Improving the practical experience of teachers and improved student learning are two of the five key planks of the current Australian teacher education reforms – and one-to-one technology use in classrooms could have a direct impact on both.
The provision of a computer or mobile device for each student has long been expected to usher in new forms of teaching. However, critics say, numerous studies show that while early adopters do innovate, many teachers still use technology only to make their jobs a little easier – and go on teaching the way they have always taught.
Stanford University Professor Larry Cuban asserts that: “Laptops, desktops, tablets, and interactive whiteboards continue to support the dominant teacher-centred approach to instruction rather than promoting the hoped-for, student-centred approach.”
The One-to-One Institute is a U.S. based non-profit organisation which provides consultancy and professional learning services to do with harnessing technology to transform schools. Their chief executive, Leslie A. Wilson, agrees: “There's nothing transformative about every kid having an iPad unless you're able to reach higher-order teaching and learning.”
One of the most radical shifts enabled by technology is the “flipped classroom”, which frees up teachers to interact one-to-one with students in class because the students have already seen the teacher’s lecture via technology at home. Last year a meta-analysis of 225 studies looked at how undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students performed in traditional lectures compared to active, flipped learning. The researchers found that active learning improved exam scores by about six percent and students in classes with traditional lecturing were also 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes with active learning.
Improving student learning through quality teaching is an Australian Government priority underpinned by the release of the Action Now, Classroom Ready report. But research indicates that improving student outcomes through technology hinges on successful implementation strategies. Project RED, which has conducted the most comprehensive U.S. study of education technology to date, found that school leaders providing teachers with time for professional learning and collaboration, at least monthly, was a key predictor of any successful classroom technology implementation.
So, while new technology and devices have vast potential to transform teaching and learning outcomes through methods like flipped learning, their ultimate success depends on teachers learning to fully exploit the technology – instead of simply using it to do more easily what they have always done.