Are digital natives using ed-tech to its full potential?

Are digital natives using ed-tech to its full potential?

A new report by Microsoft recently highlighted the growing student demand for tech-based tools and skills in school, revealing that 65% of students aged 10-16 years old in Australia have an interest in learning more STEM focused skills.

According to the survey, students prioritise Computers (61%), IT (63%) and Science (57%) over traditionally preferred subjects, such as P.E (45%), English (51%) and Music (44%).

The research results also indicate that Aussie kids are excited about new learning tools and experiences in the classroom of the future.

Below, The Educator speaks to Max Ferfoglia, community development specialist at the flagship Microsoft Store in Sydney, about how well the Australian education system is responding to this demand, and the key role that principals can play as technology leaders.

TE: This report, and others, have shown a growing trend of students increasingly eager for technology to play a greater role in their education. Drawing from your work in Australian education, how well are schools recognising and responding to this need?

MF: The past five years has seen a huge focus on the use of technology in schools. With BYOD programs rolling out in more and more schools, the amount of technology is on the increase. The challenge remains that the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning does not happen by chance with teachers needing significant professional development on how to design and utilise technology in the learning process. There are many schools doing a great job of preparing their teachers for technology rich classrooms, especially early in the school year when teachers are planning for the school year ahead. I think it’s also important to be explicit with students about the role technology can play in their learning because while students may be considered “digital natives”, the reality is that much of the technology they use in their day to day lives such as social media, does not necessarily translate into skills required to manage the process of learning. Ensuring students are aware of the many ways that technology can support their learning is really important to ensure they get the most out of the investment.

TE: The findings of this report highlight the importance of school heads learning to become “technology leaders”. Do you see a growing trend towards this within the principal profession in Australia, and if so, how are they going about this process?

MF: It is inevitable that school leaders in the coming years will be more focussed on technology leadership. This is not only due to the importance placed on the role of technology, but the fact that many emerging school leaders have experience teaching in digital classrooms themselves. Many of the principal associations around the country provide or support programs on digital leadership and principal class leaders are taking the mantle to lead technology rich school into the future. I see this as a profoundly positive shift as in the past the ‘eLearning leader’ may have been responsible for this, some of whom may not have aligned the technology initiative with other aspects of the school’s strategy. Having the principal involved in an initiative around technology is crucial to its success.

TE: Looking ahead into 2020, what do you see as the most significant game-changers in Australian ed-tech that will impact teaching and learning?

MF: Emerging education applications are extremely impressive, especially those that are combining new technologies and learning to enhance students STEM based skills. At flagship Microsoft Store Sydney, we’re often working with apps during our free workshops and it’s great to see how learning can be facilitated in new ways – sometimes without students even knowing they are learning. The effective use of tech-ed applications has huge potential to transform the way educators, parents and facilitators teach kids new skills, in addition to stoking a passion for technology. We’ve seen this success firsthand in our various workshops, including Tap Tap Marvel Create Your Own, Merge Cube and Minecraft Education Edition challenges.