As exciting as the rapid digitisation of the Australian education system has been, it has no doubt come with its fair share of challenges.
Whether it’s teachers struggling to effectively integrate technology into the classroom, the widening digital divide between the have’s and have-nots, or escalating cyberattacks from hackers trying to steal and exploit student data, these pitfalls of the modern classroom (among many others) are causing a headache for principals in all sectors and jurisdictions. Throw ChatGPT into the mix and it dials up to a migraine.
Even so, most schools – mindful that students should be well-adjusted to the changing demands of an equally technology-dependent workplace – remain on the digitisation bandwagon, doing their best to strike a healthy balance between having up-to-date digital tools and students who can learn effectively without relying too heavily on them.
With AI now being interwoven into the tapestry of education, there is debate over what approach school principals should take, particularly in terms of how this technology might impact the renewed push to improve students’ critical and creative thinking.
Dr Karen Murcia is someone who can certainly empathise with teachers and leaders when it comes to these persistent, and increasingly complex, challenges.
As well as being Professor of Education at Curtin University, Dr Murcia is Chief Investigator at the national ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, which brings together national and international experts and partners to investigate children’s digital experiences.
Below, Dr Murcia shares several key opportunities for school principals and teachers in helping students thrive – and not be distracted by – the increasingly digital learning environment in 2023.
Co-design policy: Together with teachers, students and families, principals can co-design a digital policy for the school and wider school community. Make explicit, the nature and demands of digital learning, digital citizenship and online safety.
Keep up to date: Staying current, relevant and listening to digital learning needs. Aim to ensure students have access to the technology they require to participate in digital learning (e.g. laptops or tablets) and, aim for future proofing of access to innovative software (e.g. ChatGPT).
Upskill staff: Providing time, training and support to teachers on how to effectively use innovative technology in the classroom, and ensuring teachers have timely access to ongoing support with digital tools and pedagogies (professional development opportunities).
Work together: Encouraging collaboration, communication and creativity amongst teachers and students using digital tools. Incorporate student led and focused digital learning strategies such as such as online discussion boards, group projects, and virtual meetings.
Integrating Digital Citizenship: Digital citizenship can be promoted as a part of students’ learning environment, integrated with curriculum-based experiences.
Enhance critical thinking: Using digital learning environments to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. Personalised learning experiences can be developed for each student to achieve this.
Instil healthy online habits: Creating regular digital detox days where students set aside their devices for the day or certain hours of the day and engage in other activities.
Make learning more engaging: Using digital gamification strategies such as points, badges and leader boards to motivate students to stay on task, be engaged and avoid distractions.
Give constructive feedback: Providing regular feedback to students on their device usage, both positive and negative, to help them understand how to use technology in a productive way.
Manage distractions: Remembering that distractions are a normal part of the learning process in both face to face and in online environments; encourage students to be mindful of their distractions and to develop strategies to minimize them.