The role of technology in the classroom

Monday, June 11th, 2012 | education | 3 Comments

A thousand years ago a person could prosper without being literate; this is no longer possible today.  Thirty years ago a person could prosper without being digitally literate; this is likewise no longer possible today.  The workplace demands both literacy and digital skills and someone who enrols for a university course without them is at a disadvantage.  These skills must be developed before a child leaves school.

It follows that the debate is no longer “should we use technology in school” but rather “how can we accelerate the introduction of technologies into our classrooms”.  In other parts of the world technology has been a part of classrooms for decades but in South Africa we are lagging behind.  While educators in other countries are already experiencing the power of technology as teaching and learning tools, we are grappling with the basics.

Technology can be used in a classroom in different ways.

The first one is to teach learners about technology.  Just as good handwriting, spelling and grammar skills are basic building blocks for learning, so a sound understanding of technology is required.  It is important to know how to use a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation software and how to communicate effectively through email.  These are basic skills and we may assume that learners will pick them up by themselves, but we only have to look at the way they write SMS messages to understand that much more is required than merely knowing where to press the buttons.

Teaching with technology is the second level for which to aim.  Technology can be a powerful teaching aid.  Think about a teacher who uses a laptop and a data projector in the classroom to spice up lessons by showing interesting pictures or video clips.  This can spark off interesting class discussions, focussing the attention of learners on the learning material.  An interactive whiteboard can take this one step further, encouraging further interactivity.  If a teacher has a trolley with netbooks available, she can use this for drill and practise exercises to reinforce numeracy skills.  Innovative educators will find many ways in which technology can be used as a teaching tool.

Teaching through technology is the third level to which teaches must aspire in the classroom: technology devices can assume the role of tutors to assist teachers with teaching and learners with learning.  It becomes a tool for learners to find information, evaluate it, analyse it, and synthesize it to build knowledge.  Collaboration skills can be developed as well as other critical thinking skills required for twenty-first century living.

We have a long way to go to reach this third stage – most schools are still battling to bring technology into classrooms to get stage one off the ground!

The state alone can’t make technology in education happen, even though we are looking at the national and provincial education departments to take the lead.  NGOs and corporate organizations can play a major role in making technology in the classroom a reality.

The education system faces many challenges – making technology a part of the classroom experience is only one of them.  It is, however, a critical one if we do not want the digital divide to widen even further.

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What can motivate teachers to use ICT?

Monday, May 14th, 2012 | education | Comments Off

Computers can’t think – teachers must think how these tools can be used to stimulate the thinking of their learners.  But how can we motivate teachers to use technology at school?  The following suggestions may help:

ICT makes it easier for teachers to build a personal learning network (PLN) with fellow teachers, subject experts and gurus.

The payback for the investment a teacher makes in time to learn ICT must be measured in terms of improved teaching.

Explore the way teachers in other schools use technology – you will get ample tips for your own classroom.

It may also help to remind teachers who find it hard to change to the use of ICT of the technological changes with which their learners must contend.  It is their duty to prepare children in their care for life in the twenty-first century.

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How can technology help me with lesson presentation?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 | technology | 2 Comments

If you think technology is a great help to you while you prepare your lessons, it will be an even greater help to you when you present your lessons.  A variety of technology devices are designed specifically to support lesson presentation. 

You need a computer in the classroom to begin with.  But it is impossible for a large group of learners to see what is happening on the small screen of a computer or a laptop.  When you link a data projector to your computer you’ll be able to project a much larger image on a screen or a wall.  An interactive whiteboard takes you one step further – learners can interact with it as if it is an interactive touch screen.  Other electronic devices extend the use of technology even further.  You can cash in on the love of children for technology to make your lessons more interesting.

A few examples of how you can enhance your teaching with technology follow:

Learners become bored and distracted when you spend time to write notes on the board.  Technology makes it possible for you to prepare notes ahead of time and then to display them at an appropriate point during the lesson.  Using less time for writing leaves you more time for teaching.

Children love pictures and each one tells a story – they illustrate important points, or difficult concepts, by means of interesting images.  You can introduce sessions with a captivating picture, diagram or even a video clip, thereby setting the scene for the session and helping the class to focus on the purpose of the lesson; these images can likewise be used as part of your lesson presentation to illustrate concepts.

Interactive tools encourage learners to be involved in the lesson – that helps to keep their attention.

Technology can keep one group of learners busy while you are attending to another group.

After using technology in your class for a while, you will discover – as many other teachers have done – that there are many ways in which you can use it in your classroom and that you never want to be without it again!

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How can technology help my lesson preparation?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 | technology | 3 Comments

In teaching, lesson preparation is as important – if not more important – than lesson presentation.  Technology is a useful teaching tool even before you enter the classroom.  You know how cumbersome pens, paper, scissors and glue are as lesson preparation tools.  Technology can replace all of these manual tools.  Here are a few examples:

You can use a word processor to type your lesson notes, learner notes and handouts, even including electronic images.  The best part of this is that you can save your work for reuse next year – and if you need to make a change, only a few clicks are required.

Special programs – presentation software – enable you to prepare presentations to use in your lessons.  Presentations may include text (words, lists, descriptions or definitions), pictures, diagrams, sound and even video clips.  You can put together presentations that are much more exciting than a simple slide show.

The internet is a rich source of information – and it is free!  You’ll find an image of practically anything you’re looking for.  Once you become familiar with browsing around on the internet you’ll discover sites giving advice on the use of any conceivable technology device or any topic you want to teach.

You can borrow a presentation from another teacher and adapt it for your own use.  It this way technology enables you to benefit from the teaching experience of others – the time you’ll save is a bonus.

When you plan to take your learners to a computer room where they will use educational software packages, it is a good idea to work through the material on your computer or laptop at home.  Most software suppliers allow you to do so under the school’s licence agreement.  Previewing the material in this way enables you to know how best to guide the learners while they engage with technology; it will also help you to plan the integration of technology with other classroom activities.

Don’t underestimate the importance of preparation.  You know that the quality of your lesson is diminished if you skimp on preparation.  The use of technology will not only make preparation more enjoyable – it will also help you to do a superb job of it.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Of what value is a data projector in my classroom?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 | technology | 3 Comments

A single computer or laptop has little teaching value to a teacher in the classroom.  The main difficulty is that it is hardly possible for large groups of learners to see what happens on the small screen – this problem is solved by a data projector.

How does it work?  A data projector takes whatever is on the screen of the computer, and throws the image on a suitable surface – a wall or a screen.  You can enlarge the picture to any size you like – the further you move the data projector from the wall or screen, the bigger the picture will be.

The data projector is a huge step up from the old overhead projector, which also allows you to enlarge images for the entire class to see.  Data projectors do far more than simply enlarging pictures.  Because it is linked to your computer, you can do many things you can’t do with an overhead projector.  Here are a few examples:

With the use of special programs – called presentation software – you can prepare lessons beforehand and with a click of the button you move from one “page” to another.  No more slides to make, sort and handle!

With your computer you can find pictures and diagrams and work them into your presentations – even video clips can become part of your lesson.

If you have internet access in your classroom you can link to it in real time with your computer and display images to the class.  This helps you to take advantage of unexpected “teaching moments” – a learner may ask a question, and instead of giving the answer, you have the opportunity to show the entire class how research on the internet is done to find answers to questions.

Lessons can be saved for successive classes.  While presenting the lesson, you may feel the need to change or add something for future use.  All you have to do is change the presentation on your computer – only a few clicks are required – and it will be ready for display through your data projector for the next lesson.

When you bring technology in the classroom, a data projector should be high on your list of priorities.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Good teacher + technology = excellent teaching

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010 | e-Learning pioneers | 3 Comments

The e-pioneer regards good as bad when excellence is available.

“I’ve been a teacher for years and my tried and tested methods and tools are good enough for me,” some teachers may say when confronted with technology.

True, many teachers are good at what they are doing – but just imagine how much better they can be if they use available technology!  The different ways in which computers, interactive whiteboards and other technology devices can enhance the classroom experience are well documented.  Of course, it is agreed that these tools have little value, unless they are in the hands of skilled teachers.

Teachers may be good.  But they can be much better – in fact, excellent – when they embrace technology.

The task of the e-pioneer is to convince teachers of the value of technology.  During training sessions it is not enough to teach them which buttons to press.  Go beyond this point and help them to understand why and how technology can make a difference to their quality of teaching.  Show them the possible ways in which they can become better teachers; demonstrate to them the things they will be able to do with technology, which are not possible without it.

Our children deserve the very best.  Good technology is bad unless it is skilfully harnessed by excellent teachers.  The converse is also true – when excellent technology tools are available but not used, good teaching is just not good enough.

Click here for more food for thought for e-pioneers. 

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Computers as tutors?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 | education | 3 Comments

(Created by Kobus van Wyk using www.MakeBeliefsComix.com)

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Don’t forget the additional costs …

Friday, August 20th, 2010 | technology, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Schools are encouraged to acquire technology to enhance learning.

Teachers are encouraged to acquire technology to enhance teaching.

But be realistic – don’t forget to count the costs beforehand – consider the total cost of ownership.

          (Created by Kobus van Wyk using MakeBeliefsComix.com)

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Can a laptop improve learning in the classroom?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 | Computer Usage, laptops | 24 Comments

Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin.  The teacher teaches so that learners can learn.  It is generally accepted that the better a teacher teaches, the more the learners will learn.

If a laptop is a powerful teaching tool in the hands of a teacher, it becomes an indirect learning tool for learners.  In many schools laptops and other computers are still not available to learners.  In such situations a teacher can use a single laptop to prepare lessons and then present the information in an interesting way.  This would improve the quality of teaching which, in turn, could lead to improved learning.

Of course, for technology to have an effect on learning, it should be freely accessible to learners.  It is not recommended that you hand your personal laptop to the learners of your class, but if there are computers in the school they will be useful in different ways.

Rich learning resources on the internet and other electronic media will be available to learners.

Each learner could learn at a pace that is comfortable to the individual.

Computers are very useful for ‘drill and practice’ exercises, helping learners to hone their skills.

If your school does not yet have computers available for learners, do not despair.  Use the time to develop your own technical skills.  These skills are essential if you wish to guide learners in the use of technology, once they do gain access to it.  When you are proficient in the use of technology, you are in a powerful position to help learners to make optimal use of any technology that may be made available to them in the future.

In the meantime, use your laptop to improve your own teaching – this should have an immediate positive effect on learning in your classroom.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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Can a laptop be used as a teaching tool?

Sunday, February 8th, 2009 | Computer Usage, laptops | 2 Comments

You can use your laptop as a teaching tool in two ways:  it is a great help during lesson preparation, and it can be used for lesson presentation.

A laptop will make lesson preparation much easier, as you use it to type lesson outlines, gather teaching resources, and prepare assessment tasks.  The best part of it is that you can save your work for reuse next year!

If you want to use the laptop in a more direct way to present lessons, the small screen will be a problem.  It is impossible for a large group of learners to see what you display on a laptop screen.  You will need a projection device such as a data projector or an interactive electronic whiteboard if you want to use your laptop effectively for lesson presentation.

With the aid of special programs – presentation software – you will be able to prepare presentations to use in your lessons.  The presentation may include text (words, lists, descriptions or definitions), pictures, diagrams, sound and even video clips.  You can put together presentations that are much more exciting than a simple slide show.

Let’s now look at some says in which you can make your lessons more interesting with the use of your laptop:

Introduce sessions with a captivating picture, diagram or quote, thereby setting the scene for the session and helping the class to focus on the purpose of the lesson.

A picture is worth a thousand words – illustrate important points, or difficult concepts, by means of interesting images.

A video clip will capture the attention of the learners.

Display worked examples to a class in a step-by-step fashion.

You do not have to go through the laborious process of writing notes on the board – simply prepare them ahead of time and display them at the appropriate points in your lesson.  Just think about it – you can use these notes over and over, without the need to rewrite them.

During a class discussion, type learner suggestions and ideas and display them for all to see.  These notes can be saved and used repeatedly.

There are many resources from which information could be obtained for your presentations.

The internet is a rich source of pictures and video clips.

You can take your own pictures with a digital camera and incorporate them in your lessons.

Some interactive electronic whiteboard suppliers make their databanks of educational material available to teachers.

Colleagues may be willing to share their resources with you.

After using your laptop in the class for a while, you may discover – as many other teachers have done – that you never want to be without this useful teaching tool again!

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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