Which of these sentences do you agree with most?
'The pace of technological change is one of the most exciting things to affect teaching in the last few years.'
'The pace of technological change is one of the most scary things to affect teaching in the last few years.'
Both statements are true but, chances are, you'll side with one more than the other. As a rough guess, the first sentence is the one that will chime with most people who read this (reading this on an educational blog is a strong clue, as is the fact you probably came via Twitter). For this first group of people, technology is something they are comfortable teaching with - a fantastic tool to enhance their students' learning.
But what of the second group? The speed at which devices, software and networks have been developed in the last fifteen years or so has been astonishingly quick. Schools have done their best to introduce and use this technology, but it's still true that many teachers have felt left behind. Wonderfully, our students have an innate capacity to find their way around new technology quickly and love doing so. Unfortunately, teachers don't all feel the same. For this second group, the scariness arises from the fact that their students know more about (and are proficient at using) the latest technology, even if they've never seen it before. Imagine a teacher teaching French vocabulary to a roomful of exchange students fresh over from La Rochelle. “These kids know more than I do-¦” would be a completely valid concern. And so it is with ICT.
(Incidentally, despite the fact that those behind Sparky Teaching taught Upper KS2 ICT for nine years, learned to hand-code this website and don't mind -˜playing' with technology, we'd say that developments in ICT to us are exciting and fear-inducing in equal measure.)
The beauty of Mark Anderson's book, -˜Perfect ICT Every Lesson', is that it hasn't been written specifically for either group of teachers. Whether you teach at a school where students can bring their own devices and you're ahead of the game when it comes to the latest classroom-friendly apps, or if Powerpoint is the extent of how far you're willing to go in the name of ICT, it doesn't matter. Anderson (you may know him from Twitter as @ICTEvangelist) explains things for non-techies, but without for one moment lessening the pace of the book or leaving out inspiration for those who are more tech-content.
As you might be aware already, Independent Thinking (whose books we love and review many of!) have a series called -˜The Perfect-¦' - Maths Lesson, English Lesson, School Governor and so on. It was a clever move to rearrange the title of this particular book to -˜Perfect ICT Every Lesson'. It's not about the best ICT lesson you could teach, it's about the best use of ICT in any lesson. Not only that, Mark Anderson encourages us to “always ask why you're using digital rather than analogue methods. What does using technology bring to the learning?” In other words, this is -˜Perfect ICT For Every Lesson Where Technology Brings Something Concrete To The Learning Party And Not When It's Just To Wow Ofsted Or Jazz Things Up'.
Mark Anderson, as we've mentioned already is known on Twitter as @ICTEvangelist and therein lies the secret to his writing. In Biblical terms, the evangelist's job is to spread the good news to those who haven't heard it yet and to those who aren't persuaded. In -˜Perfect ICT' (and, to be fair, in his work on Twitter, in TeachMeets and training others), the author makes a daunting subject decidedly less so and is an encouragement to those who aren't au fait with the latest technology or aren't persuaded by it.
-˜Perfect ICT Every Lesson' provides clear strategies and ideas to help you use ICT in a learning-boosting, Ofsted-friendly way.
These are proven strategies and Anderson cites examples of how various teachers and schools have used this technology or that application to make progress. Particularly fascinating was the case study describing how David Mitchell's introduction of blogging (and Julia Skinner's 100 Word Challenge) in Heathfield Primary, Bolton affected literacy results. We were well aware of the benefits of blogging in terms of writing for an audience, evaluating work via comments and enthusing students, but never knew that the rise in results was so marked (9% L5 Writing beforehand, 60% L5 Writing afterwards-¦ Wow! There's hope for us yet!)
Amongst other things, Mark Anderson deals with learning resources for the classroom, activities (and things to consider) when teaching in the ICT suite, e-safety*, mobile technology, literacy/digital literacy and social media. Each of these merits its own chapter and a host of case studies, ideas and links to explore. Reading -˜Perfect ICT' will enthuse you to try new ideas and excite you with the possibilities that technology offers us in the classroom. This isn't just a book of tips, though. The author takes time to quote from Ofsted reports as a starting basis for each topic and deals with broader issues such as policies and AfL strategies. If technology is to be used effectively it needs to be a whole-school thing, not just “in Mr J's classroom because he's a whizz with all that.”
Possibly the most fascinating section in -˜Perfect ICT' is in Chapter One. In -˜Taking ICT from zero to hero', Mark Anderson explains the SAMR taxonomy with a clarity and relevant we hadn't seen before. There is a tendency, as you'll be aware, for educational jargon to creep into our language as teachers where it's not needed. And, to make matters worse, ICT as a subject is well-known for a language all of its own (BYOD and flipped classrooms, anyone?). The problem with jargon like this is that, no matter how important or useful it is, many people switch off if they don't automatically understand what it refers to. It's a shame. To be honest, we'd seen the initials SAMR before in many tweets, but never bothered to enquire further.
Thanks to Mark Anderson's clear explanations, the SAMR taxonomy now seems to us to be crucial to how we use technology. Understanding those four initials will help you massively in placing what you do with ICT, why you're doing it and how you can make better progress.
The move from simply Substituting an analogue task with a digital one (e.g. typing out a poem using a word processing program), through to Augmenting it, Modifying it and, finally, Redefining that original task (e.g. recording a version of the poem as a podcast and sharing it with a partner-school on the other side of the world who adds extra verses to it) is extremely helpful to understand. It struck us as we read it that the SAMR move in how we use ICT is all about collaboration and connecting with others. A task often becomes redefined as learners use technology to work alongside others and share their work with a wider audience.
What needs to be perfectly clear, however, is that whatever level you are at on this taxonomy for generating learning using technology, it is perfectly OK. Deploying technology in the classroom with pupils is an exceeding good way of engaging them in learning activities. Young people are familiar with new technologies and devices, even if you aren't, and you will be making small wins that will help you find your feet when it comes to using technology in the classroom in a more integrated way.
In other words, don't let technology or your students' abilities with technology daunt you. Go for the small wins. Set them a collaborative task and learn from them as they work on it. You don't have to be a tech-guru. The pace of technological change is only a problem if you stop listening to your class. -˜Perfect ICT Every Lesson' is the book to give you the confidence to start doing so.
*If you're particularly interested in e-safety messages (and in getting those messages home where they are are of most use), you'll like our e-Sense Travelcards. They've been bought by schools in the UK and United States, used for Digital Literacy Day, e-Safety parents' meetings and to give to students.