how to teach with emerging technologies when you don’t know how to use them yourself

I’ve just started my PhD and, over the past year in preparation, have collected a heap of articles/reports/references which I am now beginning to plough my way through. I came across a report published by BECTA in 2007 titled ‘Emerging technologies for learning‘ and have just finished the section written by Marc Prensky. BECTA itself has been closed down with the UK change of government but the report is available in various places (click on the link above for one of them).

In volume 2, Prensky writes about how teachers will never be able to keep up with the technological skills and interests of the young people they teach. I don’t strictly agree with this view from all sorts of perspectives (and it is partly fodder for my own PhD research) however that is definitely a topic for a future post. I really liked his advice for schools and teachers about how they could and should still use the technologies as teaching and learning tools. He suggested that, rather than know how to use a particular type of technology, teachers needed to stick to what we know best – helping students select and use the right tools in an effective, responsible and meaningful way. We don’t need to know how to create a podcast to be able to help students assess their own creation of them. It can be enough to teach students where else they can go to learn rather than having all the knowledge and teaching them ourselves.

I guess all of this is resonating following recent discussions I’ve had with colleagues about blogging. Many saw the benefits for students but were reluctant to actually implement it, for various reasons. A major reason appeared to be fear/misunderstandings about the technology itself. As teachers, we still need to have an awareness of what the technology is, how it fits into the world and how people use it. We don’t, however, need to be experts in using it ourselves, just able to guide students towards tools that will help them figure it out. Obviously there are some of us who are more interested than others but that shouldn’t be considered a pre-requisite.

Certainly food for thought. Now back to the pile of reading…

2 thoughts on “how to teach with emerging technologies when you don’t know how to use them yourself

  1. Gill, I especially agree with your point that real value comes from teachers helping their students select appropriate tools that are available. I don’t think that every teacher is going to be even close to the coalface of emerging technologies, but if we can teach students to be independent learners, they will be able to discover them for themselves. It sounds like you have some interesting reading ahead!

  2. Admittedly it is the time needed to get one’s head around new emerging technology before being proficient enough to stand in front of a class of 30 eagers and say “hey let’s try this out”. having said that, I am on a mission to investigate one new web2.0 “thing” once a week… let’s see how I go amongst all my other commitments!

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