Over the course of my educational career I have had the great fortune of being allowed the freedom to explore technology mediated pedagogies in my classroom; ranging from having a green screen installed, to building apps and online blogging. This creative control of my own classroom, I have learned, is a very valuable freedom that some teachers in the UK do not have due to pressures from management and government. I spent the first few months with this freedom exploring a wide range of new technologies in isolation wherever I could. However during this course, I was given the time to reflect more critically on the impact of these technologies for the pupils in my class. I was made to more critically examine the benefits and purpose for their implementation by and creating a blog documenting my ‘ideal’ use of technology in light of theories discussed. This assignment will evaluate the concept of ‘learning lives’, as discussed by Erstad (2012), in the context of a primary school as well as implications for my own practice as a class teacher.
The idea of learning lives is the merger of schooling and media use in a more long term and meaningful sense, across settings (Erstad, 2012). Erstad highlights the current use of technology in education as relatively disconnected and sparsely related to how pupils use technology in their lives. She goes further to suggest that the use of technology for education should extend to contexts outside the classroom in order to provide a more meaningful experience for learners.
A present assumption, made by many teachers and school leaders, is that technology is currently used adequately to provide pupils with the skills they will need to function once they leave formal education and further use of technology could become confounding. This line of thought is rooted heavily in teachers who are reflective on their personal experiences and not necessarily the forward thinking needed to consider what the world will look like for our pupils when they leave education.
A further analysis of this assumption in the aim of delivering education more in line with the concept of learning lives reveals that the use of educational technology in an isolated context does not provide pupils with the opportunities to develop digital literacy skills as Erstad (2012) discussed.
For those familiar with the SAMR (Puentedura, 2013) model of technology use, much of the technology use in primary schools are around the substitution level (barring exceptional cases), where the technology provides a direct substitute for an activity instead of improving or changing how the pupil does their work. Many of the examples I see in classrooms relate to using technology for research or interactive learning materials during main teaching. While this mode of operating does have a benefit, pedagogies such as this do not move across contexts nor do they provide a meaningful experience that develops the creativity and innovation; skills required of anyone entering employment in a knowledge economy. As Erstad discusses, many of our pupils are using technology in more advanced ways for personal purposes outside of the classroom.
This, of course, is an ideal mentality where a class teacher has the ability to control the deliverance of the curriculum topics in their class. In our present system, pupils’ use of technology is rigidly controlled by the need to accomplish curricular outcomes that are set by the government as ‘the skills needed for pupils’ to function in British society’.
Personally, as a class-based teacher, I believe in the use of technology in a freer sense; one where pupils are enabled to explore their own purposes by technology instead of constrained by outdated methodologies and mandates. In taking my small corner of creative control, I have aimed to use technology to engage learners of all levels in my classroom and have documented each lesson or aspect on my blog. This experience has been highly beneficial in reflecting on my practice in light of literature in the area of technology and education because I am able to immediately implement the changes.
Ola Erstad (2012): The learning lives of digital youth-beyond the formal and informal, Oxford Review of Education, 38:1, 25-43
Puentedura, R. (2013). SAMR: Beyond the Basics. Available at: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2013/04/26/SAMRBeyondTheBasics.pdf [Accessed April 2016]