Top Ten Starter Points for Digital Learning

1. There is a time and effort overhead to starting anything new

So work with it. Build it into your planning and do not use the new ‘thing’ just once. It takes time for people to learn to use any new technology, so make sure that you have the time to deal with that before you expect return on your time investment.

2. Make sure that your learning content is prioritised over any cool stuff they want to do with the tech

So their brand new phone will record in 4K resolution that can only be seen by the very richest people in the world with the best TV sets. Who cares? Students who are not engaging with the learning objective as much as they could be often go off into flights of tech fancy, doing weird and wonderful things with it which look impressive, but ask yourself this – is the green screen effect they’re using really relevant to the learning you want them to achieve?

3. Get over yourself

Make peace with the fact that no matter how much of an expert in your discipline or subject, you will never be able to know everything there is to know about all the tech in the world. Even as a Computing teacher I am happy to announce that whilst I don’t know the specifics of how to use every piece of software; I can make some logical estimates of what different functions will do.

If you set the expectation that you’re all learning something cool together and that you’ll use your advanced problem solving skills to help your students out, then no one will be struggling.

4. Replace yourself

People that try out digital learning for the first time feel the pressure of being the sage on the stage more so than any other type of teacher. You have to be teacher, facilitator and tech support for your entire classroom. With this in mind why on earth are you still starting off with your didactic ten-minute scene setting exercise? Get it recorded, get it up on YouTube so that those elements of your lessons can be accessed when the students need them.

If you aim to replace yourself with technology then it frees you up to intervene and help the students that need it, when they need it most.

5. Set expectations

Especially in regards to a hand in date, digital content never quite feels ‘finished’ in the same way that three sides of A4 in your handwriting does, because we can version and edit as much as we want. Make sure students know that there’s a hard hand in date and that they have to achieve it.

6. Don’t fall for it

Don’t take any sob stories about lost memory sticks, Dogs eating hard drives or tablets computers being mistaken for actual tablets. These excuses tend to be easy to roll out, so don’t accept them. Do be fair and patient though, use the exact same expectations and chances you would with any normal piece of work.

7. Don’t use something because it is cool, use it because it is relevant

If you’re trying out a piece of software because it looks cool then chances are that the learning in the lesson becomes less about your topic and more about the software itself. That’s not to say that students don’t appreciate a little of the ‘shiny’ to get them over the barrier of using something new, but don’t rely on it as the catalyst of a fun lesson. A good teacher, with well-developed content can be augmented by shiny new tech. Shiny new tech cannot make up for poor resources, lax planning or a dud lesson.

8. Be positive about it

Okay, so a computer has died and you’ve got three students sharing a laptop. Don’t be negative about it. In the same way that’d you hate the game and not the player, you have to hate the fact things break and not the broken thing. Never whinge or moan about poor resources in front of the students because they will see your annoyance with the tech as an excuse to blame an inability to work on the rubbish tech.

9. Use the tool more than once

Whatever you do, do it more than once. If you’re going o al the fuss of teaching something new and exciting rather than relying on traditional educational resources, then at least get some longevity and return out of it. Repeat the use of the tech as much as you can and your students will impress you by showing you the variety of exciting and interesting ends they can get to with the means, if they only have time to learn how.

10. Encourage creative use of the tech

Do not reward the student who has stuck a bit of word art on a page and found some daft pictures to go on it. Reward the creative, innovative and fluent use of the tech. In the same way that you’re unmoved by a student who does the bare minimum of writing for homework, yet laud praise on the student who writes their own sonnet using a quill and ink, do not pour rewards for doing the bare minimum. If you encourage going above-and-beyond then they are more likely to do it again as they know you appreciate quality work.

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