Technology and e-Learning challenges
A digital tsunami is sweeping education. Students, teachers and schools are being swept along by a tidal wave of enthusiasm for what many believe is going to solve all our education problems.
The primary driver for this transformation in education is the challenge of global competitiveness in the 21st century. If we are going to be globally competitive, our education system is going to have to embrace technology and digital content.
Mobile phones, smart boards, computers, e-readers, tablets and lap-tops are ubiquitous. We are spoiled for choice. And therein lies a danger. As with all enthusiasms, there are going to be, and are already, casualties.
Schools are learning the hard way that insufficient planning is costly. A lot of expensive mistakes are being made by investing in technology without considering first who is going to use it, what it is to be used for, or how it will be used.
While the technological challenges are obvious, what often gets forgotten is the human factor. Not all teachers have the same level of commitment to technology in the classroom. Teachers are, by and large, conservative. They resist change. Every year sees some new idea that is going to take the drudge out of marking, make preparation effortless, overcome all learning difficulties and solve all discipline problems.
There have been too many initiatives aimed at everything from curriculum reform to improved school management systems, mass teacher up-grading programmes aimed at improving teacher subject knowledge and classroom performance, providing computers and internet connectivity, e-learning, up-grading school libraries, sponsoring improved security, providing a total school experience and much else besides.
They’ve seen it all.
While young techno-savvy teachers are usually enthusiastic, older teachers (and let’s not forget they are in the majority) are frequently intimidated by the new technology. Many fear being exposed as incompetent by the kids in their classrooms and are frightened they will lose their authority and status. They need to be carefully prepared for the introduction of technology into their teaching.
Successful e-learning programmes are as much about managing the needs and limitations of the teachers as they are about technology.
Planning is vital.
While planning should include an existing infrastructure audit; what already exists and how it is being used in the school and what is needed, in-house skills or lack of skill must be identified.
Because digitization in education is still a new field, changes take place all the time and people can get left behind or overwhelmed by the rate of change very easily. On-going Professional Development must be a priority.
Teachers must feel confident about how to use technology, and how to integrate it into their teaching and assessment. Teachers often feel isolated. Therefore, training for teachers who feel inadequate and resistant should be personalized and focused as far as possible on individual needs. A one-size fits all approach should be avoided.
It’s all about the right tool for the job. Technology does not drive teaching, but enhances the learning environment. It is a mistake to choose a device and then wonder what to do with it.
Failure breeds failure; success breeds success.
Strong leadership is crucial. Implementation succeeds or fails according to the support it gets from key staff, especially the principal. Communications are important.
The challenge for teachers is how to make the best use of technology and digital content and how to adapt their classroom methodologies and teaching styles to the demands of a new world. That is, to make learning more student-centered, interactive, collaborative and flexible.
There are no instant solutions in education.
It is a mistake to start with the technology. It is only a tool, and only as good as it is fit for purpose. Applying new technologies to the same old way of doing things is not the pathway to success. Equally important, don’t choose a device that encourages teacher centered methodology.
Poor teaching plus technology is simply, expensive poor teaching!