Category Archives: Teaching Strategies

ICT: The Way To Engage The ‘Digital Natives’ In Our Classrooms

 

“Our students have changes radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky, 2001p. 1).

Today’s students, referred to as digital natives, are saturated with technology. I see babies in prams playing on their mum’s Iphone before they can learn to talk! The constant exposure and interaction with digital technology, through the use of computers, videogames, mobile phones and digital music players to name a few, has changed the way our new generation of students’  think and process information in the brain (Prensky, 2001).

 The use of technology during the early years of childhood has altered the brain structure to a different thinking pattern than any other generation (Prensky, 2001).  Digital natives are used to receiving information at a fast rate, getting instant gratification, parallel processing and multi-tasking (Prensky, 2001). This means that children are looking for a different learning experience, one that is familiar to them, as opposed to the experience that pre-digital aged teachers, who are teaching them, have created (Prensky, 2001). Hence the recent shift in education systems to incorporate ICT and other technologies in teaching and learning strategies across all Key Learning Areas (KLAs). This is reflected in the NSW syllabus in all KLA’s and also in the NSW Institute of Teachers’ Professional Teaching Element 4 – Aspect 4.1.5 Use a range of teaching strategies and resources including ICT and other technologies to foster interest and support learning.  The explicit reference to ICT and other technologies in these mandatory documents means that teacher’s are now accountable for transforming their ‘old’ pedagogy of  teaching, to one that is more current and engaging for today’s students, the digital natives. Teachers need to elevate the quality of learning through providing an environment that is relative to their students’ style of learning. Through the use of ICT and other technologies teachers can create meaningful and engaging learning experiences for their technology savvy students.

Below is my example of ICT being incorporated into a science lesson on ‘push and pull’. This Interactive White Board resource makes learning fun as they are able to use their kinesthetic skills to drag and drop items where they belong. ICT allows learning to become interactive and engaging for the digital native students.

 

During my school visits I observed how my school integrates ICT into their teaching. The school has been very proactive and devised an ICT skills scope and sequence for each stage, highlighting the curriculum links across all KLAs with ICT skills which teachers must incorporate in their teaching. These outcomes have been set up and enforced by the school.

In the year one class I am currently placed in, they incorporate ICT skills in their literacy program through PM readers (2 desktop computers are set up in their classroom for this), a daily activity on the Interactive White Board for students to display the date and weather and through incidentals such as, when the teacher was creating task group tags she asked the students to explain how to insert a picture into a Word document. They went through this procedure step by step. The school also has an E-Learning room, in which each class has time to use the computers for ICT skills learning and also to incorporate the use of computers into other KLA work. Each classroom has a Promethean Interactive Whiteboard, flip cameras and also access to a laptop portable library.

The Year’s 5 and 6 in the school are engaged in project based learning. The rationale behind this is that studies have supported that students who learn in an environment that represents authentic real experiences are better learners and are more equipped for the workplace.  The school has adopted this style of learning to engage students’ interest and motivation to learn; placing a huge emphasis on learning ICT skills and to enhance content meaning through the use of computers. One pitfall of using computers for the majority of school work is that teachers cannot completely assess the students’ spelling and grammar competency, as programs have tools to auto correct these. However, the school recognises that the use of technology is central for engaging students to learn content and the development of life skills a 21st century student needs in order to succeed.  Students are instructed to work from 12pm till home time using ICT as a platform for their content learning of the KLAs.  

I had the privilege to watch film documentaries that Years 5 & 6 students made about education systems around the world. The school gave the students an unforgettable experience of going to film making courses at NIDA and AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio Studios) to learn about how to make professional films. The students used programs such as Movie Maker and Photo Story to develop their documentaries and deliver a professional result. I was astounded by the quality and professionalism of their films.

Teachers in all school’s need to approach ICT with “open arms” so that they allow their students to learn in a manner that complements the way their students’ think and process information. The use of ICT will enhance their learning experience, as the digital learning environment matches their way of learning. This in turn will make learning more engaging for this new generation of students and will increase the quality of their education. Today’s teachers need to embrace the way of the future of teaching.

 

Bibliography

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon. 9(5).

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Bloom’s Taxonomy: Encouraging Higher Cognitive Thinking in Primary School Classrooms

Research tells us that teachers ask 300-400 questions a day, and hence is paramount in a teacher’s tool box for engaging students, encouraging discussion, stimulating higher cognitive thinking and evaluating learning progress of students (Barry & Kind 1998). This powerful tool that is abundantly present in the teaching profession is often taken for granted and not used effectively.

I looked at Bloom’s taxonomy, for the framework categorising the types of questions found in classrooms (Alford, Herbert & Fragenheim 2006).

I observed that the majority of questions asked in class discussion and on worksheets were factual, knowledge based questions that involve recalling information such as “list 4 facts about the animal’s shelter”. Whilst asking this type of question was an effective tool for assessing student learning, questions didn’t extended beyond the facts, an extension question such as “what other animals can you think of that might live in a shelter like rabbit?” Or to compare shelters of other animals would have been appropriate for students to take the next step of applying, comparing and contrasting facts to extend students thinking (Alford et al. 2006).

Higher cognitive thinking invites a further understanding of content such as problem solving, making judgements, evaluation and reflection to name a few (Alford et al. 2006). These questions, whilst far more challenging, can still assess students knowledge, as facts are the basis of their justification of an answer, and also gives students ownership and a sense of power over their education by getting students to make a judgement and commit to an idea, allowing them to reflect on a particular issues with a ‘safety net’ of a teacher to point out any implications on their ideas, a Socratic style of questioning ( Barry & Kind 1998). It encourages and teaches children to make their own decisions not just in a classroom setting but also a life skill.

An example of where students were able to use their ‘Design’ or ‘Synthesis’ (high cognitive) thinking skills (Alford et al. 2006), was their maths lesson. Students had been learning about clocks and had to apply their knowledge of the properties and elements of time and clocks to make their own clock. Whilst the higher achievers came up with extraordinary designs, so too did the lower abilities, which proves that teachers should not be afraid of challenging their students in these higher areas of thinking even with the lower abilities.

I believe that planning questions is just as vital as planning the lesson (Barry & Kind 1998) as it adds to the growth to students academically and personally. I recognise that higher cognitive questions must be introduced sequentially and match student level but I do support Barry & King’s (1998) theory that we should include half of the total number or questions asked as high cognitive thinking questions. If students are not challenged by thinking in higher cognitive ways they can easily plateau. By getting students who struggle to extend themselves in the other ways of thinking, it creates an avenue for teachers to encourage their learning so they can move into higher cognitive levels. This relates to NSW Institue of Teachers Professional Standards Element 4 : Aspect 4.1.2 Demonstrate a range of questioning techniques designed to support student learning; and Element 5: Aspect 5.1.4  Provide clear directions for classrom activities for classroom activities and engage students in purposeful learning activities.

For more on Blooms taxonomy visit:

http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/researchskills/dalton.htm

Bibliography 

Alford, G., Herbert, P., & Frangenheim, E. (2006). Bloom’s Taxonomy Overview. Innovative Teachers Companion , 176 – 224. ITC Publications.

Barry, K. & King, L. (1998). Developing Instructional Skills. Beginning Teaching and Beyond, (3rd ed.), 144-167. Social Science Press.

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