Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.
From about the age of 5, I’ve had an affinity for technology. I made a decent amount of pocket money helping people on my street program their video recorders. Then it was tuning their Sky boxes, upgrading their PCs, that sort of thing.
Even then, I understood one thing: technology is a tool, a medium – it isn’t the content (to badly paraphrase Marshall McLuhan). Understanding how technology works of course is a science all in itself, but for those of us who employ it in our daily lives it’s a mechanism to control and increase the efficiency of their work – but no more.
There’s a phrase used in technology circles – ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’ (it can be stated in more vulgar terms). To elaborate, using technology does not necessarily make the things we produce better; it can speed up, automate, systemise and archive products and processes, but it isn’t actually the indicator of quality in itself. After all, why do we still value hand made methods in a wide range of products to this day and age?
As such, it is the same for teaching and learning. The use of technology is a popular touchstone of SLT, Ofsted and other observers to judge the quality of a lesson. As a result, technology is often employed in lessons for it’s own sake, rather than for the benefit of what’s going on in the lesson.
Great teaching and learning is centred on how the teacher employs those crucial tools in getting students to understand what’s being taught: clarity of instruction, high quality questioning, formative assessment, opportunities for independent study, regular review of prior learning. All of these can be carried out through technological methods, but are not the better for the technology used if they are done properly in the first place.
That said, I am no luddite. The very best lessons I’ve seen – the very best – often employed technology to tie together all the good stuff going on in their lesson.
What they didn’t do, crucially, is lose the teaching and learning in the midst of the tricks, gadgets and interactive goodies. However, if those in power continue to promote technology as a means of achieving a ‘good’ or better rating in a lesson – exactly the opposite will happen.
To quote the Romans: Caveat emptor!