Ap­proach­ing tech­nol­ogy in schools

Tech­nol­ogy is ev­ery­where, in­ter­twined with al­most ev­ery part of our daily lives. It af­fects how we shop, so­cialise, con­nect, play and, most im­por­tantly, learn.

Malta Independent - - ENEWS & TECH - Jonathan Mizzi is Man­ager of the Alert Dig­i­tal by Deloitte Data Cen­ter. For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.alert.com.mt Jonathan Mizzi

As we sail through the 21st cen­tury, tech­nol­ogy is be­com­ing more and more pre­dom­i­nant in the way we ac­cess in­for­ma­tion. Tablets seem to be on their way to­ward re­plac­ing text­books, and we can re­search just about any­thing that we want from wher­ever we are on our smart­phones. So­cial me­dia has be­come com­mon­place, and the way we use tech­nol­ogy has completely trans­formed the way we live our lives. There­fore, with this great and in­creas­ing pres­ence in our lives, it only makes sense to have ICT (In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy) in our class­rooms too.

A study car­ried out by the IT Trade As­so­ci­a­tion showed that the im­pact tech­nol­ogy has on today’s schools has been quite sig­nif­i­cant. The wide­spread adop­tion of tech­nol­ogy has completely changed how teach­ers teach and how stu­dents learn. Teach­ers are learn­ing how to teach with emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies such as tablets, smart­boards and com­put­ers, while stu­dents are us­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy which is also in­flu­enc­ing the way they learn. Ac­cord­ing to the study, stu­dents pre­fer tech­nol­ogy be­cause they be­lieve that it makes learn­ing more in­ter­est­ing and fun. Sub­jects that stu­dents deem chal­leng­ing or bor­ing can be­come more in­ter­est­ing with vir­tual lessons, through a video, in­ter­ac­tive white­board ac­tiv­i­ties or with the use of a tablet.

In ad­di­tion to this shift, tech­nol­ogy also oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant place within stu­dents’ lives. When they are not in school, just about ev­ery­thing that they do is con­nected in some way to tech­nol­ogy. There­fore, by in­te­grat­ing and im­ple­ment­ing tech­nol­ogy based lessons into the class­room, teach­ers are changing the way they used to teach, and are pro­vid­ing stu­dents with the tools that will take them through the 21st cen­tury.

ICT is con­stantly changing. As an in­sti­tu­tion it needs to keep up with the times in or­der to best pre­pare stu­dents for the ev­er­chang­ing world that they live in. Many in the Ed-Tech field see new tech­nolo­gies as pow­er­ful tools to help schools meet the needs of ever more di­verse stu­dent pop­u­la­tions. The idea is that dig­i­tal de­vices, soft­ware, and learn­ing plat­forms of­fer what was once an unimag­in­able ar­ray of op­tions for tai­lor­ing ed­u­ca­tion to each in­di­vid­ual stu­dent’s aca­demic strengths and weak­nesses, in­ter­ests and mo­ti­va­tions, per­sonal pref­er­ences and op­ti­mal pace of learn­ing. Through var­i­ous eLearn­ing re­sources, stu­dents have the ben­e­fit to re­search and study when­ever and what­ever they want. There are no fixed timeta­bles, so peo­ple from dif­fer­ent time zones can now do the same cour­ses in the same aca­demic in­sti­tute. Stu­dents can also take their ex­am­i­na­tions when­ever they want with the time pro­vided to them.

In Malta, most of the pri­vate and pub­lic schools have al­ready adopted com­puter labs with state of the art tech­nol­ogy and, by end of 2017, pub­lic schools will be pro­vided with tablet com­put­ers for year 4 stu­dents. There­fore, ICT in ed­u­ca­tion is be­ing ex­plored to en­hance its po­ten­tial for tech­nol­ogy and to re­de­fine the terms of teach­ing and learn­ing.

Look­ing at how this ap­proach might best be served, here are a few note­wor­thy ob­ser­va­tions:

All teach­ers should be equipped with the knowl­edge, tools and en­thu­si­asm to fully in­te­grate qual­ity learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties into ICT. This would max­imise the im­pact on a stu­dent’s class­room ex­pe­ri­ence and ed­u­ca­tion in gen­eral; ICT hard­ware and soft­ware are not just sim­ply in the form of ad­min­is­tra­tive tools or elec­tronic prox­ies, but should be able to func­tion more as an in­te­grated part of the class­room and the les­son plan; Par­ents need also to be en­gaged by in­creas­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trans­parency through link­ing home and school ef­fec­tively via web por­tals and other on­line tools, con­se­quently aid­ing in mo­ti­vat­ing stu­dents and thus rais­ing stan­dards; ICT should be as­so­ci­ated pos­i­tively with chil­dren and seen as a pos­i­tive tool to en­hance learn­ing.

Tech­nol­ogy gives the younger gen­er­a­tion the abil­ity to learn in ways that their par­ents and grand­par­ents never had. Today’s learn­ers have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to an­swers and re­search. Yet, that im­me­di­ate ac­cess is also changing the way stu­dents think about work and how they feel emo­tion­ally. There is no right or wrong as to whether tech­nol­ogy in the class­room is a good thing or not. Ed­u­ca­tional tech­nol­ogy has its plusses and mi­nuses. So it is es­sen­tially up to teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and col­lege per­son­nel to de­cide whether the good out­weighs the bad, while also en­sur­ing to ed­u­cate stu­dents on how to max­imise on the ben­e­fits of tech­nol­ogy and to be safe and smart when us­ing such tools.

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