than rely solely on the teacher, is hugely powerful. This was not possible to such a large degree without the use of technology. However, setting up such an environment is challenging, especially if those students we are inheriting have been ‘spoon-fed’ by their teachers for a number of years. We need to take off the training wheels as soon as possible and empower students to own their learning. Click this link for my top tips to set up a self-directed learning environment. 

Final thoughts

I like to think of myself as an educational facilitator rather than a teacher. This is a major shift in my pedagogy and is a direct result of how I have embraced technology in the classroom. I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

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  • Siobhan Murphy

    Hi Sam

    Reading your blog, your experiences are hugely reassuring. My high school is closing at the end of 2016 and is opening in 2017 as a Yr 1 -13 MLE school so my question or reflection is – what to do in the meantime? I am very excited about the opportunities for students and teachers in an MLE, so what MLPractices would you recommend for teachers and students in such an environment (an MLE in waiting)? We have bookable Chromebooks for our students and a bookable computer suite of desktops in our department. We are a google school, using Hapara and workspace and I like your ideas around class blogs for student led inquiry learning (which I am going to incorporate). Any comments or suggestions? Ka kite.

    • Sam

      Hi Siobhan. Sounds like you and your school are in the same position that we found ourselves in a year ago. We made the decision that while we were waiting to get into our MLE, we would try to utilise as many modern learning practises as we could. This made me realise that MLP’s do not rely solely on the environment, however the environment definitely makes it easier. We began to make our single cel classrooms more fluid between year groups, where different teachers would hold various workshops. We also put a major focus on collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. We had Chromebooks for each student, so we tried to make the learning any time, any place and any pace through our year group website, using Google sites. This all made us fairly well prepared for the move into our MLE, and we were able to reflect and tinker from there.