Fiona Thomas, Teaching and Learning Specialist

Back to School 2019: Integrating Technology into Teaching and Learning

As the long summer break winds to an end here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re all thinking about the 2019 school year and what we need to have ‘ready’ for day one. 

I follow many teaching groups on social media and have watched with interest the discussions taking place as we approach the start of the school year. To decorate or not has been a hot topic in one group but I’m the ‘blank canvas’ classroom kind of teacher I don’t decorate too much, I like my students to feel a sense of ownership of the classroom - it’s theirs as much as it is mine.  Content, innovative ways to teach and where to buy cheap resources also dominate the groups I belong to, members vary from overwhelmed to excited and somewhere in between as the describe the approaching school year. 

Talking about tech

One topic however, I would like to see more discussion on is using tech in the classroom. Not the ‘oh this is the next new thing’ but a deeper discussion about integrating technology into teaching and learning successfully or not, as the case may be. There are lots of ‘top tips’ about integrating tech into your classroom but what about the ongoing discussions, the pitfalls, the positives and the things we should consider as we integrate technology. I frequently ask myself lots of questions on how a piece of technology will impact teaching and learning in my classroom and hopefully this blog post can help in starting this discussion with your colleagues.

What will it look like for my teaching and learning if I add or introduce tech into my class? How will it impact on me? Some of my best and worst teaching moments have involved technology, my best moments have included supporting diverse learners to access and participate in learning that they previously hadn’t been able to. While at my worst, I was thinking about the technology and not about the learning I wanted to take place, and most recently when faced with challenging student behaviours, how best to provide students access to technology while keeping them on the task.

Adding value

How will the tech add value to my teaching and student learning? I frequently question why I’m including tech in my teaching and learning. Is it because it’s new, it looks like fun, it may engage my students? Or because it’s the best tool to support my students to communicate, share, store and create? Will the tech I’m implementing create more work or potentially reduce my workload? 

When tech is integrated into teaching and learning it may change the way things happen in the classroom, which is no bad or good thing, just something to consider. If I use tech for note taking and writing, how does it impact on the processes I have in place for editing, feedback and sharing?  Do I need to adjust any of these processes and if so what does it look like? Do I need to re-establish guidelines for this with my students. If I create class notes and texts in alternative formats such as MP3, and digital notes what systems and processes do I need? For example, what if all students want to listen to the text at the same time do we have the equipment to allow for this? 

Can your classroom cope with the change?

Adding new technology means I’ll need consider the impact on both the physical classroom requirements and the impact on teaching and learning. Can the physical space manage this new addition? What’s the tech capacity of my classroom?  Is there enough space, can students use computers for group work or are they all lined up on a single wall? Power capacity, what if they all need charging while being used? Wifi and connectivity, can we all use devices at the same time without being frustrated by slow or limited access? Can I use the device or software without using the internet?   The answers may not all be positive and that’s ok but I need to consider how I can make it work if I really want to use the tech. Maybe group work is best done in other ways or maybe I rotate students groups using tech?

Include your students

It can be tricky but I have learnt, I cannot and do not need to be the expert on all things tech. My students bring a wide range of tech skills and experiences. Many come with a vast array of skills, I have learnt so much from my students, like, how to build a house and not get killed at night by ‘mobs’ in Minecraft; who knew adding a roof would make all the difference! My animation and coding skills have developed as I’ve learnt with my students and they have shown me many tricks and traps along the way. Setting up skilled students as experts creates a positive learning culture in your classroom, everyone has skills and everyone is learning.

As you consider the use of technology in your teaching and learning, invest some time talking and researching how it will impact you, your students and your class. Be prepared for things to happen differently, talk to your students and get their feedback. What did they like? Which way did they prefer to complete a task? Offer options that provide multiple means of access and expression for all the students. Learn new things and be amazed at their skills and abilities.

About Fiona

Fiona is the newest member of the AsiaPac Texthelp team, coming on board as our Teaching and Learning Specialist form the region. Formerly an Assistant Principal and Assistive Technology Advisor for the New South Wales Department of Education. She holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education and has worked across primary and secondary settings in NSW and Victoria for more than 30 years. Over that time, Fiona has been an avid user of technology to support the teaching and learning needs of the diverse range of students in her classrooms. Extending that role further by guiding and supporting other educators embarking on their own technology adventures.


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