Australia is well above the global average when it comes to the number of 1:1 digital technologies that are available and used among its school students. Children as young as 4 years are using computers, laptops and hand held devices whilst in their classroom as a tool for learning. Yet while our digital tech usage percentage is quite high, our ranking in the PISA results is way down.
What is the correlation?
While Australian schools and parents have spent tens of millions of dollars in equipping our students with cutting edge digital technologies, it’s not been shown to be increasing our levels of reading, writing, science or math’s. The data that is presented to us on this topic would have us believe that it has in fact set us further behind other countries than we had ever thought we would be.
It’s not the tools that are the problem, it’s how we use them. The level of technology that we have in front of us today is developing faster than most teachers have ever experienced in their lifetime. Technology changes so quickly, it can be very difficult to keep up. It seems that every week there are new apps, new websites, new coding languages, new devices, new EVERYTHING, and sometimes we as teachers simply don’t know what to do with it. We have the tools, but not necessarily the skills to use them well. The time needed to update teacher’s skills and to allow them to explore and learn new ways to teach using the technology is very limited. The odd teacher Professional Development in-service for half a day once a year may not be enough.
We’re now in 2020. The future that we dreamt of as children, is here. We can do better than using our laptops for simple word processing, researching and graphic presentations. The tools in our hands are powerful, but misused and misunderstood. We should be teaching our students to use them to enhance their thinking, to get them to see things differently and to experiment with doings things in ways they would never have thought of doing them before. AS teachers we need to think ‘outside the box’ and use digital technologist as not just stand alone tools, but in collaboration with other tools to enhance learning and teaching, and to use them to teach students how to think, rather than what to think.