Are devices adding value to learning?

7 February 2018

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

There is always debate about how much technologies are adding value to learning and teaching in schools. The question many parents and outsiders ask is whether having access to a computer or iPad actually helps students with their learning. Some argue that mobile technology like phones can be a distraction for young minds. Others argue that allowing students to use technology makes learning more accessible. Then of course there is the hard sell of the tech giants who are continually updating gadgets and software. It’s no wonder that when we’re talking about the increasing cost of schooling, parents are concerned.

Looking at technology as some kind of add-on or tool to improve learning means we’re missing the point. We are all immersed in a technology-rich world. The mobile phone, iPad and even social media sites are no longer optional. Almost all of us use these devices on a daily basis. We’ve seen a shift from thinking of technologies as devices to technology as a lifestyle.

Understandably, schools have always been late adopters of new technologies. Still, I am absolutely convinced that we have to integrate the digital world into the very fabric of every school. Simply using iPads as exercise books adds no value to student learning and provides value for money to parents.

Devices can do marvellous things but they are nothing more than expensive pencils if we cannot design marvellous learning experiences. Technology must not only purposefully fit the learning experience but it must also help to deepen and connect student learning in new ways.

Parents can often be the hardest people to convince when schools introduce something new, like mobile devices. They usually need to see how the device is being used. This was the experience of one parent I spoke to who was opposed to her daughter using iPads in Year 3 until she saw they were designing their own apps.

I encourage you to be curious, particularly if your school is introducing mobile devices into the learning spaces. Ask teachers to explain and show you how the technology is being used to support your child’s learning, better still get your children to show you the difference it’s made and how in many ways they are leading the digital revolution. When used in creative and thoughtful ways, these technologies can transform existing classroom methods. The possibilities are endless.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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