Technology - At our fingertips

18th January 2013 at 00:00
Open up learning by using wi-fienabled devices in class

Not long ago, giving children access to information was considered to be all that was needed to provide them with an education. But today the information we once so carefully drip-fed our pupils is available on demand. What is the population density of China? In what order did Shakespeare write his tragedies? What did people think about Henry VIII in his lifetime? The first step towards finding the answer is always the same: Google it.

At least, that is what children do until they step into the traditional learning environment of a school. Then it has been a case of locking away technology and learning the way we have always done. If you want to use the technology that dominates every moment of your out-of-school time, you have to go to a special room where that is the only thing you can do.

At my school, however, we have launched a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative: pupils can bring in any wi-fienabled device and have access to the school wi-finetwork. From a technical perspective, you need to ensure that the network can cope with high volumes of traffic and that your filtering policy is up to date. But from a teaching and learning perspective, BYOD could herald a revolution.

Constant access to the internet means that pupil-led research is more frequent and requires less planning. If you hit upon an interesting thread of discussion, pupils can immediately look into it - and give feedback on what they have discovered - without leaving the classroom.

At the same time, pupils can coordinate their classwork and homework as they are using just one device - one that they are familiar with, which makes them more independent. They also tend to create more varied and interesting work than they might otherwise have done. And if you set up project-based learning as a regular feature, you will be able to spend more time with individual pupils.

This initiative has so many benefits. Though, of course, with this opportunity comes a great responsibility: ensuring pupils learn how to discern "good", accurate information from "bad" and untrue information. Their natural tendency is likely to be to head to wiki.answers.com and believe the first bit of information they see without verifying it. It is your job to educate them to be more sceptical.

Indeed, the more our pupils embrace technology in this way, the more crucial it is that we are able to act as a guide, as well as a teacher, to ensure that while methods of learning may change, the rigorous pursuit of accurate and verifiable knowledge is not lost.

Adam Webster is assistant director of learning and teaching at Caterham School in Surrey. His blog, cagelessthinking.com, explores the use of technology and innovation in education

What else?

This helpful poster from google will help pupils to get the best out of search engines.

bit.lyGoogleExplained

Try the TES Web-based Research collection, packed with activities to help pupils find the facts they need. bit.lyWebResearch.

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