7 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Digital Technologies
I’ve been supporting schools in implementing the new Digital Technologies subject for 3 years now. Here are the 7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Digital Technologies:
Buy first. Think later.
The most common mistake made by schools starting to implement the new Digital Technologies subject is that the first step they take is to start buying equipment. New robots, drones, tablets. The shinier the better! It becomes a very easy way to show off to parents that the school is, in fact, becoming very tech focussed and future relevant. However, this is the biggest mistake to make. Let’s take a look at what is wrong with this.
Firstly, start with the learning outcomes first. Take the time to learn the purpose of the new subject before buying anything new. This will prevent the school from wasting money on technology they don’t need.
The most useful technologies to have in a school is a computer lab with enough computers to have one for each student in a class. There is no point buying tablets for a school if they do not have a computer lab or equivalent.
Start with what you have
Once you have understood the learning outcomes, take a look at sample class activities. There are many free websites that give great examples. Look for unplugged activities, these are activities that don’t require technologies. Unplugged activities use physical games, arts and crafts materials, and worksheets. Does your school have a computer lab? On a basic level, that’s all the technology you need to deliver all the learning outcomes in the Digital Technologies subject.
It’s too hard
I hear this often. Let’s step back. Yes the unknown can be daunting. What’s the motto for teachers? “Lifelong learning” Teachers do not need to be an expert when it comes to teaching Digital Technologies. One of the key concepts of the subject is “design thinking.” This involves a lot of not knowing and experimenting to find out. Making “mistakes” is a part of the experimentation and learning process. When students show me their code that they have written for me to check whether it is correct, I like to tell them “I don’t know. Let’s test it and find out.” It is ok to not know the solution, then to use testing to find out. This engages curiosity. Be a co-explorers with your students, rather than the expert and learner.
It’s not coding & robotics
There’s a lot of focus on coding & robotics. However, did you know, that it’s not referenced in the entire curriculum? We sometimes lose sight of fundamentals. We can do physical sequencing for prep to year 2 students e.g. with recipes or navigation. We can do data representation by creating glyphs with arts and craft materials.
More than just skills
We often refer to the skills of understanding and problem-solving. However, there is something more important than skills. The dispositions the lie beneath the skills that is more important. The dispositions curiosity and openness lie beneath the skills of understanding and problem solving. Being curious about how the world around us works is what leads us to the skill of understanding how the world around us works. Having the disposition of openness allows us to be humble and able to engage in the possibilities and not be closed off to the endless solutions available in solving interesting problems.
What’s the point?
What is at the core of the Digital Technologies subject? What is its purpose? It is to enable students to be creators and not just consumers of technology. Which means that students are empowered to create digital solutions to the community problems that they may face.
There is no single correct answer
One of the concepts covered in Digital Technologies is “Design Thinking.” What is the point of this? Well, it allows us to create innovative solutions to problems, through iterative learning and design. There is not just one solution, but many solutions. Each student may develop a perfectly unique and valid solution to the same problem. It is a problem solving skill that allows us to engage in the openness of the problem, ie that we recognise that there is no one single correct answer. This is a very different approach to many school projects which often only have one single correct answer.
In a nutshell, the best thing to do is to explore first and buy later. This way, you can be aware of the 7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Digital Technologies so that school funds are not wasted.
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