The “Ah Ha” moment with technology

I am very privileged to work with a number of excellent educational practitioners and they are particularly excellent in the way they use technology.

Before I go further, this excellence does not mean they are whizz banging hot shot ‘digital migrants’, it means they know how to use technology as a tool to enhance and enrich their students’ learning experiences.
An educational myth exists which says that everything and anything can be done better online. Whilst I love working online for it’s efficiency and commitment to moving forward, there are just some things I prefer to do with pen and paper.

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The TPACK model developed by Mishra and Koehler, suggest that there are five different and intertwined knowledge areas for teachers. These are pedagogical knowledge (how to teach), content knowledge (what to teach), technology knowledge (knowing the tools of the job), pedagogical content knowledge (how to teach what you teach best) & the final technological pedagogical content knowledge (how to teach what you teach in the best way using the best tool).

As a student of the ’00s, I could be defined as a “digital native” because I was educated with digital technology. I certainly remember having projectors and the predecessor to interactive whiteboards, computer labs and going to the library to do “research”. Yet I do not know whether my teachers use of digital technologies really enabled my learning. The most I ever learnt was through a study of Othello in sixth form English where we co constructed our study notes with pen and paper.

Looking back we could’ve made this more efficient by collating it on a Google Doc and a lot more collaborative/gain faster feedback. But the learning was just as powerful with pen and paper. The key was that the teacher knew what and why she was doing what she was doing.

What I have learnt about using technology has been purely through exploration with purpose. I’ve come to realise is that unless I have a critical or purposeful lens on and can see the benefit of the technology I will only use it at a superficial level and may not see its transferability.

It’s about the “ah-ha” moment, or as my colleague Danielle puts it “hitting the sweet spot”. These moments are where technology and teaching marry together so seamlessly that the learning is astronomically better. An example from my own practice happened a few weeks back When I was co-teaching a module with two others and one of them had to head home.

I had adjusted one of the activities from a paper based activity to an interactive activity on Moodle otherwise known say the Glossary tool. Our students were asked to post a word they did not about space and then to give each other help in the form of comments to figure out the meaning.

Little did I know that Cindy was sitting at home watching the live glossary as it was updated by our students and was providing them with feedback on the spot. Whilst Liz and I were able to engage on a face to face basis, and still see the record of feedback.

Cindy was connected, collaborative and constructing new knowledge alongside our students without being physically present.
It was an “ah ha” moment that would not have occurred without the internet and purposeful use of an online tool.

So to conclude my challenge to you is; how are you using technology to benefit and enhance learning rather than as lip service to a new mode of communication?

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