Digital Tech & Daily Practice

My initial experience of teaching with technology was with VLEs such as BlackBoard and others. Fortunately today we have other tools and platforms which are not so clunky and allow both teachers and students to access information more easily. As many others, I think the major change happened with Web 2.0, when all of a sudden, not only could one consume information, but now there was the opportunity to actually create one’s own space of information and knowing. Horizons shifted and education was shaken out of passivity. Learning today is not an isolated experience when one is outside the classroom. Education today involves networking and generating ideas, sharing and creating knowledge – not only for the few who hold positions in restricted academic offices, but for all participants in learning.

Although I agree in general with John Page when he explains his Ten Fundamental Reasons for Technology in Education, there are two points which I believe need to be addressed more cautiously.

1 – There seems to be an often misunderstood conception of learning and teaching. I don’t think that digital tech in the classroom does away with teaching – quite the contrary. Students today may carry their digital devices with them yet still need guidance and clear instruction as to how best make use of so many digital tasks, from opening an email account, to blogging, to how to participate in online communities and networks. The expression of being a “facilitator” seems to be more acceptable, trendier, less authoritarian perhaps. Yet, from my point of view, facilitating and guiding are two of the varied roles an educator plays out. Self-inquiry, fostering critical thinking, project-based activities do not exclude the role of teaching. I am not defending the caricature of the teacher from days gone by; however even with the integration of digital technology, there is teaching and not merely guiding, especially when one is working with young learners and young adults.

2 – The second point I disagree somewhat with, refers to collaboration. I have been spent over 20 years in classrooms and boardrooms. In both educational and commercial settings I have had my students and trainees collaborate together, whether on projects or presentations. What has changed is not the social element of collaboration, but the degree to which collaboration can now be taken – from one’s classroom to other classrooms, from isolated homework tasks to collaboration online.

On the other hand, as someone who integrates digital tech on a regular basis in my classroom practices, there is much that I agree with.

When John Page points out the weight of books, I agree with his argument of static text. Today we can have digital books which students read, listen to, and mash up on their digital devices. Content is no longer static and OER are offering more opportunities for one’s selection of educational resources. An example I am often proud to point out is how my students take up blogging in a second language. They are learning through a different language, a different script; they are learning technical know-how and apply their digital knowledge with enthusiasm and success. Integrating digital tech in one’s practices not only engages today’s learners more sharply, but also gives those who have lesser academic talents the opportunity to create something and succeed. To a certain extent, this is how I regard the democratisation of learning – giving the opportunity to someone to learn and achieve. Today learning also includes learning digital literacies, and this opens more windows of opportunities to learners who may not be so academically driven nor motivated.

Has my experience in integrating digital tech been flawless and problem-free? No. Not at all.

Yes, there are times when  technical glitches are beyond my control. And yes. There have been times too when students ask why learning digitally is relevant and practically reject all that is digital for their learning. Moving from the chalkboard to using a Blackberry for learning, for instance, takes time. Bridging gaps of knowledge and practice requires time, examples and clarity. Creating an environment where students are engaged in their tasks, using digital tech takes dedication and passion too. Another example that comes to mind is how some students groan when I tell them that we are going to a LMS called Edmodo. Those who are already familiar with the platform perceive it only as a messaging forum for the teacher to assign tasks and quizzes. Edmodo does have that feature, but can also be used in other ways which capture a learner’s attention. For instance, it is possible for the teacher to create smaller groups within one group and have students collaborate on writing stories. There are visual games which can be played to revise vocabulary as well as other activities such as creating polls. These may seem like small details however they give learners another level of engagement and participation in their learning experience.

I will be soon revisting the role of digital literacies, and would like to refer to Bloom’s Digital Taxanomy Wheel & Knowledge Dimension as a way of an ending today.

Further references:

The Myth of the Digital Native

What is the Real Obstacle to Integration of ICT in the Classroom – Annick Arsenault Carter

What to do when a Student hates Technology – Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton

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8 thoughts on “Digital Tech & Daily Practice

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  2. I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts and I share most of them. Although I keep repeating that I am not the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side, I also feel that we are teaching now more then ever. I find my motivation in educators like yourself that dare innovate.
    M. Stephen Downes himself translated my blog and I appreciate you adding me as a reference. (While automatic translations are quite convenient, there are a few grammar and sentence structure mistakes that could affect comprehension, so feel free to question me at any time).
    Regards, Annick Arsenault Carter

    • Hi Annick,

      Thank you for your time and consideration to visit and leave your thoughts. Yes, I actually discovered your blog through Stephen Downes and was delighted! I also agree with you and had to include your reference here.

      I don’t have a problem in being a “teacher”; what I find curious is how educators are almost afraid of identifying themselves as “teachers” rather than facilitators, etc. Of course I understand how there is a need to find a different label for teachers today; but one shouldn’t forget that as educators we do wear different hats in the classroom – there are moments when I am teaching, there are moment when I am guiding, moments when I am the facilitator. It depends on my context (who are the learners – are they professionals? young adults?) and the stage of the lesson itself.

      And as you say, we DO need to teach. The younger generation is not exactly born with a iPad or mouse in their hands :-) and though they are involved in social networks etc, they don’t always know how to navigate the web for learning purposes.

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