Last week’s article in The Australian, “Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste‘”, has had considerable air time in the educational communities of which I am a part. These include my home, my workplace, my social media networks, as well as my university community, where my study revolves around innovation and creative use of technology in schools. It has given me considerable cause to think about the issues it raises and the aspects with which I reluctantly agree as well as those I vehemently oppose.

Dr Vallance’s comments may be valid in many school contexts. Most educators will be able to cite a classroom or a colleague where some level of babysitting with technology has been evident and devices are used with little planning and real integration. However, I would argue that it is not the norm and the inference that technology has introduced ‘slackness’ in teaching does an incredible disservice to the vast majority of teachers who are doing their utmost to adapt their pedagogy to suit the new world where technology and managing its efficient use is integral to life and work (Wheeler, 2015).

However, questioning the most effective use of technology should be an ongoing conversation in schools and homes. This evening, my teenage son told his father that he does not take a device to school as he prefers to use a pen and paper. He indicated that he does not trust himself to avoid distractions should he get bored with a device in his hand. In his BYOT school, and with a device available to him, my son has determined that at this point in time a laptop or tablet is not the best tool for his learning. An important consideration here is the fact that he has choice. According to Mal Lee (2015), students should have governance over how they learn and what technology it is that will best suit their learning needs. I appreciate that in my son’s learning community, he has the choice to learn with or without a device in hand as it is his learning. Technology is available should he need it but a device is not fundamental to every learning process.

Valuing the use of technology in education today does not mean we replace everything we once valued. In my own classroom in a relatively high tech school, I find it necessary to vary the skills and processes employed, a strategy likely to suit a range of learning styles and limit issues with screen overload. There is a need for balance and variety to sustain an engaging educational experience. The 21st Century fluencies outlined by Lee Crockett, including problem solving, creativity, analytical thinking, communication and collaboration skills are all possible without a device in hand; however, successful integration where technology is employed to enhance learning may provide considerable scope to extend the learning opportunities, bring in global and societal competencies and the capacity to apply these skills ethically and with accountability.

I contend that schools or classrooms where technology is not being used effectively reflect Wheeler’s assertion (2015); it is no longer effective to use 1.0 pedagogies to teach students in a 2.0 world. The use of technology in education must not simply replace traditional processes, but rather integrate the very social and collaborative skills Vallance indicates are essential through the carefully planned and integrated use of Web 2.0 technologies. As Lee (2015) recommends, the successful integration of technology requires schools to change and educational leaders to adopt a new mindset, support change, take risks and support the school community to continuously evolve and develop.

References

Bita, N. (2016). Computers in class ‘a waste’Theaustralian.com.au. Retrieved 4 April 2016, from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/computers-in-class-a-scandalous-waste-sydney-grammar-head/news-story/b6de07e63157c98db9974cedd6daa503

Crockett, L. (2013).Literacy is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. YouTube. Retrieved 4 April 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8DEeR1sraA

Lee, M. (2015). The importance of BYOTTeacher Magazine – ACER. Retrieved 4 April 2016, from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/article/the-importance-of-byot

Wheeler, S. (2015). Learning with ‘e’s: Educational theory and practice in the digital age. United Kingdom: Crown House Pub Ltd.