TECH-ING CON­TROL

Expatriate Lifestyle - Essentials Education - - Contents - WORDS RO­HAN YUNG PHO­TOS IS­TOCK­PHOTO

Tech­nol­ogy can be a dou­ble-edged sword. Find­ing out how schools ap­proach its use in lessons is im­por­tant to en­sure your chil­dren ben­e­fit ost

When it comes to tech­nol­ogy, you do not have to ask twice with chil­dren. The chal­lenge is to en­sure that stu­dents are in­ter­act­ing with tech­nol­ogy in a mean­ing­fully ed­u­ca­tional way. Ro­han Yung takes a closer look at the

chal­lenges and how schools are over­com­ing them

How do you help stu­dents bridge the chasm be­tween in­ter­est and mastery?This is an eter­nal chal­lenge that all ed­u­ca­tors face.

Young chil­dren have end­less cu­rios­ity and won­der for the work­ings of the nat­u­ral world around them, but few go on to ac­quire a ma­ture set of s ien­tifi s ills and no ledge. im­i­larly young chil­dren in­stinc­tively wrig­gle about and vo­calise along with their favourite tunes, but not many build on this ini­tial mu­si­cal in­ter­est to be­come ac­com­plished dancers or singers.And so it goes with teach­ing tech­nol­ogy at pri­mary level.

When it comes to tech­nol­ogy, you do not have to ask twice with chil­dren. This gen­er­a­tion of young ones un­der the age of 12 are true dig­i­tal na­tives. Theirs is a world sat­u­rated, and even de­fined y s reens and ired de i es and the in­escapa­bil­ity of the IoT (the In­ter­net of Things).

Stu­dents not only want to learn about tech­nol­ogy, they ex­pect it.The task that a teacher faces, then, is to en­sure that stu­dents are in­ter­act­ing with tech­nol­ogy in a mean­ing­fully ed­u­ca­tional way, and not just on a s erfi ial assi e le el.

CHAL­LENGES

here are t o sig­nifi ant it alls as­so­ci­ated with the teach­ing of tech­nol­ogy at pri­mary level.

he first is that te hnol­ogy might ac­tu­ally hin­der, rather than sup­port, learn­ing. Con­sider how eas­ily the o er o the in­ter­net an i rom pos­i­tive to neg­a­tive. For in­stance, speedy ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is use­ful for home­work as­sign­ments but this im­me­di­acy can also un­der­mine at­ten­tion span. Sim­i­larly, equip­ping chil­dren with iPads and lap­tops ex­pands their abil­ity to cre­ate their own con­tent, in­clud­ing their own com­puter pro­grammes; how­ever, th­ese de­vices also drain their time with the siren call of so­cial me­dia and games.

Pri­mary level chil­dren are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to com­puter ad­dic­tion, since they have not had enough time to prac­tice de­layed grat­ifi ation. hools o ten ha e to ma e it a oint to de­fine lear poli­cies re­gard­ing their at­ti­tude to­wards tech­nol­ogy.

Sarah Moses, Pri­mary Com­put­ing Co­or­di­na­tor at the Bri­tish In­ter­na­tional School of Kuala Lumpur (BSKL) notes: “The use of hard­ware and soft­ware should be pur­pose­ful and only used to en­hance stu­dents’ learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, rather than dis­tract from it.”

Nexus In­ter­na­tional School also takes into ac­count the well­be­ing of its stu­dents be­yond school­ing hours:“We pro­mote an ac­tive lifestyle, and sug­gest that tech­nol­ogy must be used in bal­ance ac­cord­ing to other ac­tiv­i­ties a stu­dent does in their spare time. We ad­vise par­ents reg­u­larly on “com­puter ad­dic­tion” and give guid­ance and how they can help to con­trol the amount of time their chil­dren spend us­ing tech­nol­ogy.”

The sec­ond pit­fall is that it might ac­tu­ally be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to con­tain such an amor­phous con­cept as ‘tech­nol­ogy’ within the bounds of a struc­tured syl­labus. hy o nter rod ti e he first gen­er­a­tion of am­a­teur com­puter pro­gram­mers in the 1970s were mo­ti­vated by the ex­cite­ment of discovery, by a free­wheel­ing any­thing-goes spirit.Thus you had pre-teen Bill Gates and Steve

Jobs tin­ker­ing away in­de­pen­dently on com­put­ers, build­ing their own sim­ple pro­grammes while dream­ing of rad­i­cally new worlds. The dan­ger of set­ting syl­labus re­quire­ments and achieve­ment stan­dards is that it might sti e young stu­dents’ ca­pac­ity to direct their own stud­ies. Chil­dren might be­come less likely to strike out

Pri­mary level chil­dren are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to com­puter ad­dic­tion as they have not had enough time to prac­tice

de­layed rati catio ”

on their own ex­ploratory tan­gents. Ex­plic­itly teach­ing tech­nol­ogy might ma e the field too do­mesti ated it be­comes just an­other sub­ject when, in ac­tual fact, tech­nol­ogy is this wild, end­lessly-evolv­ing en­tity.This sec­ond con­cern is a cru­cial one to ad­dress, since it raises ques­tions that can­not be avoided:What ex­actly does it mean to teach tech­nol­ogy at pri­mary level? And how should this sub­ject be taught?

DEFIN­ING THE

CON­TENT OF A PRI­MARY TECH­NOL­OGY ED­U­CA­TION

What as­pects of tech­nol­ogy should be taught at pri­mary level? For a start, it is im­por­tant for pri­mary stu­dents to learn how tech­nol­ogy might be put to use in dif­fer­ent con­texts.Well planned projects and lessons will help stu­dents to think of tech­nol­ogy as a range of mul­ti­fac­eted, pow­er­ful tools. Alexan­der Turner, Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Coach & E-Learn­ing Leader at Gar­den In­ter­na­tional School (GIS) ex­plains: “Tech­nol­ogy is used to en­hance all ar­eas of our cur­ricu­lum. Skills are taught through the rich con­text of other dis­ci­plines, this could range from pro­duc­ing dig­i­tal me­dia in Art lessons to learn­ing how to re­search ef­fec­tively on­line to fur­ther an en­quiry.” An in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of in­te­grat­ing tech­nol­ogy into a tra­di­tional sub­ject is of­fered by Tim Gas­coigne, K-2 Tech­nol­ogy In­te­gra­tion Spe­cial­ist at Mont’Kiara In­ter­na­tional School (M’KIS).“Take for ex­am­ple a class study­ing maps and geog­ra­phy. Al­low­ing the stu­dents to use the interactive fea­tures of Google Maps on an iPad or a com­puter gives per­spec­tive that a at ma does not as the st dents an reate ro tes find la es and na igate more e fi iently. e hnol­ogy is not an add-on, it is a part of what we do.”

In re­cent years, it has also be­come com­mon to de­clare that ‘cod­ing is the new lit­er­acy,’ but hat le el o oding rofi ien y sho ld e e e ted rom a hild elo the age o t is prob­a­bly ad­vis­able to wait till sec­ondary school to ex­plic­itly cover ab­stract top­ics like vari­ables and loops and ob­ject ori­ented prin­ci­ples. How­ever, it would make sense to pre­pare for th­ese ideas by in­tro­duc­ing chil­dren to the ba­sics of com­pu­ta­tional think­ing.

Sarah Moses of BSKL ex­plains that com­pu­ta­tional think­ing is all about ‘tack­ling large prob­lems by break­ing them down into a se­quence of smaller, more man­age­able prob­lems.” She goes on,“At BSKL, pupils be­gin by learn­ing what al­go­rithms are.This does not al­ways in­volve com­put­ers, we look at sim­ple sets of in­struc­tions, break­ing down or daily rou­tines and build on pupil’s knowl­edge.”

Cod­ing, af­ter all, is about giv­ing pre­cise, de­tailed in­struc­tions. If a stu­dent is skilled at giv­ing crys­tal­clear step-by-step di­rec­tions, then it is a cinch for them to pick up the spe­cialised com­mands as­so­ci­ated with any pro­gram­ming lan­guage out there.

How should tech­nol­ogy be taught?

Pri­mary ed­u­ca­tors have to tai­lor their teach­ing strate­gies to the needs of their au­di­ences.This is par­tic­u­larly true when it comes to the thorny is­sue of cod­ing.

At this level, chil­dren tend to have shorter at­ten­tion spans and are more com­fort­able with the con­crete. Cod­ing can some­times seem to in­habit a very ar­cane and ab­stract uni­verse. This is why schools like Nexus en­cour­age the use of apps and pro­grams like Scratch and Tickle: th­ese lean more to­wards an in­tu­itive visual ap­proach and af­ford a quick rate of suc­cess, so that chil­dren do not get dis­cour­aged.

Ro­bot­ics classes are also on the rise in Malaysia. Com­pa­nies like Roboti­cist and Edu360 of­fer cour­ses which help chil­dren to learn about cod­ing and tech­nol­ogy by get­ting them to be hands-on. In or­der to build up long-term mo­ti­va­tion and to make sure that learn­ing is ac­tive, not pas­sive, schools make it a point to in­cor­po­rate an el­e­ment of cre­ativ­ity into this sub­ject. Nexus In­ter­na­tional School notes,“Our aim for our learn­ers is to cre­ate con­tent us­ing tech­nol­ogy, rather than con­sume con­tent with tech­nol­ogy. We want them cre­at­ing interactive books, pro­duc­ing and edit­ing movies, us­ing rel­e­vant gam­ing pro­grammes such as Minecraft so that they are en­gage in the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

There is just so much to ex­plore and learn where tech­nol­ogy is con­cerned. New pro­gram­ming lan­guages crop up all the time; cut­ting-edge tools are in­vented on a daily ba­sis; and old par­a­digms fade away all too quickly. A tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tor surely can­not be ex­pected to keep up with all the new de­vel­op­ments, es­pe­cially when he or she has to com­pete with the rapid learn­ing of a pri­mary class­room full o dig­i­tal nati es. his ed ator s role might e most s ess lly lfilled y hel ing stu­dents to de­velop tech-rel­e­vant skills of crit­i­cal think­ing, prob­lem solv­ing, and re­silience. He or she will also pro­vide the scaf­fold­ing so that stu­dents will de­velop ma­ture com­pu­ta­tional think­ing. As far as the nitty-gritty de­tails are con­cerned, it might be best to be more de­cen­tralised, to loosen the topdo n on­straints and to allo st dents the reedom to ta e ight.

It is no sur­prise then, that many schools pro­mote learn­ing from and amongst peers. Sarah Moses from BSKL shares,“We have our very own Digi-Tech Nin­jas lead­ing lunchtime clubs and pass­ing on their skills and knowl­edge to other pupils.” Alexan­der Turner out­lines a sim­i­lar ap­proach at GIS,“In pri­mary we have stu­dent dig­i­tal lead­ers who are am­bas­sadors for the use of tech­nol­ogy, this in­cludes mod­el­ling how to be safe and re­spon­si­ble on­line users and teach­ing their peers tips and tricks.”

In the end, the most im­por­tant skill that pri­mary tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tors can im­part is a spirit of ad­ven­ture: tech­nol­ogy’s rapid evo­lu­tion will not slow down, so chil­dren will have to de­velop an ap­petite for change.

What­ever the con­tent of the tech­nol­ogy syl­labus, pri­mary stu­dents will have to learn larger lessons about how to bridge tra­di­tional sub­jects with soft skills (like in­de­pen­dence and team­work) with ac­tual tech­no­log­i­cal know-how.

Well planned projects and lessons will help stu­dents to think of tech­nol­ogy as a range of mul­ti­fac­eted, pow­er­ful tools”

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