A CALL was made recently by the Malaysian Higher Education Ministry for public universities to leverage on science and technology to enhance the quality of graduates.
At the educators’ level, the Microsoft EduTech 2016, which polled an estimated 200 educators in Asia Pacific, found that more than 90% of these educators are influencing technology decisions in their classroom and still wish to do more.
Though it is not clear how these educators use technology in teaching, its use has become an important feature of the 21st century classroom.
The struggle of teachers in adopting technology and influencing technology decisions in class is also worthy of attention.
Teachers are concerned about how much technology is deemed appropriate for students’ learning, whether their students will use it for learning and whether they as teachers are technologically savvy enough to keep up with the students.
Today’s younger generation are digital natives who “eat, sleep and breathe technology”.
If teachers continue to assume a make-believe world where technology is not important or does not exist in the classroom, wouldn’t they and the classroom learning process risk becoming irrelevant?
Learning without technology could also be a way of depriving students of the chance to explore, learn and master new literacies that are important to them and their future.
As asserted by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), “The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young.”
We teachers should then candidly address the crucial question of whether we have progressed to be better or are we guilty as charged?
I recall a study I conducted on classroom writing practices where a student said to me: “Actually, we don’t really need to learn all this knowledge from the teacher in class.
“I can Google for knowledge I like and for more new knowledge.
“Like writing a report, I can just Google for samples or templates.
“What we really need is the teacher to teach us how to search for, choose the sample and find which is the best one.”
These words uncannily capture the expectations and needs of learning in the 21st century.
Students do not need teachers who merely spill out knowledge and information they can obtain from the Internet.
Students also do not need teachers who use technology just to impress them.
Students need teachers to teach what is relevant and meaningful to them.
For example, in accessing online information, teachers need to play the role of showing students how to search for information from valid and reliable sources. Teachers also need to educate students on how they should treat information with discretion and respect.
The institution I serve places a strong emphasis on holistic learning experiences for the students while the use of technology is strongly advocated as good teaching practice.
Teachers are backed by a strong support system in the provision of training and guidance.
This allows them to pick up technology skills at their own choice and pace.
A learning community is cultivated where teachers get to share their experiences and tips in integrating technology.
In order to encourage the widespread use of technology in the classroom, these basic requirements must be in place.
It is perhaps even more important to consider empowering teachers when deciding what technology to use and how they can use it to enhance learning.
If teachers are forced into adopting technology based on a standardised prescription, the exercise might just end up becoming drudgery.
DR CHEAH SWI EE
Associate Dean for Postgraduate, Research & Innovation
Taylor’s University, School of Education