How to look beyond tech fads

by Brett Henebery04 Apr 2017


In 2016, a group of young educators at Ivanhoe Grammar School created TeachTechPlay (TTP), a conference designed by teachers for teachers.

The conference was a success, with more than 200 teachers and education professionals sharing a range of ideas.

The sessions covered technology-themed topics such as coding, children’s entrepreneurship, 3D modelling, building empathy, using Minecraft in teaching, robotics and carbon-free classrooms.

Yesterday, this meeting of the minds reconvened, including several international speakers.

They include US blogger and author, Matt Miller, Ewan McIntosh, Scottish founder and managing director of thought leader NoTosh and Jon Burgess, an international leader in the field of people networks and advocacy

TeachTechPlay founder, Eleni Kyritsis Eleni – an award-winning Year 3 teacher at Firbank Grammar School, located in Victoria – told The Educator about some of the key messages and highlights to come out of the 2017 conference.

“[This conference] has been about building connections and empowering teachers to think beyond what they’re doing and make change in their schools – and it’s not just about technology. I think a lot of it comes down to pedagogy that teachers integrate into what they’re doing,” Eleni explained.

“It’s not about saying: ‘we’re using this app’. It’s more that ‘we’re doing this and this app will support what we want to achieve’. A lot of teachers also forget about that and think: ‘I have to use that and if I don’t I’m disadvantaging my students’”.

In terms of the principal’s role in promoting better outcomes through the use of technology, Eleni referred to a point made by Ewan McIntosh, Scottish founder and managing director of thought leader NoTosh, during his TTP keynote speech.

“Like McIntosh was saying in his keynote, principals have that big vision of where they want their school to go, but they don’t always see the issues that teachers have sometimes with technology in the classroom,” Eleni said.

“I noticed in my session yesterday, some teachers said: ‘my principal won’t pay for that’. Principals want to make sure that it’s not going to be a fad with technology, that there is a purpose behind it.”

Eleni said that there are a lot of “gimmicks” – especially in technology and coding – that are very expensive and can’t do much, but added that there are also some very useful tools for educators.

“Principals are also wary of where to spend money, where to support staff and how much would be best for the school in the outcomes that they need to achieve,” she said.

“Principals have so many high order things to worry about, that they do also sometimes forget the impact it has in the classroom and what teachers do need with technology. Technology is moving so rapidly, almost too fast for schools to keep up.”

Eleni said that principals need to have a set, clear plan about what technology they are going to implement across the school.

“Principals need to not just focus on the upper primary or the middle years, but make sure there’s a spread across the years,” she said.

“It also involves developing a plan over time and supporting staff with professional development. You can always say: ‘well we’ve spent all this money on say iPads or spheros in the classroom’, but if you haven’t trained the teachers or given them some ideas, they’re not going to know how to do it.”

 

The 2017 TeachTechPlay conference concludes today, April 4.

 

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