It is important for us all to question what we are doing before we do it in our classroom. Why are we using computers and mobile devices? Can our teaching really be made better by using inanimate machines? In terms of everyday teaching and the use of ICT, it must be possible to answer the question, what is good practice?
First, let us pose an easier question, what is NOT good practice in this area?
- Something for which the computer does not add value
- Something which can be done just as well – or better – without the computer
- Something in which the computer is seen to provide only novelty value
- Something in which traditional learning/teaching methods have always been – and still are – good enough
So then, what IS good practice?
- Something which cannot be done without the computer
- Something to which the computer adds unique value
- Something which makes learning easier
- Something which makes teaching more efficient
There have been many attempts in the past to identify methods of software evaluation, created enthusiastically to satisfy a perceived requirement to prove the desirability of using ICT in teaching. In some ways, we have now moved beyond that point. ICT is widely used now and we no longer have to justify its inclusion. In some ways, the opposite reaction is now setting in: teachers are now forced to justify their non-inclusion of it in their teaching, as inspectors and advisers turn up ready to gaze in awe at the latest displays of technology in teaching.
In basic terms, it is fair to argue that good practice is something which improves learning and results incontrovertibly. If the use of ICT can simplify a task, or address learning in a unique way, then it can be justified.
As creative teachers we should all be prepared to evaluate, experiment and assess different technologies, to see which may work best for ourselves. What works this year with one group of students may not work next year with a different group and often, when you generate an electronic resource or exercise, you may find that the process of creating it will in fact eclipse the end result, in terms of time involved, or usefulness of the finished product. Indeed, should an electronic product ever be regarded as finished? This raises interesting issues.
We believe that the process of creation is in itself an empowerment, but that many of the resources made in our classrooms or for our students should be seen as expendable material. Forget any notion you may have of creating a perfect set of Powerpoint or prezi presentations and using them for the next ten years, year in, year out. This is not creative and those presentations will not enhance your teaching beyond the first time you use them.
Using computer technology in your class
websites and software live in class is much safer than it used to be, but several tips may be useful. First and foremost, if you are not confident in using the technology, don’t. There is no better way of losing control of a lesson than floundering around with websites and apps in class. Use bookmarks if you know how to, to make sure the right bits of the site or software are in the right place. A useful tip may be to check the webpages and apps you intend to use before class, and perhaps even to pre-load them, using a set of tabs in your browser. Then just click on the tabs on by one.
New versus traditional teaching
Traditional methods of teaching are often more creative than anything else, if you think about it for a moment. The ability to stand and talk, create examples out of nothing, tell a story or explain a point of grammar, with humour, personal response and patience: all of these things are creative, while a regimented blast through a pre-determined set of sequenced slides and examples is not. The trouble with using technology is that the equipment (hardware or software) is not actually a liberation at all. Nor will it automatically motivate students. What we need to do is to find ways by which we can continue to teach in traditional ways for much of the time, while showing ourselves and our students that our use of technology can open the doors to a new, creative process. That is the challenge.
For software and apps that possibly help to raise attention and increase motivation, check out the page on software(link here).
(© CIRCE project)