Yesterday, Microsoft launched a new book, called ‘Transforming Education’, which it refers to as an “intervention” for schools failing to make the best use of technology to drive improved teaching and learning outcomes.
The book, built on almost three decades of research, evidence and experience, delivers important and practical guidance for schools which want to ensure optimal learning outcomes for all students.
Microsoft Australia teacher engagement manager, Travis Smith, said one call to action the book makes to principals is rethinking how their school perceives, and implements, their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) framework.
“We need to ask: ‘what do schools actually mean when they say they have a BYOD program?’” Smith told The Educator.
“For example, some people would define BYOD as the school deciding what device the child uses and the parent paying for it through their fees – but the child isn’t bringing their own device – they’re just using the one their school has told them to use.”
Smith said not all principals can be technology leaders because they may not have taught with technology in their earlier years.
“So when they hear another principal say: ‘we’ve gone BYOD and it’s working really well’, they won’t necessarily know to ask the question: ‘what do you mean by BYOD?’” Smith said.
“Their brain may actually start to think: ‘They just told their parents to go down to Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi and buy whatever they want’, but that might not be the case.’”
According to Smith, many schools are selling themselves short by failing to accommodate evidence-based practices in their digital programs.
Smith referred to a study where students were given two pieces of paper with scientific data and a problem to solve. Half of the students were allowed to write on the paper while they problem-solved. The other half had to put their pens down.
“For those who could annotate during the problem-solving process, the performance difference was 24.5% better,” Smith told The Educator.
“Research shows there is a huge performance increase in problem-solving tasks when students can write on something as opposed to when they can’t. If you’re teaching in a classroom where you don’t have a stylus pen and a computer, how are you doing that?”
Smith said that in most technology-rich classrooms, the majority of resources being provided to students is screen-based, but not necessarily equipped to allow annotation.
“Students doing lots of learning from a screen, but they can’t annotate, mark it up, diagram, write on it, sketch on it or add ideas to it,” he said.
“The research is clear that even in a non-technology setting, students will perform less if they cannot do it, so schools need to choose the best device for learning and then communicate to the parents why they’ve chosen that device, based on the research.
“This way, parents can feel confident knowing that the technology will have a positive impact on their child’s learning.”