There has been lots of debate recently on whether technology is a positive introduction to the classroom. Reports claim that it doesn’t raise standards and it may have a negative impact on behaviour. Having embraced technology in my KS2 teaching, I will share my thoughts and experiences.
Technology is defining our present and future at an unstoppable rate. Those who can’t use tech effectively will be seriously limited when it comes to employment. Nonetheless, traditional skills are more important than ever and technology is only useful if used in the appropriate way.
There is the suggestion that using technology has a negative impact on behaviour. Like any new tool in the classroom, it takes time to work out a system that encourages real learning rather than just being a distraction. Here are two ways in which I have used tech in the classroom and experienced dramatic improvements in pupil progress.
My first experience of using tablets in the primary classroom was using the Memrise app in my Spanish classes. As well as using the app at home, during Spanish classes, half of my pupils would be using the app on tablets while I taught the other half of the class. To avoid any major lapses in concentration, we swapped over regularly to make sure that learning happened in short bursts. Also, by using Memrise’s leaderboard & teacher dashboard, pupil progress on the app was live and reviewed constantly to gamify the learning sessions.
Regular changes and accountability meant behavioural issues were almost non-existent. Leave a tablet for an extended period in the hands of a child and they will soon get distracted. Effective management of their time using (the right) technology, just like effective classroom management, will encourage accelerated learning.
The proof is in the the pupil progress. When I left my last teaching job, the native Spanish speaker who took over from me was so amazed by their level of understanding that he started teaching secondary level Spanish as early as Year 5. I hasten to add that using Memrise, rather than my expert teaching, was the main reason for such impressive progress.
Whether we like it or not, childhood has changed. We teach digital natives who have been born into a world where they can order a pizza, chat to people on the other side of the world, create and run around in virtual worlds as well as go on a date at the click of a button. Many schools have never been more out of touch with the reality experienced by their pupils. Through our projects at A Tale Unfolds, we have seen first hand the amazing improvements in motivation, enjoyment and academic progress when technology is central to bringing KS2 literacy to life.
We use video in our projects as the input and output for their work. Over the course of a term, KS2 pupils create their own adventure film covering 6 different genres of writing alongside studying a reading book writing specially for the project. They write, act, film and edit their own films using tablets as well as simple apps like iMovie, voice recorders and DoInk Green Screen.
By giving them enough of what engages them, the pupils themselves feel a sense of purpose and engagement which drives them to achieve rapid and long-lasting progress in the traditional skills of reading and writing. The huge improvements in their teamwork, performing and decision making are also direct results of the use of technology.
However, technology does something more than that. It makes the children accountable. As soon as they realise that they are creating a film that will be seen on online and at their very own film premiere, the class work ethic changes completely. That child who didn’t care whether your marking suggested he wasn’t doing his best suddenly kicks into gear. They care because simple use of technology has made literacy relevant to them. In doing so, behavioural issues are virtually eliminated and progress is off the charts. Having been used in over 1000 primary schools both in the UK & internationally, our teachers report progress of over double the average rate!
I am a terrible mechanic. Give me tools, permission and time and there is a fantastic chance that I will ruin your car. I am also totally inexperienced in brain surgery but I will have a poke around if you sign a disclaimer.
Teachers are professionals at teaching and technology is now a part of that. However, without the appropriate training, things will inevitably go wrong. I have seen many schools invest in technology only to wonder why they bought it in the first place. Identify the needs of your school and its pupils and then identify how technology can satisfy those needs. Seek advice from experts and invest in staff training as much as technology to make it happen.
In the right hands and with the right approach, technology will make your pupils shine like the digital stars they are.
Dominic Traynor is an experienced primary teacher and teacher trainer. He founded A Tale Unfolds to bring together traditional literacy and digital skills by making truly engaging KS2 Literacy resources.