Research from Virgin Media Business last year revealed that just 15 per cent of teachers describe themselves as ‘totally computer savvy’, despite the fact that more than 75 per cent of teachers use technology in most of their lessons. So is there too much pressure on teachers to use technology in the classroom?
“There’s an enormous pressure on teachers to use technology in the classroom simply because everybody jumps on the bandwagon and says they’re rubbish at it,” Dave Townsend, a former business and law teacher in Essex, says. “Teachers have to take tests in IT before they’re allowed to qualify so that pressure definitely exists.”
But, Dave says that the real key could be down to confidence. “Teachers aren’t confident because they compare themselves to IT specialist teachers, ‘oh, I couldn’t write a database on Excel’, but why should they? They don’t need to know the why and how. Sometimes the pressure is self-generated.”
While he was teaching, Dave became the ICT Champion at his school, running workshops for staff. “The point of it was that I wasn’t an IT teacher. I could take someone through the new registration software, for example, slowly so that they could see where I was clicking and explain it from my point of view. They don’t need to know why the software works or how it was written, a History teacher or an English teacher just needs to know how to use it.”
So how is that lack of confidence affecting teachers’ ability to teach in the classroom?
“When it comes to using specific software for their subjects, I don’t know that it is. Teachers know how to use the software that helps them to do their job of teaching a subject,” he says. “I ran an experiment to get different departments using technology and although they all said they didn’t use it much, I found that the history department had websites that they used, science lessons where they were dissecting frogs without having to actually dissect a frog, each department was using technology that nobody else really knew about.”
Teachers know that the kids know more than they do
But Dave admits that the fact that teachers are often stood in front of 30 people who know how to perform whatever task they are struggling with can add to the pressure. “Teachers know that the kids know more than they do. But that’s why we initiated student IT mentors. We found that actually teachers would rather sit down with a year 10 or 11 student and ask their questions than ask other teachers.”
But what about the future of education and the technologies that we will be seeing in the classroom in the next 10, 15 or 20 years?
“What I reckon we’ll be doing in a few years time is building schools to half the size they are now, to a high standard - something like the Google campus,” Dave predicts. “And the kids only come into the building a few times a week and then the rest of the time they’ll be logged in at home, seen to be registered and able to access a teacher any time they need one.”
He admits that it’s hard to predict what the technology will be like, “it’ll all be Princess Leia 3D holograms appearing on the table in front of you won’t it?” But he says that it’s clear that the education system needs to change to adapt to these kinds of technologies, “we’re still teaching in the same way that we were in the 1800s.”