Since the start of my teaching career I have been interested in what happens at the intersection of teaching, learning and technology. This interest was born partly out of need and partly out of a natural interest in technology. A substantial part of my teaching career has been in under-resourced schools and the challenge has always been how to accomplish excellent learning outcomes in students with the resources available to you.
Initially I turned to the Internet since it is an international repository of information, simulations and current thought that removed the classroom’s walls. The mystery of discovering something new often stimulates both students and teachers’ curiosity! Some of my most valuable teaching resources as mathematics and science teacher have been the excellent, mostly free, simulations that my students and I have been able to access. Used in conjunction with the amazing probeware that were available within the framework of a project-based learning approach, my students were able to gain a better understanding of the concepts they were being taught.
In 2011 I had the privilege of attending the first of a series of three annual conferences in Vancouver in which Christian schools across the globe got together to discuss what schooling would like in the future. Keynote speakers such as Stephen Harris of Northern Beaches Christian School and Michael Horn of the Christensen Institute encouraged us to rethink how we thought about education in light of the transformation that technology and architecture had started in education internationally.
If you want to know more of my formal education and work experience, please visit my LinkedIn profile (the blue button with the word “in” is on the sidebar on the right under Social Media).
I wasn’t one of the first people to get an iPad (mostly due to financial and geographical constraints) but in 2011 I became the proud owner of an iPad 2. At that time, the school I was working at in Malaysia just decided that an iPad was going to be the required 1-to-1 device for the 2012-2013 school year. Two colleagues and I were invited to attend the Apple Leadership Workshop in Singapore in 2012 and there I was properly introduced to the SAMR and TPACK models. Since then, these models have helped me correctly frame the professional development that I have been asked to do with teachers around the pedagogically-sound integration of technology in education.
Although I have been swept away initially by the exciting opportunities that technology bring to education, I have come to realise that the best way to use any piece of technology is to (1) be aware of the possibilities it brings to the classroom and (2) integrate it in a way that the technology fades into the background, i.e. it is about the learning not the tool.
Apple’s products seem to do this naturally, especially when they are not used to substitute ‘traditional’ paper-and-pencil activities – as Dr Puentedura points out in the SAMR model. Apple’s products have been designed to be personalised and nowadays I find that I can basically do all of my teaching and administrative duties with an iPad.
It does require you to rethink the approaches you have had to accomplish your goals with ‘older’ and ‘different’ technology but in the end I find that my iPad and my MacBook save me time by helping me to accomplish tasks more efficiently. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Apple’s products talk to each other well, they have been built to be ready for use with the minimum amount of startup time and they tend to just work – maintenance on Apple products is not time-intensive. This means that I am excited to use my Apple device to accomplish teaching and learning tasks.
I find that this is also true for students. Students are generally excited to pick up and use their Apple devices. Once you have convinced students that their iPod, iPhone, iPad or Mac is more than an entertainment device but a fantastic learning device, it is exciting to see what students can come up with. In my present role at Elim, I have seen students
– excitedly learning to code using Cargo-bot and Hopscotch;
– taking notes anywhere and anytime by writing, taking pictures or making videos;
– showing their learning by creating stunning digital visuals or creating paper-based visuals from digital content they record on their Apple device in digital photography class.
The only thing you have to do as educator is give them the opportunity to use their devices to show their learning. They usually come up with the most innovative solutions.
As Technology Activator at Elim Christian College I work alongside my colleagues to help them think through the pedagogically-sound integration of technology into the curriculum. My colleagues are excellent educators and in my opinion New Zealand educators are not encouraged enough – I am in awe of them. I also have to acknowledge our students who help us come up with creative ways to use the technology at our disposal that not only achieve improved learning outcomes but also make their learning visible to parents, the Ministry of Education and the many visitors from schools across New Zealand. I count it a great privilege to invest in the future of our world by encouraging students to reach their full potential in the learning areas of technology and Christian Living.