All schools are now using ICT, but why is it being used in the classroom and what is the benefit?
Engagement and motivation
Firstly, we should acknowledge that technology is such a large part of many students’ lives -this includes smart phones, tablets and PCs. This does not provide a reason to use it, but as it is something so many students are familiar with, it is good to capitalise on their interest as it provides a good level of motivation for a task. With increased motivation, comes increased engagement, and therefore increased learning.
This is a buzzword in education at the moment, meaning learning that takes place through a combination of traditional teacher led learning and online content. This has the advantage of being able to provide experiences that would otherwise be beyond the classroom – take the recent interaction with the Space Station when Tim Peake was on board as an example. This brings learning to life by providing a variety of multi-sensory stimuli that will suit a much greater range of learning styles.
Using technology offers greater opportunity for students to take charge of their own learning, both varying input (under the supervision and direction of their teachers)- following paths that they want to pursue further, and output - by using different tools to help them to present a task. This opportunity for personalisation also builds in a chance to vary the pace, accelerating those with a good understanding of a topic, whilst supporting those who need reinforcement. At the beginning of this academic year I visited the Plymouth School of Creative Arts. The students there use an online platform to access their project-based learning, choosing their path through it. The engagement and focus of the students as I walked around was very clear, as was their collaboration on the tasks.
Using ICT to support project based learning develops good life skills for students, whilst under the support of a teacher: helping them to self-regulate and pace their learning; to draft and re-draft work and to gain a real understanding of safety issues concerning technology. Part of the duty of care of a school is to teach students how to stay safe online, to protect their identity etc.
We live in an age where there is an increasing range of excellent tools to support those with learning difficulties, bringing their learning onto an equal footing with their peers. Many tools are now incorporated into the technology, for example Reader View on an iPad which simplifies webpages and reduces distractions, as well as allowing users to select their preferences in terms of background colours, font type and size. Just this week, one of my students showed me how to change the accessibility settings on an iPad to allow a colour filter to be present for those with Visual Stress. Using technology, such as a school’s online learning platform, also provides the opportunity for students to revisit and revise topics, especially if their processing speed may be slower than their peers.
These factors combine together to raise standards within schools. Research has shown that ICT can have a positive impact on student performance and that the greater the e-maturity of a school, the more rapid the increase in their performance.
At the end of the month, I am looking forward to going to the annual BETT exhibition in London, which focuses on technology in education. Last year some of the highlights included virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, coding and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths applications). These technologies are transforming education by immersing students in activities that would have previously been inaccessible. On visiting the New Scientist Live exhibition recently with my daughter, I bought a ‘Virtualitee’ - a t-shirt which can be viewed through a VR headset (using the app) so that the inside of the human body can be explored, seeing the digestive, respiratory, skeletal and circulatory systems together.
At the heart of success with ICT is understanding the teaching approach that best suits the students and using ICT to help you achieve those goals. It is an exciting world we live in and, at Da Vinci School, we want our students to use technology to get excited about learning and to take their own learning forwards.