When I was at school, classrooms were frequently filled with clouds of chalk dust; technology consisted of a lone computer and the occasional handwritten overhead projector slide. Nowadays, interactive whiteboards adorn most classrooms, Google has replaced encyclopedias and departments use the Nintendo DS to engage pupils in subjects. Registers are digital, behaviour and personal information is stored in databases and reports are written online.
There is no denying that advances in technology have enhanced the educational experience, but have we become too reliant?
This was a question I was forced to address when, at 8am on a particularly busy day, my laptop died. I had dutifully prepared engaging PowerPoint presentations, with video clips and sound bites, to appeal to every style of learner. I had even backed everything up in the naive belief that this would protect me against all eventualities. But without a functioning laptop, all my good intentions went out of the window.
Having recently acquired the position of higher-level teaching assistant, I was still new to teaching groups and began to feel the panic rising. I was confident that I remembered the content of my sessions, but the comfort blanket of technology had been removed. Was I capable of keeping the attention of a room full of teenagers with just my trusty whiteboard and my sparkling personality?
My smooth start was disrupted by the laborious task of completing a paper register, and I could feel that my confidence had taken a knock. However, once the lesson began, my video clips were replaced by collaborative discussions and my potentially rigid presentation gave way to more free-flowing learning. I soon forgot about my laptop and the high-tech resources I had created, and simply enjoyed engaging with my pupils. They seemed unfazed by the lack of computer-based stimulation and participated enthusiastically.
"Chalk and talk" may be considered outdated but a technology-free classroom can still be refreshing. Now it is not my fear of technology failing that keeps me awake at night, but thinking of creative ways to adapt my lessons when it does.
Abi Joachim is a higher-level teaching assistant in the English department at Westbourne Academy in Suffolk
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