Appropriate and Discreet Use of Educational Apps within Curriculum
Our resident Pre-School and Primary School EdTech blogger, Neelam Parmar, discusses how to implement the usage of technology in the classroom and considers how Professional Teacher Development might help. Do you agree? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!
In the past few weeks, having discussed what constitutes the selection criteria of an educational app and taking into consideration the appropriate pedagogical practices whilst using mobile technology in a classroom, the third and final set of the trilogy evaluates how best to use technology appropriately and discreetly within the curriculum subject and content. In other words, how best to ensure that apps which are incorporated into the classroom are integrated seamlessly and transparently within the classroom lesson.
Apps in Curriculum
In the past few years, many schools have bought into the idea of introducing the use of educational apps within their settings, with the view to engage and motivate students, as well as to enhance and encourage 21st century learning.
While there have been a few effective approaches to incorporating apps successfully into the classroom settings, there are still very many scenarios where the use of technology is not discreetly integrated within curriculum. A very common misconception is that mobile technology must be used as part of an ICT lesson in the ICT room, of that which includes a detailed lesson plan and instructions for the children to follow.
However, the use of mobile apps within a curriculum needs to go beyond an ICT lesson. Effective use of apps is about its ‘space’ within subject content matter where it is not just an ‘add on’ but rather works as a discreet complimentary tool within the classroom materials and settings.
Easing technology into classroom instruction means more than just teaching basic ICT lessons through the use of software programs in class. Effective technology integration must happen within the focus of the subject content in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning journey for the student. More successful integration is achieved when the technology is transparent and when it supports the learning outcomes.
For, if the use of technology is not streamlined, the usage of tablets and apps simply becomes another expensive add-on tool within the traditional and structured stand-and-deliver classroom. This goes hand in hand with the newer forms of pedagogy strategies where children’s communication, media and collaboration skills also need to be considered as part and parcel of the whole learning process.
The Book Bag Design: Technology as an Everyday Feature in Children’s Rucksacks.
Taking the form of materials in a book bag (Parmar, 2013) (extended by the concept of the “pencil case design”, by Jem Peck, KG), the use of mobile technology can be pictured to sit side by side with more traditional resources such as, notebooks, pens, calculators, drawing instruments, music recorders etc. in a child’s school bag so that it can be used interchangeably and as a complement to the other school resources.
So where in some cases, the use of traditional paper and pen is most effective (i.e. planning a literacy assignment); other scenarios may require the use of appropriate educational apps to translate more complex concepts both creatively and simply to children (i.e. 3D effect of the solar system). As a result, teachers have the autonomy to drive the learning processes for their students in ways which are more appropriate within the subject matter.
In this way, technology is used in ways that become an integral part of how a classroom functions – and as accessible as the use of all other classroom tools. The focus of the use of integrating technology in the lesson is, in effect, the curriculum outcome and not the use of the particular type of technology.
However, simply handing over mobile applications to a teacher will not suffice. Both teachers and staff need to be protected from re-inventing the workflow wheel and require some type of professional development and support to take this type of innovative and collaborative teaching forward. So, how can we do this?
Teacher- Side Professional Development
In very simple terms, teachers require a form of ‘coaching’ (Technology, Coaching and Community, 2011). Taking the form of professional development, coaching works as a powerful support mechanism. Coaching is customised on an individual level, providing both modelling and instructional approaches, which when conducted correctly, can harness the potential for teachers to maximise what needs to be accomplished in technology-rich environments.
In terms of understanding the role and use of mobile technologies discreetly within education, the role of coaches can help empower teachers with the knowledge to make intelligent decisions about how to integrate educational apps within context and focus of the study. They can further encourage teachers to become more motivated and responsible for the choices and learning environments in which they create, thereby making it relevant to the lessons currently being taught. Finally, the coaches can ensure ongoing increase of skill set and sharing of information across subject areas, hence encouraging peer to peer learning with frequent on-going support.
So, in the context of introducing an app within a lesson in the classroom, the coach works side by side with the educator to first increase technological awareness and the level of knowledge base required from the technology. Second, the coach and teacher evaluates the most appropriate and effective pedagogic strategies required to succeed within a communicative and collaborative context and finally, the coach works in partnership with the teacher to enrich teaching and learning within the subject content matter of the lesson plan in curriculum.
As a result, with all this information in the teacher’s hand, technology will no longer need to operate as a standalone tool in the corner of the classroom. It will no longer need to be brought into class as an ICT lesson or an exploratory tool. But, it can, through sustainable knowledge and extended practice, be integrated within the classroom, both discreetly and purposefully within curriculum content and structure.