Keeping up with digital learning

By Greg Whitby, 17 April 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


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

One of the concerns often expressed by parents, especially of primary students, is the trend towards students doing work online, whether that is at school or at home. Increasingly, parents feel homework becomes a bit of a guessing game because they cannot always ‘monitor’ what is being learned online.

The issue here is not the use of technology for homework. When we went to school, parents could check ‘homework books’ and teacher comments. It was pretty straightforward. This is still possible for some of the work students do but a lot of it is now done through technology. Lots of information is stored not in exercise books but in digital folders or ‘in the cloud’. It is this digital aspect of learning that can be missed when parents are trying to stay across their child’s learning.

We can address this in two ways. The first way is by introducing a single learning framework that extends from Kindergarten to Year-12. This framework explains to parents and students what they will learn at a particular time and what the next stages of learning will be. In the early years, the focus is on play-based learning, which moves on to learning through inquiry in the middle years.

The second way is teaching students right from kindergarten to be able to think and talk about their learning. The ability of students to reflect on how they are improving in their learning is very powerful (this is called ‘metacognition’). It is inspiring to listen to students of all ages talk to their parents, teachers and other students about what they have learnt.

I appreciate that keeping up-to-speed with your child’s work is a little more challenging than it used to be. At the same time, when parents are partners in their child’s learning, rather than just ‘checkers’ and ‘monitors’ of the work they do, learning becomes more meaningful and relevant for everyone. That is what we are all striving for, after all.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


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