In education you often see the word 'pedagogy' used and it's one of those words that can be quite intimidating. It just means 'how we cause learning to happen'.
Now a device is a device is a device, whether it be a Chromebook, or an iPad, or any other tablet of laptop. It's how we use it that matters. Or more appropriately it's how we use it to cause learning that matters.
Hornby High School, and the Uru Manuka cluster of other local schools with which we are in partnership in an educational sense, are a part of the Manaiakalani Outreach programme. This means that we have agreed to use the 'pedagogy' used in the original Manaiakalani schools set up in east Tamaki to help improve student learning.
That 'pedagogy' that is central to this programme is 'learn, create, share'. The technology (or the devices we refer to) is used to help students to learn content knowledge, to create new 'knowledge or product', and to share that with a real audience.
There has been a lot of debate about how much effect devices have on student learning, and there is certainly evidence around to show that if not used effectively devices can have a negative effect on learning. Distraction alone has a huge negative impact on learning.
But similarly there is a growing body of evidence to support the view that if used effectively devices can have a strong positive effect on learning.
'Learning' is improved in many ways. Evidence suggests that students are better engaged with their learning, they have access to a far wider pool of content knowledge, and the technology can be used to 'flip' the learning (where students review content at home, and then do problem based work in class with teachers) or rewind the learning (look at it again) any time they want.
The technology also promotes better writing, and better thinking. There is a growing body of evidence in the research literature to support this too.
'Creating' is a much easier process with the right technology. Whether it be creation through writing, the production of video clips, or design of structures, the technology makes this process much much easier, shifting the focus to the thinking that lies behind the creation. That is, it allows students to unleash their true creative powers.
Creation doesn't just have to be done digitally though. We should never forget that creation of objects in a technology workshop or an art studio or a science lab is just as much a part of that as it ever was. The difference is that there are now so many more possibilities with access to 3D printers, or CnC cutters, for example.
Then there is the power of the Google suite of applications that allow students to work together (to collaborate), and to build their understanding of new ideas through that collaboration. Tools such as Google Forms and Google Docs (entry level applications these days) have revolutionised what can be achieved in terms of collaboration, and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of applications.
I have previously talked about creativity and the idea of 'reimagining' here.
'Sharing' is perhaps more profoundly affected by the technology than anything else. Access to the world wide web means that students (well, anyone actually) can share their creation with the whole world if they choose. Student blogging is becoming more and more a part of that activity every day. The blog itself is an act of creation but more importantly it acts as a simple way to record and share the results of student creativity with whomever students choose.
This sharing is perhaps most powerful when done with family and whanau. It is an amazing experience for a child in Christchurch to get positive comments on some work she has created from whanau in Kaitaia.
Where does this leave us? Access to devices, and to the internet, are both vital to improving our kids' learning. A strength of the Manaiakalani approach is that by agreeing on common devices we are able to work with suppliers to get better prices for those devices, so giving families easier access. By using a common 'pedagogy' students find their transitions from one school to another that much easier. This is important because there is some learning lost for students every time they make a transition (a shift such as from one school to another). By giving students the same approach to their learning we make that transition less of a problem for them, so reducing the amount of learning lost as they shift from (for example) their primary school Year 6 to their intermediate or secondary school Year 7.
There are great things afoot in New Zealand to allow easier access to the internet. There is also a lot of work going on behind the scenes to give easier access to Chromebooks. Access needs to be easy for everyone.
We have a saying: "It's not about the devices, it's about the learning".
You can read more about Manaiakalani here.
Nga mihi nui