EdTech: Layer 3

I have previously shared a couple of post discussing an EdTech model I shared at the GESS conference back in 2013, now being up to the third of four layers within the model.   The third layer assumes you have already decided the key reasons why you want to invest in and use Technology in your school, this being layer 1. I note that Technology is my preferred term to EdTech.  Layer 3 also assumes you have put the relevant fundamental building blocks in place as part of layer 2.     So, what is the third layer about?

Layer 3

The third layer focusses on what I considered to be the three dimensions of technology use within a school, and the need for relevant training in these areas.   These areas being:

IT Skills

This is the basics of using IT and using tools so includes understanding file types, sizes, sharing files, using email, etc.   It is being able to log in, connect peripherals and change your password.   All staff need to have a basic understanding of the technology they are using, as without this it is unlikely, they will ever reach a point of confidence and then mastery of using technology in school.   I often described this as Teaching of IT as the focus is on developing IT Skills.   We need to ensure staff are supported in this area.  Thinking about it further, I believe this area would include cyber security and data protection although back in 2013 I am not sure I had included these areas.

IT for Management

There will also be some administrative work in teaching with IT generally being part of this, whether it is writing student reports, gathering performance data, following up on behaviour issues or many other issues.    Technology can allow us to streamline processes to make these tasks quicker or simpler.   I am often surprised how often staff don’t know about simply email rules in outlook or how they can use categories to help manage emails.  Note: I mention emails as so much of the administrative load seems to revolve around reading and responding to emails, or to messages now in Teams or other platforms.    At a more advanced level we can then move on to the use of solutions such a PowerAutomate to try to automate more and more of the administrative workflows however I will admit there is much more work that can be done in this area.

I also think we need to continue to examine the administrative side to teaching and identify where it adds value, for if a task doesn’t add value, I would suggest it isnt worth doing.   There is also an opportunity to make use of technology to do things differently such as replacing termly reports with more live, but automatically generated, performance data derived through the use of machine learning and AI based platforms.

IT for Teaching and Learning

This is the likely most important element in this layer, that of using technology in the classroom.   It is about ensuring teaching staff have the ability to use technology effectively in their classroom, their lessons and the learning activities they create.   I suppose on reflection this particular layer could be sub-divided further.  Thinking about the TPACK model, this section could include Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) and Technological Content Knowledge (TCK).     Looking at it a different way it could include teaching using technology, where technology enhances or redefines a learning activity or process, plus teaching through technology, where the technology is an essential vehicle for the learning.   Now I admit I find these two categories sometime difficult to separate however I will try to clarify.    Teaching using technology might be the use of OneNote to allow students to collaborate on a project so technology is just another tool in the learning experience, whereas teaching through technology might be using VR or Minecraft, in which case the technology becomes central to the learning experience.   Am hoping the above clarifies this however please forgive me if it does not.

Looking back, I would also suggest that my focus was very much the bricks and mortar school and classroom and I underplayed the potential for technology to allow for learning beyond the physical confines of a school and also beyond the confines of the curriculum.    The potential for online learning has certainly been highlighted over the last year and a half during the pandemic, something I don’t think I fully considered back in 2013.


Looking back on the third layer I feel the balance implied by the three triangles of equal size suggested an equal value to the three strands I proposed.   This clearly isnt the case.   If anything, the teaching and learning section should likely be the largest, and further subdivided, while the IT for Management section should likely be the smallest, as we should be trying to reduce the administrative burden on teachers, to allow them to focus on teaching and learning.

That said, the final peak of my model, layer 4, was always about staff being confident enough to use technology or to be more exact, to experiment and try different tools and technology solutions.   Only through experimentation will teachers find the tools that work best for themselves and their students, and they will only do this if they feel safe and confident enough to do so.   For this confidence to occur we need the basic skills, the ability to do the management side of education using the technology tools provided, and most importantly the skills to use technology in teaching and learning itself.   So maybe this layer could be more nuanced, however at a basic level it may still be correct.


Categories in education

Within education we often make use of a variety of models in our everyday job and in discussions, as well as on social media.   Currently the model of a fixed or growth mindset is reasonably popular however it isn’t popular with everyone, with some people suggesting that the concept of fixed and growth mindset is very artificial.


Other models which have been common at one time or another including the concepts of blooms taxonomy, learning styles, the SAMR model for tech integration, students and gifted and talented students, to name but a few.   The purpose of each of these models is to help in our understanding.

Going back to the idea of fixed and growth mindsets, it is easier to make a comparison between these two models when we assume they are very much different.   Therefore it is easier to understand the two concepts by making such comparisons, with these comparisons reinforcing the distinction between the two concepts.   This leads to the view that distinct categories exist such as people which have a growth mindset and those that have a fixed mindset.

The truth is that in the real world things are not quite so simple.   Firstly humans change with time and dependent on the situations they find themselves in, the company they find themselves with, along with a variety of other factors.   As such a person may display characteristics associated with a growth mindset in one situation while displaying characteristics associated with a fixed mindset in a different situation.   In addition the actual concepts such as that of the growth mindset and fixed mindset are not binary categories with people being one or the other.    It may be better to describe categories such as the growth and fixed mindsets as two opposite ends of a continuum.   As such, within a given situation, a person may be more or less engaged in a growth mindset, displaying more or less prominently the characteristics of this mindset, with the same equally being possible for a fixed mindset.

So considering the above it might be appropriate to suggest that we could describe people as having a magnitude and probability within a given model, such as that of the growth and fixed mindset.   So a given person may have a high probability of displaying a moderate level of growth mindset characteristics, with a low probability of displaying strong fixed mindset characteristics when presented with a given situation, person or event.   This description may be more accurate in terms of describing a person, however I doubt it will catch on given the resulting complexity of the description.   I think a person like that indicated above would just be considered to have a growth mindset.

The main issue here is that the models we use, including the fixed and growth mindset, help us in understanding concepts and make descriptions easier.     This being said this ease is at the expense of accuracy.   It is important to remember this and not to take the models we use as being literally correct in that the distinctions between one and the other are knife edged, clear and provable.   They are not!   Plus people are complex and therefore tend towards unpredictable behavior and on some occasions even randomness.   The best any model can provide is a guide or a probability however a guide or probability is better than nothing.




%d bloggers like this: