“EVERYTHING WORKS SOMEWHERE, AND NOTHING WORKS EVERYWHERE” – Dylan Wiliam
Let me start this post right at the outset by stating that I am a big fan of using technology within the classroom. I have been advocating and using it within my own practice for many years and find that it can really engage learners in ways that traditional methods cannot. However, as the title of this post suggests it is not the panacea to everyone’s problems, concerns or needs. The use of technology within a classroom needs to be carefully considered and just lately I cannot seem to walk past a classroom or eavesdrop into a conversation without seeing or hearing something about Kahoot, Socrative, Nearpod, Padlet or another technology based app that could save education. As practitioners we need to skilfully select our pedagogical tools to best match a variety of variables, such as the personalities of our groups, the needs of our groups, the topics to be covered, the facilities available, our own confidence in the content, etc. etc. Getting this right is often key to creating a successful lesson.
Recently, my colleague asked me something to do with Padlet (a wonderful piece of kit that can aid learners in collaboration) and my first question back to her was, ‘why are using Padlet’? This seemed to stump my colleague somewhat and it feels more appropriate to let Rachel talk you through the next ten minutes and the impact our conversation had on her lesson:
“Following on from an excellent training session on the use of technology within the classroom, I felt that I needed to embed them into my lessons on a more regular basis and whilst it was still fresh in the memory. With that ‘I must do this now’ mentality set, I starting planning a group based activity using Padlet. I had delivered the same session to a group of sport students earlier in the week and wanted to use something different to the flipchart paper and pen activity I had used (although it had worked fine), so set about exploring Padlet. I asked Andy a question related to Padlet and his response of ‘why am I using it’ made me reflect upon my selection. My enthusiasm after the workshop for using technology straight away, took away my normal logical thought processes and this question of ‘why’ really helped me to refocus. A series of questions later (such as, what impact are you hoping to get from using it? Why use it with this particular group of learners? Is there something different that might be more effective?) and I had realised the mistake I was about to make. I was so desperate to try something new that I was about to use it at the wrong time, with the wrong group for the wrong topic! In the end and with a very ‘wriggly group’ that I only had an hour with, a quick, engaging lesson start was vital, and I was introduced to the ‘chalk pens’. I wrote key phrases on the student’s tables and they worked together in small groups to write their answers on the desk. It was quick, the students loved it and most importantly it was effective!! At the end of the lesson we had the following: happy and productive learners + a happy tutor = successful learning experience.”
Rachel’s story is an excellent example of how our enthusiasm for something new or innovative can sometimes lead us to make rash decisions in our choice of teaching and learning strategies. As my namesake, Ross McGill, the famous blogger from Teacher Toolkit states in one of his posts “…technology only features where it supports the learning”. The final three words of this statement are so important… SUPPORTS THE LEARNING. The use of technology in classrooms should not be gimmicky, it should not be used solely for the purposes of fun (although as a by-product of learning this is great) and it should not be used as a place to communicate IF our students are in the same room and could have a more meaningful learning conversation face to face. Ultimately, as practitioners we need to ensure that it’s use within our classrooms positively impacts upon our students learning. A very wise person said to me recently that ‘simple pedagogy done exceptionally well, is just as powerful!’
The two things that I would like you to take away from these ramblings are firstly, take time during your planning to carefully consider the learning and teaching strategies selected to ensure they maximise the students learning (and if this includes the use of technology then brilliant), and secondly, chalk pens are ace and very cheap!!!