Encouraging students to bring their existing expertise – from other classes, from their home and social worlds, into our classrooms expands possibilities (Twining et al., 2017), but also removes another bottleneck: dependency upon in school digital technology training. It also offers us the opportunity to model those learning behaviours highlighted at the beginning of this chapter; verbalising emotions as we go through the challenge of learning new things together, and articulating strategies for overcoming those challenges. It prompts us to open up valuable dialogue with our students about how we make decisions about when to use, or not use, different tools.
The students we work with today are immersed in technologies across nearly all aspects of their lives. Using technology is a cultural norm which creates expectations from students (and their parents). It provokes big questions. For example, as one student explained:
“At home when I’m interested in something I just ask Alexa or Google it. Sometimes that gives me the answer, and sometimes it confuses me and I need to ask my mate or my Dad to help me understand it. Or I look up a better site. But when I’m at school we’re not allowed to do that. It seems really weird to me. We’re supposed to go to school to learn. But it’s like they are trying to stop us learning.”
This student is not the only one who sees their school as preventing them from learning because of the restrictions around ICT use. Students know other teachers (in their school or at clubs or online) who encourage them to use ICT (or at least don’t stop them from using it!). So that leaves us. You and Me. Do we really want to be a teacher who is choosing to prevent learning because of the choices we make within our own classroom?
Let’s instead embrace a greater Digital Mindset. Let’s recognise the trust already being placed in us by our leaders, students and families, and the empowerment that we already have within our own classrooms.
This blog series has set you a series of challenges to consider – including that;
- As Teachers we have more agency than we might think
- Small changes in emphasis can make a big difference
- How you view your students impacts on how you interact with them and your expectations of them
- Subtle changes in how you communicate with students can have a big impact
- Digital technology can enhance student agency (and engagement) – but only if you let it!
- Digital technology can make your life easier by increasing the students’ independence
- Giving students opportunities to choose how to do things in class doesn’t have to mean totally changing how or what you teach (but will change how and what they learn)
- Normalising the use of digital technology can reduce the risk of it distracting students from the intended learning focus
Which of those challenges can you (will you) work on today and tomorrow?
We’d love to hear examples of your practice – particularly ways in which you have addressed the challenges above, and what impact you have seen as a result of doing so. Please get in touch by commenting on this post or contacting us via Twitter (@PeterT and @FionaAS) or by email (Peter.Twining@newcastle.edu.au and Fiona@onelifelearning.co.uk).
This series of blog posts was written by Fiona Aubrey-Smith and Peter Twining.
Posts in the series include:
1. Trust, Empowerment and Learning with Digital Technology
2. Trust and empowerment of teachers
3. What can you do in practice?
4. Trust and empowerment of students
5. But I can't because ...
6. In conclusion - expanding possibilities