The Elephant in the Room

In Education, Educational Technology

When considering innovative teaching and learning strategies, most of the people whose role encompasses worrying about such predicaments tend to focus, in my experience, on developing and sharing teacher-centred classroom strategies: using different questioning techniques (Socratic questioning, Bloom’s Taxonomy…), novel ways to plan and execute lessons, original lesson starters and plenaries…

All of which can be very useful. However, the problem I often find is that teachers seldom stop to consider using communication technologies as an innovative teaching and learning strategy to enhance both the delivery of the curriculum and learning outcomes. We all know these technologies exist, yet we choose to ignore them.

Even when the most innovative teachers progress from teacher-centred classroom dynamics to inquiry or project based learning, rarely is technology considered to supply the scaffold for a more effective collaborative and socio-constructivist approach to the acquisition of knowledge.

The reason given most often for this avoidance of the obvious benefits that new and emerging technologies confer on the education of children is that technology is not yet pervasive in schools.

The argument goes: given that children are in classrooms with no access to computers during their school day, with only a few timetabled exceptions, the focus therefore ought to be on innovative teaching strategies that do not involve the use of new technologies.

This makes sense to some. It makes no sense to me.

It makes sense to some because from the 9-to-5 perspective of industrialised education, it is perfectly logical to continue compartmentalising children’s learning and strengthening the central role of the teacher as purveyor of knowledge by avoiding the disruptive influence of computers, social networks, mobile devices and the internet.

However, it makes no sense to me to snub the potential of new technologies to boost the quality of our pupils’ education by allowing them to become an integral part of the teaching as well as the learning process.

We need to realise that these technologies are only absent from schools because we are deliberately keeping them out. We have created an alternative reality in which technology doesn’t exist. We are, in effect, striving to perpetuate a status quo that is already dead and buried in the real world.

This is the elephant in the room. In schools all over the world more and more teachers are beginning to talk about it.

What do you think? Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Photo by Richard Roche

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  1. Absolutely agree that creative use of new technologies can and should be used widely to enhance teaching and learning.

    For me, the concern is persuading all teachers that they have a duty and the time to develop the expertise to use the tools effectively. It is not technology alone that will make the difference, but the skills of those who are called upon to use it. 

    • Even in more forward-thinking and innovative schools, the use of technology remains tacitly discouraged by a system that seeks to preserve total control over resources availability and access, which is almost the total opposite of what most pupils can expect when they are not in school – when they are in the real world.

      From this perspective, it is perhaps unsurprising that teachers who work within systems that seek to perpetuate by-gone pedagogical principles and attitudes do not see incorporating new technologies – and the tools that come with them – into their own practice as a priority.

      Like you, I don’t think technology alone is the answer. But I do think being closed to the possibilities afforded to us by new technologies – challenging the way we do education – is a symptom of a wider malaise.

      Many thanks for your comment Jackie.

  2. I enjoyed reading your ‘Elephant,’ post and wholeheartedly agree.  I would go further to suggest the metaphor is applicable to broader aspects of teaching and learning; with teachers assuming too much responsibility and pupils perhaps not enough.  Education works best in partnership, and maybe it needs to be a little more equal.  Only by encouraging pupils to take more ownership of the curriculum, will they really engage with it.  ‘You can take a horse to water, but….’  I’ve just had a book published called ‘Where Can An Elephant Roost?’.  It contains challenges designed to ‘…make them drink.’  Or think.  Take a look – see what you think.                   

Your feedback is always welcome

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