Tom Starkey's world of ed tech

5th December 2014 at 00:00

Technology. Big, scary, confusing technology with its complicated interwebs and buttons and such. How is a poor, crusty old teacher supposed to cope? We've only just figured out which way round the acetate goes on the overhead projector.

But fear not, fellow educators - help is at hand. In schools up and down the country, "digital leaders" are being chosen: students with the skills and the moxie to help their peers and their teachers to navigate the potential pitfalls of technology. All hail the digital leaders! They will lead us digitally. Or something.

I may be laying it on quite thick, but when I first heard about students being nominated to act as instructors, I was a teeny bit put out. There seemed to be an underlying assumption that kids would know more than teachers because they were, well, kids. And kids are good at that sort of thing, aren't they? With their phones and that, you know.

It skirted dangerously close to the whole "digital native" cobblers that had us all believing that anyone born in the 1990s was basically Neo from The Matrix when it came to technology. I work with young people and, believe you me, just because their fingers dance across a touchscreen like they're conducting an orchestra, that doesn't mean they know how to use it to further their education. Typically they'll be WhatsApp-ing Emily to see if she wants to sneak off to McDonald's at break. Lolz.

But, putting my righteous indignation to one side to think about the wider teaching populace, there are some who struggle to get their heads around certain aspects of technology. Lack of familiarity may be an issue, I'll (grudgingly) admit. But lack of time also leaves teachers frustrated with new bits of kit, apps or operating systems.

If the (hopefully carefully selected) students can help to streamline the process of getting the best out of something new, I'm all for it. They will need to be good communicators as well as experts at the shiny stuff, but schools across the land are full of children like that. It may take a slight attitude adjustment on our part, as it means that roles will be reversed, but if the result is that we are able to learn something new, quickly, that might help us in the day-today toil, then we shouldn't mind (for a little while, at least). But if anyone starts with "This thing here that controls the computer, this is called a mouse", I will not be pleased.

So if you've got a digital leaders programme up and running, let me know how it's going. Help me to shave off a cynical edge or two. Until then, I'm off to figure out where to put the acetate in this new projector they've installed. For some reason they've plugged it into a computer. Honestly, some people know nothing.

Tom Starkey is a teacher based in Leeds. Email or find him on Twitter at @tstarkey1212


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