Stop Getting IT Wrong!
Digital learning is not something to be scared of or to be worried about.
It’s just learning.
No one called it ‘Pen based learning’ when we moved away from slate tablets, but I’m sure there were a few people reluctant to change their ways, or that didn’t quite ‘get’ the point of pens. In any case, digital learning is here to stay and should be a part of every lesson in some form, if only because it saves you time!
What not to do
We’ve all seen the classic ‘do a PowerPoint’ lesson. *Sigh*. Yes, you know what I’m talking about; it’s the end of term, you’ve got a section of work on something researched based so you say the immortal lines, “Do a PowerPoint on it”… and four weeks later these digital natives have done two slides that make the content appear one letter at a time.
If students *are* digitial natives then should a PowerPoint take four weeks?
Life after Death by PowerPoint
There is life after death by PowerPoint, and it’s all about the amazing things you can do with digital learning. In this workshop we covered my top-tips for getting started:
1. Get over yourself – you will never be as much of an expert in the technology as a student can be because they’ve got unlimited time to learn it. You have to just plan around that and have strategies for finding out: Classroom Genius: find someone in the class who’s the ‘genius’ at the tech you’re using and get them to be the first port of call for non subject specific questions
2. The connected student – they’re being pinged all the time by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not leverage the fact they’ve trained themselves to respond quickly to notifications by doing that yourself? Using a tool like edmodo to push out work and ask questions turns simple things into pings that use the same action-reward mechanism that replying to a tweet does; and most importantly, it gets things done!
3. Print on Demand – I’ve covered this in my blog, but essentially it boils down to getting custom printed exercise books so you can force student to improve skills you want them to focus on.
4. Blur your classroom – Use a VLE of some kind for taking in work (I wrote about this in the most recent Teach Secondary magazine) and then mark using your mobile device whenever you’ve got some down time. Stood outside Next waiting for your other half? Whip out that phone and mark one or two. Waiting in the car for the football crowds to let out? Your mobile is your friend for quick marking. This means that your work life balance gets much better because whilst you might be marking more often, you’re doing it in ‘dead’ time and suddenly you don’t need to sit down and mark in an evening anymore.
5. Record a learning dialogue – using many online tools it’s easy to record the feedback and conversations your having about work and display the progress over time to that tricky Ofsted lot. One piece of kit I’m enjoying at the moment is Kaizena [https://kaizena.com] which allows you to record audio annotation over a Google doc. This is the quickest marking ever because you can highlight a section, click record, then just speak your feedback. Wowzers.
6. Record everything – use the video camera in your phone (or something fancier if you have it) to record anything you think is useful, even yourself. This gives more flexibility in the type of lesson you can teach because if you spend five minutes recording yourself work through a particular exam problem then you can reshow that video almost indefinitely. Take a look at my youTube channel for some more examples of where you can take a lot of the repetition out of your teaching.
7. X-Factor your lessons – Why not use instant poll software like PollEverywhere [http://www.polleverywhere.com] to allow X-Factor style text voting in your lessons. AFL has never been so much fun. It means students can reply anonymously so closed questions work better, but it does have a free text response option which all updates live as a student texts in. Pure magic.
8. Plan for epic fails – so what’s going to happen if the computers don’t work? Make sure you’ve got a second strategy, an offline ‘go-to’ just incase because the very worst thing you can do in a lesson is wait for the IT guys to come along to fix things, you’ll lose your class’ attention almost instantly if they have any downtime, have something to do that requires dead-tree-tech so you can jump to it in an emergency. This doesn’t have to be well planned, just planned.
9. If you use new tech, use it more than once – because let’s face it. You’re probably not a Computing teacher, so if you do us a favour and teach a bit of software use then why not get a good return on your investment? Use the same tech three of four times, at least, which means that students stop asking you how to use it, and ask you what to use it *for*.
10. Sometimes you can do too much – I once had a year 13 student ask me, exasperated, if they could “just do things on paper today sir?”; so please don’t imaging that I expect every lesson to be an all singing, all dancing digital learning machine. No. What I’d like to see is more teachers using tech day-to-day and not worrying about it.
At some point we’ll forget we ever called it digital learning and find the very idea that we differentiated between eLearning and Learning as a bizzare artifact of a bygone era. When even the most old fashioned teacher in the class thinks nothing of slapping on a pair of video-recording glasses and rocking out an epic lesson.
If you’re interested in finding out more then head to my blog or read my book, which coincidentally has the same title as my workshop .