"Imagine a caveman finally coming out of his cave to see what all the noise is about and discovering the Internet, jumbo jets and trousers with zips."
[This article has been co-written in two parts, by Will Collinson (Part One) and Rachel Jones (Part Two)]
So, to come to a school like King Edward VI School, or KES, where they have fully embraced the digital revolution is quite a sea change for me. In the past fortnight I have set and received homework via Firefly (our school website and VLE) and marked it online, I have walked into classrooms with no teaching resources at all because I have already emailed them to my classes, and I have had my students magically and wirelessly project their answers up onto the board. Imagine a caveman finally coming out of his cave to see what all the noise is about and discovering the Internet, jumbo jets and trousers with zips - it has been that dramatic (note to my English students: This is an example of hyperbole. Remember it's pronounced hi-per-bo-lee, not 'hyperbol', as if an American sporting event).
It has been Google Classroom that has had the greatest impact. Like many English teachers, my motto is: If you can write a paragraph, you can write an essay. Yet English students make so many little mistakes, so many dropped apostrophes, so many pointless commas, so many “their's” or even, heaven help us “they're's” (you may scoff, but I've seen it done), so many quotations called “quotes” (a particular bugbear of mine) or, worst of all, writing “basically” and “literally” as though texting their mates. They make so many of these errors that marking their work turns into a marathon of red pen work, the writing becoming smaller and smaller as the white space on the page disappears.
But with Google Classroom, I don't need to take their answers away and scribble on them, I can see the answer large as life on the board. I can correct it there and then, talking to my student and explaining where they are going wrong. What is more, everyone in the class can learn from this process, so I don't have to correct the same mistake 23 times, which by the way is the worst thing about being an English teacher (other than being expected to know how to spell and define every word in the dictionary).
So I am enjoying my time outside of my cave. The sun feels warm on my face, there are lots of fascinating things to see and do and my knuckles are not scraping along the ground as much as they used to. I don't think I'll be going back inside any time soon.
Rachel Jones: If there were an ideal song about appreciating what you have, I would dedicate it and sing it in assembly for Will. Caveman knuckles and all, he demonstrates what can be truly magical about using technology as part of your teaching. You don’t have to be Harry Potter to get these things to work, because - *whispers* - they are actually not hard to use.
If technology was hard to work, then trust me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Sure, you will have teething problems: wonky iOS updates, Explain Everything videos which the children try to send you as a JPEG, the one Year Nine child that write something questionable on a shared Google Doc… Hands down, though, it is possible to use technology to hone your assessment for learning, to better differentiate, to ask the kind of questions that really spark children to think and to learn.
We are very lucky that our school is well resourced and dedicated to providing staff training so that technology can be used well within our classrooms. I know that many teachers do not have access to the same level of support, but you can make enormous gains asking students to use their own devices in lessons. All it takes is a leap of faith in your own abilities to try something new, and just like the neanderthal emerging from the cave, you will see the real impact that technology can have. Seek out those at your school who are already doing amazing things with technology, or even seek out someone who is doing something good but consistently. There is a wealth of support online, and ideas can be sought out at TeachMeets. So the message is, any teacher can become better at using technology. All it takes is the confidence to try and the patience to try again when it inevitably goes wrong.
Bio: Will Collinson has been teaching English for ten years, and recently moved to King Edward VI School in Southampton following a lengthy spell in South London at an all-boys’ school. He is now assistant head (Pastoral)
What was your introduction to edtech like? Share your experiences below.
This article was co-written by:
Will Collinson has been teaching English for ten years, and recently moved to King Edward VI School in Southampton following a lengthy spell in South London at an all-boys’ school. He is now assistant head (Pastoral)