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Technology in the classroom – how are teachers coping?

The endorsement of the Digital Technologies curriculum in 2015 was a critical moment for Australian education. With so many jobs of the future requiring high technical skills, it was imperative that the Australian education system prepare students for that future, and the new National Curriculum was designed to meet those needs.

Technology changes in the classroom don’t just affect teachers – they affect support officers, students and parents as well.

Recent requirements to teach remotely during the pandemic have brought forward the need for teachers and students to have a higher knowledge of digital devices and ZOOM video conference technology.

Critically, it broadly recognised that the ability to use computers was not the same as the ability to engage with computers. Many parents think their children are technical wunderkinds because they know the ins and outs of using computers and mobile devices, simply because they grew up with those devices. But use of and engagement with technology are not the same things.

How to fix the difference between using and engaging with computers?

A priority would be staff training and availability, student perception and equipment procedures that can be followed by any person reading them (eg. a custom step-by-step, how-to-guide for the equipment and technology at your school).

However, successful use of technology isn’t the only issue creating a struggle in the classroom.

Brendon Hyndman, Senior Lecturer and Course Director of Postgraduate Studies in Education, Charles Sturt University, in The Conversation suggests the following 10 reasons that may misalign the technological advantages with the expected learning outcomes:

  1. Introduced technology is not always preferred
    Technology isn’t always the answer. Pre-service teachers have reflected on having preferences for manual writing (compared to typing) and incidences of doubling up on time writing notes.
  1. Differing device capabilities and instructions
    When students are required to bring their own device to school, there can be large differences in device capability, size and usability.
  1. It’s easy for students to be distracted
    Students regularly use devices for social media, playing games, instant messaging, text messaging and emailing rather than for class work.
  1. Technology can affect lesson time and flow
    Eg. students not putting screens down (during instructions), concealing screens from teachers’ view, pretending devices don’t work and devices being insufficiently charged.
  1. Teachers need more professional development
    There are nearly 300,000 teachers across Australia. Yet, allocation of professional learning resources has been reported as sporadic in scope and quality.
  1. Not everyone has technology at home
    Not all students or teachers use a computer at home, are frequent users, have sufficient data or internet access. There is a digital divide of reduced computer literacy in students from Indigenous, lower socioeconomic or regional/rural backgrounds.
  1. Teachers need to protect students
    Immersion of students in digital technologies has created additional demands for teachers to protect students’ behaviours online (safety, legal risks and privacy) and in the classroom (theft and locking of devices).
  1. Not all teachers ‘believe’ in using technology
    A wide range of research has established that if teachers don’t believe in using digital technologies they will fail to transform classes, align with learning goals and integrate technology into curricular content.
  1. Lack of adequate ICT support, infrastructure, or time
    Appropriate access to technical support (classroom, informally), availability of infrastructure (computer labs, software), policies (whether to administer digital homework) and time allocated to incorporate new technologies are major challenges for teachers.
  1. Tensions between students and teachers
    There have been tensions from teachers confiscating “personally owned” devices, difficulties accessing power sockets and when students find information online that conflicts with what the teacher is teaching.

Based on the anecdotal experience of teachers as well as the results of a nationwide survey of schools, it’s clear that the Digital Technologies curriculum is having a positive impact, but there’s still a way to go with respect to refining the curriculum and implementing successfully for all involved.