In a meeting discussing the implementation of a BYOD scheme recently I heard an argument from a senior colleague which genuinely surprised me. They were arguing that, in light of the rise of socratic style seminars in some of the world’s best schools, we should reduce the use of technology as it hampers students ability to communicate with each other.
Whilst I completely agree that communication skills are really important and agree that approaches such as socratic discussions can be very powerful in building this, it is the argument that the use of technology undermines this which I feel most strongly about. The argument went along the lines that if students are working on devices they won’t be able talk to each other and won’t be able to collaborate. I can see how you get to that point in the argument, we have all seen people using their personal devices at the expense of conversing with people around them. But do we really believe this is the way we use tech in the classroom?
I quickly scrambled to pull up (from my device, which until then had been sat, inactive, on the table in front of me whilst I participated in the meeting fully I add!) examples from my own classroom of some of the ways in which we use ed-tech to support, encourage, build and improve communication and collaboration – not diminish it. As I was talking through just a couple of the ways we had done this it occurred to me that I was looking at some pretty surprised educators. The variety of ways in which I use tech in my classroom to support and enhance learning was in contrast to the notion that the predominant uses would be individual, mostly for internet based research and perhaps typing up notes/assignments, or working on a powerpoint presentation. Furthermore my students are some of the youngest in our school at 6-7 years old (in a 5-18 school), which seemed to add to the surprise.
The meeting moved on, we discussed policy issues, digital safety, insurance, physical and intellectual infrastructure, etc. But later, when reflecting on the meeting, I realised that the success or limitations of blended learning, BYOD, whatever system it may, ultimately rests on the school’s intellectual infrastructure. Yes we must have all the other things in place. And, yes intellectual infrastructure should include some structured training, but more importantly it needs a culture of self-driven learning and best practice sharing within the school. It would be just as impossible to attend a course for every app, website, idea, etc. that could be used in education as it would to try and actually use all of them. But we do need a way to share ideas, and expose teachers to some of the possibilities and feedback on how effective they were. If we compare this to literature, we cannot expect a teacher to have read every book in existence to select the most appropriate and engaging to study, but we do talk about what we have done in the past, heard about from colleagues and friends, share ideas and resources, etc.
From this I went back to the primary school thinking about how we could improve our practice sharing (more on that in an upcoming post). Whilst my school may not, yet, have an embedded culture of this (we are working to build it, but it will take time), there are many educators I can connect with online who do. I have dabbled in blogging in the past, but it fell to the wayside with other projects and a busy life going on around us. But this discussion gave me renewed impetus to grow the ways in which I learn from the practice of others via online sources, collaborate with others beyond my school and to share my own practice too. It became painfully apparent I was narrowing the scope of my own learning far too much. This blog represents one facet of this, sharing my own practice, and hopefully will also help me to connect and collaborate a little more too. I still believe blogging to be a hugely powerful tool for educators, so I am hoping to reinvigorate my own involvement!
In the past I’ve shared some ideas from my own practice, as well as broader, more theoretical posts too. I’m hoping to continue this, balancing between the need to discuss, debate and understand the theory behind our practices, with the need for concrete ideas which can be easily applied to a classroom.