Here’s the thing….

The thing that had me awake at 3.30 on Sunday morning…

So a Year 12 student told me last week that she ONLY uses her laptop for English.

She’s a good kid, no need to be anything but straight-up with me. I wasn’t prying. We had just been chatting about student workload, heavy bags and wellbeing on a walk to the Library.

She has no idea why her other teachers don’t make provision for their students to use devices. As she said, “We are still just copying notes in many classes off the board. It takes ages and teachers would free up so much time for learning if we had some of those notes delivered through Google Classroom.”

Out of the mouths of relative babes!

Is that the problem? Are some of us afraid of what we would have to do if we went more digital? More talk, more activity-based learning… less downtime while kids copy?

Yes I know writing things out helps you process the information, but here’s the thing…working collaboratively to discover that information for yourself as a student ALSO helps you process it and is way less boring than copying from the board! And much more satisfying. And yes, it takes a bit of organising – but it’s worth it! Aren’t we all looking to have active and engaged rather than passive learners?

And here’s another thing… I’m now very nearly 59 years old (end of July for those who want to bring me cake!) About the average age of a teacher these days in New Zealand …but being older doesn’t have to mean I’m opting out, doesn’t mean I’m not constantly considering changing the way I teach. I have challenged myself to become a lifelong learner, to deliver the best, most varied, most student-centred learning experiences to my students that I can. No, it’s not about ALWAYS using a computer. We do A LOT of talking in English…and reading …and writing …just like you all do….but most of the time a device is my preferred option for my students to access the instructions, notes, feedback, further reading, pre-reading, follow-up, explanatory video with questions, shared task, collaborative exercise, shared site for reference, questions, discussion summaries, polls, quizzes, interactive world I have created for them.

Here’s yet another surprising thing for me…

Her teachers are NOT new to the school and most have been here throughout our coming of age as a BYOD institution. They have all received the full staff, carefully devised and presented PD. They have all nodded and smiled their way through conversations on the relevant and educationally sound pedagogy behind it. They are all seemingly team players and they are spread throughout a range of departments and levels of responsibility. But there’s a cut off – a disconnect – between that and what is done in the classroom.

Back to my student….OUR student….we have essentially asked her parents to fund a device for her to use 4 hours out of 25 a week. We have stated on our website that students WILL be using their devices at school. That e-learning is incorporated at all levels. When asking parents to purchase devices we set minimum requirements and we remind them that the minimum specifications are extremely important to ensure that your child will be able to use the device effectively in all subjects. We are lucky we are where we are. That wouldn’t cut it in a lower decile school. Our Privilege is showing. Our parents don’t ‘kick off’ too often about lack of use of these expensive devices because essentially most can afford them.

The suggested parameters are not difficult to meet. Those in charge here have suggested using e-learning techniques roughly 25% of the time for each class as a standard measure at this stage. Having a student use her laptop for a part of one hour a day EACH day, is not in the spirit of 25% usage. That is NOT an example of all teachers incorporating the blended learning we advertise on our website. Particularly when we say that device selection is even more important for students at the senior levels.

What message are we giving the students? We are not prepared to walk the talk?

To paraphrase some sage advice about what to do when a student doesn’t produce work or follow instructions…Ask yourself – is it ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’?

Then I got to wondering…Do some staff think ‘Oh well, it’s just a suggestion and doesn’t have to be followed’?

What happens to you if you don’t bother? What do these teachers say in their appraisal conversations? Do they tell their appraiser they are delivering the 25% across all of their classes? Do they lie? Do they expect others who they appraise to be meeting the targets? Do they feel ok about that?

In our new Standards for The Teaching Profession – which informs appraisal – we are instructed to ‘Use an increasing repertoire of teaching strategies, approaches, learning activities, technologies and assessment for learning strategies and modify these in response to the needs of individuals and groups of learners’

That takes us beyond whiteboards and pens people! The days of JUST ‘chalk and talk’ are past.

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