Technology When You Need It Where You Need It  

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By Steve Allen, Head Master, LEH Foshan International School

 

COVID 2019 has shown the importance, and limitations, of online learning. However, many parents are concerned about the amount of time their children have spent online, both during and before this lockdown and are questioning the use, and amount, of technology in schools. There is no doubt that technology is of great benefit in supporting students learning, but it is a tool to be used sensibly. We must recognise that technology is at the heart of many modern work roles but it does not replace the need for key or 'soft' skills. The COVID 2019 lockdown has demonstrated the need for the physical space of the school campus and for the interaction and time spent with teachers, friends and classmates. The social skills learned through these interactions is never formally examined at school, but is essential for the healthy development of the students. 

 

LEH VALUES 

 

At LEH we believe learning is a social enterprise: students learn by doing, discussing and analysing together. We teach our students to be confident, resilient and life-long learners by teaching them how to learn, as opposed to simply filling them with facts to regurgitate in an end-of-year examination. Our classrooms are student centred: Students are grouped in tables of four to six, and learning tasks are designed to require students to work collaboratively and to solve problems together. Teachers work alongside students, guiding them, skilfully challenging  and supporting them, rather than standing at the front lecturing at them. 

At LEH we believe technology is a wonderful tool to support learning. It enables students to research and access material quickly and to complete tasks faster than by other means. Students however need to be taught to use technology appropriately: they need to understand analytical fact-checking, and how to recognise and root out fake information. Students need to work honestly, acknowledging authorship and avoiding plagiarism; and they need to learn balance - how and when to use technology in the right way. There is no doubt that technology makes learning easier and more enjoyable but it does not replace more traditional learning technologies. It is simply one tool amongst many. 

 

APPROPRIATE USE OF TECHNOLOGY

When I trained to teach, over 30 years ago, I was led to believe that computers would eventually make my role redundant. I did not believe it then and, despite the leaps forward in technology and artificial intelligence, I do not believe it now. Technology has revolutionised learning; aspects that used to take weeks to teach or practise can now be done in a lesson. However, technology has not replaced teachers and nor will it until it can recreate the social experiences we need as humans to learn.

 

The majority of our textbooks are electronic, loaded onto the laptops that we supply to our students. This ensures students have their textbooks when they need them, and where they need them. It allows students to annotate their textbooks and to link other materials such as videos, apps and other notes. It enables teachers to guide reading and to direct students to other resources more effectively. Other benefits include ensuring students do not have overly heavy schoolbags and always have the same version of each textbook as the rest of their classmates.

 

We believe students should have access to technology when they need it and where they need it. It is appropriate for their learning needs and we do not allow them to load social media or to play games on their school-supplied devices. We recognise that students need time away from their screens, so at LEH the use of technology is limited to occasions where it makes a real difference to student learning. We also ensure students participate fully in our busy activities programme where the focus is on working together, playing together away from the digital devices.

Mobile phones are allowed in school - they too can be useful learning tools - but they are strictly controlled. Throughout the school positive use of technology is rewarded and negative use is discouraged. We aim to teach our students to be responsible users rather than to ban the use altogether. Finally we ensure that every student has digital detox evenings and nights by asking them to surrender all of their devices at bed-time. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

At LEH Foshan technology will be available where we need it when we need it to support learning but it cannot replace the high quality, experienced teaching staff who will teach your children.

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