Improving education through EdTech?

devicesI recently read a post in the Telegraph entitled “To raise teaching standards we must first improve the use of technology in the classroom”.    As soon as I read the title I had mixed reactions.    On one hand I almost instantly wanted to agree.   As a firm supporter of Educational Technology and its potential within teaching and learning this seemed almost natural as the post outlined the importance of developing teacher educational technology and digital skills which they could then embed within their teaching practice.

I then however had a little bit of a double take as I re-examined the first part of the statement.   “To raise teaching stands we must first….”.    On second glance I thought things were not so simple.   Although I am a firm supporter of EdTech I also believe that it is a tool and vehicle for learning and therefore is not necessarily an essential.   Good or even outstanding, if I am using OFSTED speak, learning may be evident without the use of technology.  In fact, poor use of technology in a lesson may result in learning being adversely impacted upon.  Looking at the comments section following the article I wasn’t the only one thinking like this.    The first (and albeit only) comment outlined how Finland does well in standardized test despite a low technology investment whereas the US and UK do less well in spite of a high investment in EdTech.   This seems to agree with the perception that teaching is what matters and not technology use, although I will draw attention to the narrowness of standardized testing such as PISA as a measure of the success of educational efforts.    I also raise the issue that we now live in a technological world and therefore surely it must be a duty of educators to prepare students for this world by teaching about but also with technology, and by modelling how it can and should be used.   If teachers opt to avoid technology what does this model for our students?

The Telegraph article goes on to cite a lack of confidence in using technology as a key factor impacting technology use.   I can see how this might either stop teachers from using technology or might have a negative impact where they do use it.     As a teacher myself I have often been using new technology, such as new software in a lesson where the technology has gone wrong or not worked as expected.   The key here is confidence to work around this and model dealing with such issues for our students.    Where a lack of confidence exists this isn’t as easy to achieve plus may result in the modelling of the wrong attitudes and approaches such as avoidance of technology or a “it doesn’t work” as opposed to a problem solving approach.

I also wonder about wider society.   I have previous written about addiction to mobile phones as something not just affecting children but adults as well.    The Telegraph picks out the confidence of teachers in using EdTech however could it be that this is just a small part of a wider issue.   Could it be that teachers are just a sub-set of the adult population and therefore the issue with technology confidence lies not just with teachers but with adults in general?    Does this signal an issue in terms of use of technology without confidence or understanding in relation to the implications of its use?    I have written on this also in the past in terms of the terms and conditions attached to social media sites we all use;  we use the technology but don’t understand the implications and rules of their use.

My thoughts on the article have left me with more questions than answers.   Going back to the title of the telegraph article, “To raise teaching standards we must first improve the use of technology in the classroom” I have one closing thought.   We are using technology in our classrooms either to a lesser or greater extent.   Finland may be spending less but they are still spending.    Surely we want to “improve” current practice in using technology?    By doing so we are doing things better than before which surely is a more acceptable option than doing it the same or doing it worse.  So really my initial reaction to the articles was correct as improving technology skills and confidence can only end with a positive outcome.   What we want anything less?



Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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