It’s been more than 8 years since I started using technology in the classroom. Ever since then technology has drastically and rapidly evolved concurrently with how I used it to support student learning. However, there was a pattern I have noticed in our students which is that they are technology comfy but not technology savvy. Throughout my years as a teacher and then senior teacher, edtech specialist and teacher trainer I have noticed that not only teachers lack the necessary knowledge base into incorporating technology into their content and pedagogy (TPACK deficit), students too are not aware and not well prepared to use technology to support their learning.
Across all student ages, nationalities, and academic abilities there are but a few students who use technology in support for their own learning. This is chiefly due to lack of integration between ICT subject and other subjects, lack of understanding on part of the teacher on the importance of technology to help students solve problems, communicate, and collaborate, and students’ lack of motivation to use it in their learning process unless prompted.
I recall once teaching a Grade 12 class a course in conducting research. I was helping them with tutorials on how to use automated referencing system, Zotero or Mendeley, whilst writing their study report. They asked me a lot of questions that I was startled by because I assumed that they should know about, like : How do we insert page numbers into Microsoft Word? or How do we double space lines? , How do we do graphs in Excel?
A Grade 11 class I was teaching in Literature had to produce a poster as part of their assignment. They did not actually know that Microsoft Publisher existed or that it came as part of Microsoft Office package that they have installed on their computers.
The idea is that students are not aware that these tools exist and have never explored nor used them to solve problems. The other issue is that teachers have never asked them to use tools to help them with their assignments. However, once everything is in place, tutorial videos are given and guidelines of accepted practice are set , students rapidly start developing sense of urgency and the need to figure out how to work with the tool. This is a great thing ; however, it has a steep learning curve because instead of focusing on completing the task, students are preoccupied with figuring out how to use the features.
The solution? A system’s approach of integrating technology in education. There should be a real plan into adopting particular tools into teaching and learning. Such an integration should happen horizontally and vertically to ensure students of all ages and across all disciplines have equitable access to and opportunity in using technology in their learning process.