They know too much…Or do they?

So, if you have read my blog so far you will know that I am an accidental primary IT and computing teacher. 

When I was first asked to lead the computing department, I had no real idea of what to expect.  It is a growing school [EXCITING], but also one of the main objectives is to be the leading technology school in the UAE [SCARY]. Potentially a very big and important job.

Having always thought of myself as a teacher who used technology.  I am willing to try new devices and apps in my lessons, which would support the learning, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try leading a new area of the curriculum. So over the summer, I immersed myself into books, on my iPad, reading a range of different books from basic curriculum to embedding ICT across the primary curriculum. 

Why? mainly due to my fear that I wouldn’t know how to teach computing in our new digital age, or our fourth industrial revolution (my new favorite term). 

I remember talking to a friend who is in charge of computing for their primary curriculum and he questioned why I was so worried? I had been a teacher for a long time, and in the end as long as you know your curriculum, teaching it would come easily, surely?

Despite the reassurance I kept reading and making notes and by the end of summer I had so many ideas and wanted to share so much with the new collegues at school.  As well as wanting to be at least one step ahead of our pupils who “know so much about technology”.  I think I could have burst with the amount of things which I now knew.

Did it help, well yes, in some ways I felt ready and empowered me to teach a range of different class based activities.  But when it came to actually starting, I found that I was trying to fit far too much in to my lessons, and pupils were unable to successfully complete activities.

Then came the lightbulb moment: There really is such a thing as too many applications.  It really took me a few months to fully get my head around it.  In fact, it was only after attending my first EduTech Conference in Dubai that I clicked. My realisation came at much delight to my principal! Less is definitely more, but now was the job to prove that to others.  I think as teacher we worry that we need to keep pupils interested in lots of new things, which is where the problems can occur.

More recently, I was listening to a fantastic episode on @PodcastEdTech where the brilliant point was made that people assume that children know so much about apps and technology, but in reality, they do not.  They know a really small amount, and mainly only about things which they have been exposed to.

Now in my classroom, I try not to use too many different apps with the pupils at once. As a school one of our main priorities is to focus in on specific apps which would be used and mastered, not only by pupils but by our staff as well.  So this comment really resinated with me.  We are all so worried about how “tech savvy” pupils are, but we forget that they are only as good as we allow them to be.

If we as teachers focused on ensuring pupils were masters in apps and not just skimming from the top, progress and skills development would be much deeper.

So over this academic year we have begun to be more focused in our expectations of using apps.  We are a 1-1 device school, so we are very lucky to always have the technology available. But instead of all using different applications and clouding pupils with information overload.  We have been training teachers to become Apple Teachers.  Getting to grips with a range of brilliant technology which they already have just in their hands all the time. From there we also have a set of core apps. Nearpod, Explain Everything and Book Creator.  Three apps which allow us to flip the learning, allow for Peer and self assessment as well as personal learning. All of which allow us to create digital portfolios which we can show our learners progress. 

The more we use them, the better our pupils become at being able to focus on the learning outcome and less on the idea that they are using a device. We get pupils to upload work to showbie at the end of lessons, or projects for verbal feedback.  As we grow, we aim to be better at facilitating and using the right technology which allows learning to happen without gimmicks.

As we grow as a digital school, so will our pupils. We are already planning, as much as we can in our digital world for our KS3 and 4 pupils entering next academic year.  To ensure that they are equipped with the right tools to be employed in the fourth industrial era.

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Philippa Wraithmell

Educator K-12, Co-founder if Wii_Edu, BETT MEA Advisory Board Member, Apple Distinguished Educator, Apple Professional Learning Specialist. Education Technology Specialist. Working in the UAE.

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