Living and studying in a digital world

In today’s world, technology is ubiquitous.  As I commute to work every day, I’m surrounded by people with the glow of their mobile device on their face.  I wonder what everyone is looking at, engaging with and how normal this behaviour has become over such a short span of time (I may be that person checking out your screen over your shoulder, only for research, I swear).  How can we, as educators, grab hold of this new(ish) way of interacting with others, accessing information and benefit from it in the learning environment?  The digital world is full of amazing possibilities and that makes me excited about the near future of education.

As a former high school teacher, I’m always interested in what is happening in that space as well as primary school.  There are some really inspiring and innovative work happening and technology is no longer ‘how are we going to include ICT into our curriculum?’, it’s just the accepted norm, just another form of tool in your learning and teaching kit.  I still keep in touch with people I used to teach with, hearing all about the successes, challenges and fun that happens in schools, and it makes me wonder about what students think when they arrive at university?  Here they experience a range of units from those that have the minimum in their iLearn unit to ones that have their own twitter accounts, online group tasks and simulations, and of course all of those in between.  How are we representing ourselves and our view of education to students?  Are we keeping up with the times?  Are we out of step?

Some examples of what’s going on in primary and high schools:

The possibilities that digital tools offer are exciting and near limitless!  I will confess that I’m not a ‘techie’ as some people assume, because of my role.  In fact, when I was teaching I hated computers.  Simply because I was afraid.  It all seemed too hard, too time consuming and cumbersome. I also felt incredibly stressed when I was in the computer lab with students and something didn’t work.  The students often knew more than I did but they didn’t hold it against me, it was me, holding it against myself.  Our fantastic IT Manager turned my attitude around, encouraging me to play, explore and not be afraid of what could go wrong.  Soon I was trialling tablet laptops in the classroom and was one of the first to incorporate the use of blogs as a learning tool at the school.  Fastforward to today and I’m much more comfortable with technology, that it’s OK not to know everything and am lucky to be surrounded by colleagues who are generous and collegial in the sharing of knowledge.

Enough about me!  How can you incorporate some of the digital possibilities into your unit?  As with anything, there are levels of engagement.  Start off with something simple and as you grow in confidence, then look to extend the range of tools you could use.  Don’t be afraid to play and test things out.  Ask for help, ask around. There are a huge amount of passionate staff in the Learning and Teaching Centre who are happy to help you look at opportunities in your unit.  The most important jumping point is that the pedagogy comes before the technology.