“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
Ten steps to overcoming edtechnophobia
Sometimes it takes a survey to prove what we’ve all long suspected. Over a third of pupils (37 per cent) feel that “teachers lack confidence in digital skills and therefore create a barrier to using technology in learning,” reports a recent survey of one thousand FE students.
For those of us in the world of EdTech, The 2019 Learner Digital Perspectives Survey, prepared by Opinium for the Education and Training Foundation, was a must-read last year. (Perhaps we need to get out more!)
It gave us many reasons to be cheerful:
“Both learners and teachers make use of a wide range of technologies available to them, with teachers widely incorporating interactive digital elements in their teaching.”
Fact is, tech is a pervasive part of our students’ lives and increasingly integral to their learning outside school. Furthermore, many teachers worry that they’re being left behind and their pupils will find them out one day.
I write this for those playing catch-up who would like to be a little savvier with tech.
1. Narrow it down to what you actually need it for
We at Milk wouldn’t advocate adopting every tech tool which arrives on the market. An ex-teacher myself, I set up Milk (My Interactive Learning Kit) to save time. Technology is there to assist not enslave, though it doesn’t always feel that way. Remember: you’re in charge. Work out what you need to know, and how it could enhance your teaching life, both inside and outside the classroom.
2. Make it easy to start
Gently does it. Dip your toe in to test the water. Who are the EdTech evangelists in your school? Watch how they use technology. Sit safely on the side lines to start with, whilst writing a wish list of things you’d like to add to your teacher IT toolkit.
3. Find a buddy to learn with
Two brains are better than one. You can help each other when difficulties arise, or enthusiasm wanes. Having a learning buddy will boost commitment and accountability.
4. Find a buddy to teach you
Schools have IT departments or help desks, or IT champions, many of whom are more than happy to help. They’ll love you if you go to them having already had a go yourself or drawn up a list of things you can’t figure out.
You could also ask SMT to incorporate specific training into INSET.
5. Ringfence time for practice
You don’t expect your pupils to master your subject overnight, so be patient with yourself. We all need time to attain mastery. It will make a world of difference if you…
6. … Find a safe place to practise
Deep down, we all know that learning comes of productive struggle: head scratching and uncertainty, followed by occasional “Eureka!” moments.
Last lesson of the afternoon, at the front of the class, faced with tired, restless pupils is no place to try out those new skills.
I was reading about the Super Mario effect recently, which shows that we learn best when we’re alone and not under pressure to perform. Fear of penalties – even something as simple as losing points or lives in a computer game – impedes learning.
To that end, practise away from the crowds, alone: early doors when you’re fresh, or after the final bell when you need to do something different after a day’s teaching.
Have a play. Have fun with it. Experiment. What’s the worst that can happen?
Practice brings confidence.
7. Ask your allies in the classroom
Once you’re feeling more confident, you can then unleash your new-found superpowers on your pupils.
If you come unstuck, you’ll find they love to help and they thrive on responsibility.
The fact they can do something you can’t leads to the realisation we’re all learning. It’s a lifelong, ongoing process. This rocks their world, as well as super-charging their confidence. Just as importantly, it helps engender team building and a shared learning ethic in the classroom.
8. Ask your pupils what they want from EdTech
Innovation is all about helping them, after all.
The survey which sparked this post cited the following types of tech:
- presentation software
- typed worksheets
- online communities
- revision tools
- file sharing
- digital books
- voting/interactive devices
Ask them what they use and what they find genuinely useful.
One interesting disparity for me was that pupils are far likelier to use revision tools than teachers: 52% to 33% respectively, with 70% of languages students using digital flash notes for revision.
So, spark a discussion on EdTech in your next lesson. You’ll be amazed how it’s making a world of difference to how students learn, and how it inspires and motivates.
9. Online videos will show the way
Thanks to YouTube, we live in the age of how-to videos and life hacks. There’s a lot to choose from, of variable quality and relevance. So, once again, ask pupils and colleagues for recommendations.
Additionally, focus on one new trick at a time. Bite-sized means easier to take in and digest.
10. Teach your new skills
If you’re feeling brave, pass on your knowledge. Perhaps you could strike a deal with your learning buddy: they learn one skill while you learn another. You then teach each other. All teachers know that it is only by teaching that we truly learn.
As they say to trainee medics, to consolidate skills follow the three-step process: “see one, do one, teach one”.
For those still a little daunted, focus on the benefits. Tech is your teaching assistant, not your master.
See every new tool as a magic wand or spell.
You already use an array of them. Can you imagine life without printing worksheets or showing clips on YouTube? Even calculators or typewriters were techy once. They took an effort to learn, but saved hours and days in the long term, enhancing the learning experience for you and your pupils
In short, tech is there to save you time, and make you an even better teacher.
We really hope that you’re getting the most out of your Milk.
It’s easy to set up and we’re always on hand to help.
Always give Tech Support your Milk ID.
You’ll get all the support you need.
Mike Dowling and the team at Milk
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”