Before we get to technology in education, let’s examine the root of this term. “Techne” relates to skill or art. A technological advancement is thus a furthering of our ability to harness matter and forces with greater skill or artistic prowess. To be sure, we even speak of technique in the art world. Technology per se, however, has come to refer almost entirely to the development of practical tools in the digital space, applied sciences and engineering, and is, by definition and observation, in a perpetual state of change.
This leaves us with two areas of knowledge that must be acquired in order to leverage technology in learning. The first area concerns itself with what we call digital literacy, i.e. an introduction to the verbal, physical and functional attributes of available technology whether in the form of hardware or software.
The second relates to the development of digital fluency, which is the ability to independently repurpose the use of a piece of available technology in order to meet one’s shifting needs. The latter is integral in creating life-long learners, and is indisputably a worthwhile product of education.
One of the ways to facilitate a learner’s journey toward fluency is to instill in her an understanding of the underlying principles and concepts at hand. For example, with office application tools, encourage platform independence by exploring the rationale for the interface, the icons and menus, and widen creative assumptions by exploring their less obvious uses such as planning and organizing. Whereas with programming, why not first establish a grasp of step-wise thinking and the concept of giving directions? A healthy foundation of conceptual clarity is a prerequisite to digital fluency, and today’s educational content must rise to challenge. Take for instance, the academic curriculum Computer Masti, which was made for use at the school level and was specifically developed to achieve this transcendence from literacy to fluency. Educators are beginning to recognize this need, and are looking to such academic programs for implementation.
Earlier, fluency was described as the ability to respond to shifting needs with agility. It follows then that another prerequisite skill in this case is the ability to recognize needs in the first place, and then to quickly ascertain whichfrom a list of known tech capabilities can produce the required outcome. This would require a mind that is familiar with different contexts and can think in interconnected ways. What better way to encounter variety than to be exposed to technology against the backdrop of the different disciplines taught at the school level? Animations for science class, mind-maps and flowcharts to visualize a historical event, Web research for a language project, to cite a few permutations. Instructional method that underscores the interconnectedness of disciplines is a closer facsimile of how information is received and how technology is used in real life. Enter the age of technology assisted teaching and learning!
Teaching with technology not only opens a learner’s mind to the ways in which tech can be used, but also enhances the way the core subject content is received and internalized. Multimedia tools bring diversity in stimulation through audio, video and interactive components, disrupting the potential monotony of verbal-aural stimuli. Educators must of course ward against Ed Tech becoming just another addition to an automated assembly line of a lesson plan. Whereas content and creative pedagogy form the foundation of effective learning, technology can play a significant part in making lessons more alluring to digital natives, thus increasing the chances of student alertness and participation. In addition, technological solutions to class planning and management are helping to expedite the transformation of the teacher’s function, from a “sage” to a “guide” to a “facilitator.”
Technology in the form of information and communication tools has seen to it that knowledge has been vastly democratized, available to all, and theoretically accessible by all. The inadequacy of the proverbial four walls of a classroom has been touted for decades. We know that the age-old manner of one-way information transfer is an exercise that engenders rote learning. Over time, knowledge and life lessons began increasingly to be garnered from a variety of sources, in a myriad different ways, unbound by the borders of brick and mortar. This has also meant that other important stakeholders in education, not the least of whom are students and parents, have begun to play – and are now expected to play – more involved roles in the making of the learning experience.
Decidedly, we now live in a reality in which being a purveyor of knowledge is no longer a monopoly held by adult humans. Such a paradigm asks that we guide learners towards embracing their new role by devising creative ways to equip them with knowledge of available technological tools. Be sure to do the two-step at your school: teach tech, and teach with tech!