My overwhelming experience is of two types of IT classrooms. There are the classrooms that are led by an expert, a teacher with a qualification or outstanding experience with IT (these are rare), and the classroom which is led by the well-meaning enthusiast who was good enough to volunteer or needed the hours (these are plentiful). In short, the IT classroom has the broadest spectrum of instructor experience of any. In the expert’s classroom, expect to see students introduced to Gamification and Coding. In the volunteer’s classroom, students may spend the bulk of a semester learning how to create C.V.’s for imaginary jobs using Word 2004.
Too often, however, a similar pattern is evident in both the expert and the volunteer classroom. What is taught remains abstract and compartmentalised. It does not bleed into any other classroom. This is evident in the expert’s classroom where content becomes too focused. Yes, coding is an essential 21st century skill, and it may just produce the next Bill Gates. However, at this level of specialisation, even the EdTech enthusiast in the staffroom may not see any practical connections with their specific subject and what is being taught in IT. Essentially, there is a point at which EdTech stops being a useful pedagogical tool for all teachers and instead it takes its own specialist course.
It is important then to identify two forms of IT in schools. There is the subject specific content that introduces students to a possible career in programming, design etc., which, in large, remains in the IT classroom, and then there is classroom EdTech, which consists of speciality programmes, internet resources, Apps, and the use of technology such as cameras, green screen etc. which support learning in every classroom.
Traditionally, the degree to which a teacher uses classroom EdTech is seen as a personal choice. A teacher who is interested in technology will use a wide variety of programmes in support of their teaching; others will use none. As stated above, this can lead to tensions between colleagues. A less recognised problem however with the individualised or “hobby horse” use of EdTech is that when it is individually driven, teachers will have differing expectations for use of a programme and there will be multiple and even conflicting grading expectations. For example, a History teacher using Prezi may have different structural and citation expectations from the Biology teacher, and while the History teacher may place the bulk of his grade on the factual accuracy of the Prezi, the Biology teacher may be interested in how students have integrated data and graphs. Without collaboration or an agreed upon school-wide layout criteria and grading rubric, students can become confused and frustrated with the programme.
The key to ensuring the effective use of EdTech in every classroom then is less to do with the individual teacher proficiency and more to do with the teaching of EdTech in the IT classroom. In a staff meeting all teachers should come together to discuss the roles of EdTech in the classroom in supporting student understanding. Teachers should identify what State curricular requirements are common to all classrooms or a discussion could be initiated around Anderson, L.A. et al.’s revision of Blooms Taxonomy with the question “What programmes and technologies will we use to help students: 1. Remember, 2. Understand, 3. Apply, 4. Analyse, 5. Evaluate, 6. Create knowledge?” Teachers should be encouraged to devise a list of Apps and programmes for each category, like in this example by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.
If this process is managed in the IT classroom, then it matters very little what level of proficiency a teacher has. All the teacher needs to do is clearly articulate to the students what cognitive process they are about to teach and the students will be expected to proactively suggest and use the EdTech solution that best fits.
To ensure the effective use of EdTech across your school:
1. Have teachers create a table of EdTech tools that are transferrable and align with Bloom’s six cognitive processes or with State curricular requirements.
2. Have teachers create clear guidelines and grading rubrics for the use of these in the classroom.
3. Teach these tools in the IT classroom, making it explicit to students how each one relates to cognitive processing.
4. Create a staffroom display which is regularly updated to show what skills students have learned in IT so that teachers know to provide opportunities in their planning to allow students to use them.