Developing a professional sensibility to ‘the digital’ in secondary classrooms

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Bigum, Chris
Rowan, Leonie
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The digital is one of the hot topics of contemporary education3 and it generates a great deal of excitement and anxiety. The rapid pace of change associated with all things technological can easily mean that teachers end up in a situation of finding (or being told to use) a certain computer, device, program or, as we often refer to them, 'app'. Apps can prompt the 'how do I do this?' type of question. For example, How do I incorporate an iPad into my teaching of social studies? How do I use the mathematics apps the school has purchased? How do I get internet access for 25 kids? ... and so on. Due to the busy nature of teach­ ers' work they often want someone to just tell them what to do. As professional educators, however, we need to be aware that how questions only take us so far. They can keep us busy - running from one technological challenge to another - but they do not necessarily help us achieve our broader educational goals, which hopefully are about meeting the needs of diverse learners. To work towards these bigger, fundamental learning goals there are other questions that also need to be asked. Foremost among these are why and what questions: Why do I want to use an iPad for teaching social studies? Why will I use calculators? Why do I want to use Mathletics? Why should I work with iTunes U? and What will happen (to learning, to my subject area, to my students) as a result of my decisions? These are questions of a different kind. They require us to look up from the sometimes hypnotic allure of the device (and associated apps) in our hands and think about the broader teaching, learning and social landscape. These why and what questions require us to reflect on not just how to use any app but why we would use them to support our teaching in the first place, and what the consequences of our choices will be. This chapter contests the idea that there is any simple formula that can be used to make sure teachers are 'effective' users of technology. Rather, the argument is posed that you, as a teacher, need the ability to make your own professional judgements about how to interpret the new Australian Curriculum (and all the associated resources) and capitalise upon the vast range of technologically mediated products that are available to you. The goal of this chapter is to give you some ways of thinking about technologies that allow you to ask good why and what questions (before the how questions) as you exercise professional judgment. The chapter has three sections. The first draws attention to some of the common and recurring themes associated with debates about the digital in schools. In the second, you will find questions to ask when considering how you might actually negotiate the complicated terrains associated with the use of apps in schools. The third section provides some examples of how to use your newly acquired professional sensibility to guide your practice.

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Learning to Teach in the Secondary School

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Educational Technology and Computing

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