7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Digital Technologies
I have been supporting schools in implementing the new Digital Technologies subject into Australian schools for 3 years now, and in doing so, I’ve witnessed educators make a number of mistakes. To spare you the trouble of going through these misfortunes yourself, I’ve compiled a list of 7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Digital Technologies into your school.
#1) Think before you buy!
By far the most common mistake I’ve seen educators make when implementing Digital Technologies into their school is that they buy equipment before thinking about the purpose of it. They buy new robots, drones, tablets, and more — the shinier the better! — as a quick and easy means of showing off to parents that the school is keeping up with the Digital Age.
Here’s a better way to make use of your time and funds:
- Start with the learning outcomes first. Take the time to learn the purpose of this new subject before buying any new equipment. This will prevent your school from wasting money on technology they you don’t need. The most useful technology that you can have in a school is a computer lab with one computer to each student, and here’s why:
- A computer lab is the most useful technology you can have. On a basic level, one computer per student is all you need to deliver all the learning outcomes outlined in the Digital Technologies subject. There is no point buying tablets for a school if they do not have a computer lab or equivalent,
- Work with what you have. Once you have understood the learning outcomes of the Digital Technologies subject, take a look at sample class activities. There are many free websites that give great examples. In particular, look for unplugged activities. These are activities that don’t require any devices or physical technology. Unplugged activities use physical games, arts and crafts materials, and worksheets. They can really help you shave down your budget.
#2) Don’t be intimidated by unfamiliar content
I often hear teachers say, “Learning technology is too hard.” I agree that the unknown can be daunting, but 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 is a problem-solving process that involves a lot of unknowns. Making mistakes is part of the experimentation and learning process, and often leads us to our solution.
When students show me code that they have written and ask me to check whether or not it is correct, I like to tell them, “I don’t know. Let’s test it and find out.” It’s okay to not know the solution to a problem, as long as you use trial and error to find out. This process engages curiosity, which is an invaluable disposition to hone.
Here’s a takeaway message from me:
- Use the opportunity to learn alongside your students! Be a co-explorer and a learner alongside your students rather than the expert.
Don’t be afraid to explore new technology alongside your students!
#3) Don’t get caught up in buzz words like “coding” and “robotics”
I have noticed that a lot of attention gets put on coding and robotics when we’re talking about Digital Technologies. However, did you know that neither of these two words are actually referenced in entire curriculum?
We sometimes lose sight of the fundamentals when we get caught up in the implications of a concept, and it can cause us to make mistakes when we’re trying to buy equipment or plan lessons.
Here’s my advice on how to avoid making this mistake:
- Look directly at what the curriculum is asking of you! Digital Technologies is more than coding and robots. For example, the F-2 curriculum requires educators to teach students about “physical sequencing”; this can be done by using recipes or navigation in your class. “Data representation” can be done by creating glyphs with arts and craft material.
#4) Don’t focus on the skills
We often say that understanding and problem solving are core skills that are developed through Digital Technologies. However, there is something more fundamentally important than the aforementioned skills.
Digital Technologies fosters curiosity and openness. Being curious about the way in which the world works is exactly what helps us advance our understanding of how the world works through experimentation and observation. Having a disposition of openness allows us to be humble, and renders us able to engage in the numerous possibilities for a solution; it prevents us from being closed off to the endless solutions available in solving interesting problems.
Curiosity and openness are great dispositions to foster in kids!
#5) Understand the purpose of the Digital Technologies curriculum
What is at the core of the Digital Technologies subject? What is its purpose? It is to enable students to be creators rather than just consumers of technology. This means that students are empowered to create digital solutions to community problems that they may face.
#6) There are no absolute answers!
Unlike subjects like Maths, there are no absolute solution to problems in Digital Technologies. In fact, there can often be many solutions to a problem, each one valid in its own right.
One of the concepts covered in Digital Technologies is “Design thinking.” Design thinking equips us with a skill set that allows us to develop innovative solutions to problems through iterative learning and design. Through the design thinking methodology, each student may develop a perfectly unique and valid solution to the same problem.
Design thinking is a problem solving skill that allows us to engage in the openness of the problem, i.e. 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.
You can learn more about design thinking by checking out our video below!
Don’t make these 7 mistakes!
And there you have it — 7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Digital Technologies! If I had one piece of advice to give you all, I would tell you that the best thing you can do to avoid making mistakes when implementing Digital Technologies into your school is to explore first and buy later. By exploring your options and exploring the curriculum, you will develop a sound knowledge of what is involved in the Digital Technologies subject, and what you can do to ensure that school funds are not wasted in your efforts to implement DT.
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