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The Digital Classroom

This is the full version for the article published in Jewish life.  

To understand the need for a change from the conventional type of classroom to a digital age classroom, the following question needs to be asked:

“What do our pupils need to learn today to be prepared for tomorrow?”

“We are currently preparing pupils for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t know yet are problems” Richard Riley US Former Secretary of Education

Technology is affecting our lives endlessly; education experts, principals and teachers acknowledge the potential of Technology or ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) in teaching and learning. Most teachers wonder what gadgets/ skills/ qualities are required in order to establish digital age classrooms.

There are three main fundamentals to consider when schools want to establish a digital classroom.  These are:

  1. Technical – Infrastructure, connectivity, software , hardware and gadgets
  2. HR -Teachers’ skills
  3. HR – Maintenance and technical support

One must begin the journey by doing the appropriate planning and preparation, as one of the biggest obstacles experienced by schools when starting to implement digital classrooms is lack of a strategy. Schools should begin with a strategy that addresses technical issues and plans to upgrade the teachers’ ICT skills.  Ensuring proper technical support is also essential. Schools need to have a vision of where they want to go. They need to assess where they are now, and then they need to strategise how they are going to reach their vision of the “digital age classroom”.

Education experts note that pupils need to be equipped with the following skills:

1.  Basic technical skills

1.1   Use of internet (Search, Social Networking, implication of digital footprints, Safety)

2.1   Proficiency in the use of Microsoft applications

3.1   Typing skills

4.1   Internet Copyright

5.1   Citing resources from the net

6.1   Apps on mobile phones and tablets (search, use, develop)

2.  Critical thinking skills – pupils need to be equipped with the skills of life-long learning. This is a self disciplined and self directed skill that enables pupils to adapt to change throughout their lives.

3. Analytical thinking skills – pupils are “bombarded” with information that is at their finger tips, but they need to be able to sift through the information and use only what is needed

4. Communication skills – on a personal to virtual level, peoples’ relationships are based on  communication skills.

5. Creativity and innovation – our pupils need to be able to think creatively to cope with the constant changes occurring in their lives. These skills are useful in every sphere including entrepreneurship and in the business world.

What does the Digital age classroom entail?

The roles of the teachers in a digital classroom remain the same as in an ordinary classroom, i.e, facilitating learning, assessing, correcting, reinforcing and management, but the tools required for the teacher to fulfil her roles differ.

What skills do teachers need to ensure they impart the required ICT skills to students? I believe that teachers need to be lifelong learners and that they continuously need to develop themselves professionally. Teachers need to be adventurous and use pupils’ digital skills while facilitating learning.

Gadgets / tools for the digital teacher:

When considering the introduction of tools and gadgets into the digital classroom the following characteristics of the learning environments should be considered (based on Florida Centre for instructional technology Matrix)

1.Active – Active use of the tool and not passively receiving information

2.Collaborative -Pupils use technology to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times

3.Constructive -Pupils use technological tools to build understanding rather than simply receive information

4.Authentic- Pupils use technological tools to solve real-world problems

5.Goal Directed -Pupils use technological tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results, rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.

Minimal requirement for the digital classroom:

A teacher must have a laptop and a data projector in her/ his classroom. Later on, this can be upgraded to include Interactive Whiteboards, Tablets/ iPads. Connectivity to Internet is essential in order for teachers to source information and to be able to communicate with pupils and parents. Use of emails is a basic skill and can be used for communicating with parents and for sending homework, assignments or catch-up work to sick pupils. With more advanced technologies, teachers, parents and pupils access a portal, which is a special website designed by the school, to retrieve information and to communicate.

No more chalk and talk – Take out your cell phones and let’s start learning!!

Yes, mobile phones can be used to:

1. Take photos/ videos as part of a HW assignment / portfolio

2. Use cell phones as Clickers. Clickers or classroom performance systems (CPS) are remote control- like gadgets that are used in an interactive way. Teacher can pose questions to the pupils and receive an immediate response which can be viewed, saved, analysed and displayed.  Buying these clickers may be an unnecessary expense which can be avoided by using the following website http://www.polleverywhere.com/

Using Technology for consolidation and differentiation

One of the biggest challenges a teacher has is to accommodate both strong and weak learners. By creating tutorials teachers can provide revision tasks and visualise a concept for children to review at any time.  This is especially useful when pupils have missed a lesson or misunderstood a concept.

The following technology can be used for consolidation and differentiation:

1. Recording a lesson using a  video camera, edit the movie using Microsoft Live Movie Maker on PC or iMovies on Mac

2. Screen casting – simple and user-friendly (Khan Style), recording of the tutorial is done on your laptop using slides or images and your voice. This requires some preparation and the following sites with free downloads can be used as your resource – (http://www.screencast.com/ or Jing – http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html )

3.Create a YouTube channel and post all your videos and Screen casting. No need to re-invent a lesson every year if it is available on the channel

4. Podcasting – voice recording of a lesson with Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) for example and sharing via Voicethread http://ed.voicethread.com/

How do schools achieve their vision of establishing digital classrooms?

Schools must have a Professional Development Plan for teachers to ensure that they can meet the demands of the digital age classroom, and so that they can gradually progress from basic integration of ICT to a total transformation where the learning is in the hands of the teachers and the pupils.

ORT SA has been at the forefront of technology integration in education for many years. It has recently been accredited as a Microsoft IT Academy and is running Computer training offering  basic to advanced courses.  For more information about ORT SA and these courses contact: ariellah@ortsa.org.za

“Technology will never replace teachers however teachers who don’t know how to use them will be replaced by those who do” (Unknown)

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3 Responses

  1. Hello
    I just want to thank you for very straight forward ideas for all the headmasters to implement to to school strategies and share with teachers. I will sure give our teachers heads up, when the start the school in August. Our journey to record lessons is allready five years old. (1200 lessons / year) We have gained valuable information and experience, but we still need to work with mobile side. For that we are taking a huge step in this summer to release Zine Mobile publishing system for teachers and school. We try to combine recorded lessons and publising system together, so we can turn around the classroom. The Flipped Classroom pedagogy is going to help for advanced and average students.
    Jukka Sormunen, headmaster
    Kuopion klassillinen upper secondary school, Finland

  2. Dear Jukka. Thank you so much for your comment. Most honored that you liked the post. I”m very interested to hear more about the Zine mobile system and how it is working for you. Finland, known for its superior education is years ahead of many other countries and I”m very curious to read about it more.

  3. [...] This is the full version for the article published in Jewish life.   To understand the need for a change from the conventional type of classroom to a digital age classroom, the following question …  [...]

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