"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.