"It may be that there is as much variation within the digital native generation as between the generations."
- Bennett, Maton & Kervin’s (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence
Recently, i was listening to an episode of Jon Bergmann's podcast, Flipped Learning Worldwide that was titled What Old-School Teachers Know that New-School Teachers Need to Know. Jon indicated that there had been a twitter conversation recently talking about how #oldschoolteachers are perceived, but that we need to remember they still have valuable knowledge and expertise.
My experience with the term old school teachers is around the way experienced teachers do or do not engage with technology. Old school teachers are apparently incapable of learning, or do no want to learn how to use technology, while newer or younger teachers are often automatically tapped on the shoulder to be the IT person. I have heard "you're young - you can be the tech person" said.
I find this discourse troubling in its in accuracy, and it harks back to the digital natives vs digital immigrants conversation. Marc Prensky first coined the term in 2001 in an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and it is worth noting that the magazine in which that article was published, On the Horizon, was not a peer-reviewed magazine. The discourse around this topic since then has become about older people are not good at or with technology and younger people are.
There are a number of problems inherently wrong with this discourse - what does it mean to be good at or with technology? The inventors of the various technologies typically referred to in this discourse, computers, smartphones, tablets, etc., are all in the age group to be considered digital immigrants, yet they are, if anything, the original natives. The basic assumption in this discourse, if you are old then you are not very good with technology; and if you are young then you are good with technology, is also quite clearly false.
I am thinking of three particular teachers at the moment, all of whom would be considered late-career teachers. One of these teachers is neither comfortable with using technology, nor open to learning about it and how to use it. This teacher has learned just enough to get by in terms of writing reports, emails etc. That teacher retired at the end of last year. A brilliant teacher in his preferred subject area, but not interested in technology.
The next was someone who did not feel particularly comfortable with technology but was open to learning how to use it; but only after you had convinced them that the technology had a solid pedagogical application. This teacher was highly skeptical, but open to being convinced. I spent some time with that person helping her to understand they why behind using various pieces of technology, some of which they took on board, and others were left by the wayside.
The final teacher that I am thinking of was quite comfortable with technology. Would be quite happy to be shown something new, whether by colleagues or students, to learn about it and to incorporate it into their practice if appropriate. This teacher did use some pedagogical strategies that might be considered old school, but was very good at her role.
Three old school teachers, each of whom had different feelings towards technology in the classroom and different levels of self-efficacy.
I am now thinking of three teachers who could be considered early or mid-career teachers. The first is in their early thirties. Does not use social media in any form, has a fairly basic non-smart phone, needed some help to work out how to use the interactive whiteboard, and how to use Google Suite to to write his teaching program. This person is an age where it would be assumed you are good with technology. The next is someone in their mid-twenties. Uses social media, email, Google Suite, but will not go beyond that. They are comfortable with what they use and do not want to move beyond that. The final person is someone who was tapped on the shoulder and told that they were going to be the tech person because they were young (mid-thirties). This person is young and is quite happy to explore new technology, how it fits pedagogically, share it with others, runs training sessions with colleagues who want to learn more.
Some of those who have taught me the most about using technology would be considered digital immigrants. Many I know who are my age or younger can use social media comfortably but would not know how to set up a Google Doc for their students to do some collaborative writing in.
This divide between older and younger teachers and the assumptions about technology-efficacy levels needs to stop. It is not helpful and it is not accurate. Being young and using a smartphone along with some social media apps does not equate to being able to use technology as an effective pedagogical tool.
The first of the older teachers that I mentioned was an amazing teacher and could very effectively communicate the essential points of what was being addressed in a lesson to students, irrespective of whether they were in Kindergarten or in Year Six. I learned a lot about communication in an outdoors environment from this teacher. I also learned a lot about teaching oracy to students from the third of the older teachers. Old school teaches are also experienced teachers, with a wealth of knowledge and practical experience built over years of teaching.
While there is a difference, as Jon phrased it, between having been teaching for thirty years, and having been teaching for one year thirty times, we can and should sit alongside them to share our collective knowledge.
What are your areas of opportunity that you may be able to tap into an experienced teacher for help with? What can you offer to a colleague to help develop their knowledge and practice?
"I'm yet to have a student tell me they can't use technology in class because they haven't had professional development on it."
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the organisers.
I was particularly looking forward to this presentation from Kim Maksimovic (@Kmakly). The discussion of I'm not good at tech is one that I hear from both teachers and from students. This issue of self-efficacy around the use of technology is a significant one for both students and teachers given the dependence in so many areasfor technology in our school and general society. The term digital native is one that comes up a lot and it has entered common parlance in society, yet there are a lot of issues with the binary interpretation of digital nativness (such as here and here).
Kim began by outlining the historical context of Pymble Ladies College (PLC) and that the school began their Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) around twenty years ago. PLC has a long history of having an IT Integrator role on staff, whose purpose is to keep up to tdate with new technology and an understand of its use in pedagogical practice. This then allows them to be able to work with teachers, helping them understand how they can achieve their goals in flass through appropraite and authentic use of technology. It is a critical role and one that I am seeing more and more of across the state.
Kim next introduced us to Annie, a Year Twelve student who identified as having low self-efficacy with technology yet identified a need and founded the school's Entrepreneur society to promote links between current and former students along with Alumni. This is an incredibly powerful connection yet one that I really one see occurring in private schools. I would love to hear from anyone who has some thoughts on why that is. Is there some sort of cultural difference that creates the environment in which old boys / old girls networks are formed and maintained in private school schools but not state schools? Is it financial? Is it purely tradition? I would be very interested in people's thoughts on this area. But I am getting off point.
Students are often consumers of digital media and we need to encourage them to refocus their use of technology to productive learning and creation of content. On the back of this, Kim posed a question to the audience; what does it mean to be good at technology? This is an interesting question and I wonder how different our responses to that question would be. The question is complicated by a range of actors identified by Chris Sacco in this tweet. To that end, I have set up an open Google Form asking that question and have included it below.
As part of the Entreprenuer Society, a group of students attended the Amazon Web Summit and one stuent was quoted as saying that "...as someone who had little interest in the tech industry, I found it absolutely amazing to be able to participate in this experience. For another student it highlighted the stark gender inequality in the tech industry and that they "...feel empowered to explore [technology and its endless potentials] in order to create a movement of advancement for the future" (quotes here).
These comments highlight that just because our students now have been born in a time where technology use is ubiquitous and embedded in many ways into the fabric of our society, this does not mean that they are digital natives. While they absolutely are if we are referring to the time in which they are born, this is rarely the context in which the term is used. Having smart phone in your hand regularly from an early age is not indiative of being able to utilise that device (or other digital technology) either effectively or appropiately. I also feel it is worth noting that not being a supposed digital native is also not indicative of a lack of self-efficacy with technology. Many teachers using technology brilliantly and trying new things are from Generation X and many teachers who are not comfortable with tehnology are from Generation Y.
One strategy to support those who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology is to leverage the help of those who profess to high self-efficacy; a structure of students as experts. I have seen structures in schools wherein the technical support is provided by a student body, tech ninjas, and their services are bookable. There are lots of ways of managing this kind of structure depending on the school context.
Part of being a teacher, Kim commented, is about being a learner first. We need to acknowledge what we know, however, we also need to acknowledge what we do not know and seek assistance in filling those gaps, including technologically. I'm not good at IT is, in my opinion, a cop out excuse these days. When there are so many tutorial videos freely available on so many aspects of using technology I cannot see a valid excuse for not engaging (except perhaps for retiring in the next twelve months). Kim then quoted Michael Fullan who remarked that pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. For me, this means selecting technology based upon what we need or want to achieve pedagogically rather than choosing the lesson based on the shiny new tool, as Paul Hamilton shared form his experiences here.
Another strategy for helping students to utilise technology effectively and appropraitely is to work with them to explore, build and maintain their own networks. One way that we can help our students with this is to build up inter-school networks and events such makerfaires, coding clubs, or any number of other similar groups.
Kim's presentation was interesting. I enjoyed hearing from someone who had some suggestions for working with students who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology and had some strategies to support those students. If you work in an IT Integrator/eLearning role and can add to this conversation, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments or let me know over Twitter.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any of the articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.
In this article, I will be closing out the third session of day two from FutureSchools 2016, a presentation by Jill Margerison (@DrJMargerison), who is a teacher and the Associate Dean of E-Learning at The Southport School in Queensland. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. Jill was speaking under the heading Perception, Imagination and Creativity – Bringing new thinking to patterned thinking and began by reminding us that society has, and is, changing rapidly and that this has lead to a change in the locus of power and control in education, that progressive education strategies are shifting the locus of control more in the favour of students.
This, Jill told us, has increased the importance of data and the ability to understand, analyse and utilise data and that despite Marc Prensky’s notion of digital natives still being alive and well, it does not necessarily hold up as true in practice. From my own experience thus far, very few of my students knew the difference between the address bar and the search box on Google, and when I would ask them to type in a web address, they would often type it into the search bar on Google’s search page (which was the default homepage) and then be confused about why the website was not loading. Jill’s point was that a student being a digital native does not necessarily translate into their being able to utilise the technology to its full capacity and solve problems better or more efficiently than teachers.
Jill made the point that students can get lost in the technology and be happy being lost, with terms such as YouTube diving and wiki-diving and that leveraging that interest for creative purposes is important as creativity has been linked to positivity and wellbeing, as well as to mindfulness, which is, increasingly, an issue vis-a-vis student anxiety. Jill spoke about the fact that children have an innate creativity, but that somewhere between childhood and adulthood, the creativity is lost, or as Sir Ken Robinson has said, it has been “…educated out of us.”
The now famous Alvin Toffler quote about the illiterate of the future being those unable to learn, unlearn and relearn was brought up and used as a segue into a brief discussion about the East-Asia Leadership Summit and the conversations at that event vis-a-vis the need for students’ thinking to be able to be divergent, convergent and perceptual. Jill pointed out that divergent thinking as a brainstorming process is not about generating the correct answer or solution, nor will it inherently increase academic results to be able to brainstorm well (however you might define that), but that it is a skill which is integral to problem-solving processes. Layered on top of the need for divergent thinking is the need to also be able to think convergently, and reach a single well-established result. Perceptual thinking was defined within this context as having an awareness of the mood around an idea, situation or context and being able to adjust thinking patterns within that frame of reference.
Jill closed by speaking about a teacher exchange between The Southport School and a school in Malaysia, which then led to collaborative learning utilising Google Hangouts to communicate and learn about each others’ cultures, expanding global awareness and forging strong international links.
I found Jill’s talk to be very interesting and there were thematic links between Jill’s talk and some other presentations, particularly Jim Sill, who closed out the conference on Day day three. I hope that you have found some benefit from this article, and as always, thank you for reading.
If you have missed any articles in this series, you can find them here.