Now more than ever before, whether we like it or not, technology and constant connectivity is a defining aspect of our daily lives. Looking back on the past decade, the advent of smartphones and more personalized devices have led to a dramatic increase in our dependence on technology for day-to-day living.
Accompanying this growing trend are numerous studies and analyses on how this rapid change in our daily habits is impacting society in a variety of sectors, from home life, to business, to education. Increasingly, there have been calls for a balanced approach to the use of technology, especially for today’s young children who have more access to instantaneous information and entertainment at an earlier age than any generation before them.
Modern technology in schools presents parents and educators with opportunities to teach in innovative and new ways, which would have been unthinkable as recently as a decade ago. But how can we ensure that the use of technology in schools is done effectively, purposely, and in a way that promotes a child’s development of critical life skills?
Balancing the use of technology for educational purposes with a child’s ability to think and research independently can be like walking a tightrope. For years, Renaissance International School Saigon has honed in on one of the most consequential aspects of modern education: the incorporation of 21st century technology into the curriculum and the classroom.
“Student access to the appropriate use of technology is an integral skill in education,”...says Peter Gittins, Head of School. “But it must be used as a tool to supplement learning, not the main driver of it.”
Collaborative Classrooms with Modern Solutions
So how do teachers at Renaissance ensure their students think and work independently, without just powering on their devices and shutting off their creativity?
“We’ve been using the design thinking process and various ‘Visible Thinking’ routines in library classes to encourage students to collaborate and talk to each other,” says Kerry Gittins, Head of Library. “Then they incorporate the technology to help them carry out the relevant research and develop their presentations.”
Using modern tools to organize class materials can also be an effective way to incorporate technology in a way that actually redefines what is possible in the learning process.
“We use Office 365, and within that we use teams,” says Francis Burlingham, Head of Science and Technology. “Across secondary, every class has its own team within it for every subject. This forms the basis for our virtual learning environment.”
The Office 365 suite allows teachers at Renaissance to encourage creativity and collaboration in fundamentally new ways.
“It can do so much more than traditional pen and paper,” says Francis.
“And that’s the point: it’s not about simple substitution with technology, it’s about redefinition — redefining the way we teach, and allowing us to carry out activities that would be inconceivable with just a paper and pen.”
Technology is also used at Renaissance to reinforce learning across multiple subjects and disciplines.
“For example, year 4 are learning about ancient Egypt,” says Conor McGukin, Computer Science teacher. “On Minecraft they can actually build ancient Egypt, they can set it up and play around it, and they can design a virtual museum. It’s more interactive than a Powerpoint. It’s not used as a game, but they still see it as a game and it engages them in their learning.”
Just as critical to the functional ability to use technology, however, is the ability to do so conscientiously. Now more than ever, children are exposed to a wealth of information and resources, but are also able to communicate in online forums with strangers halfway across the world.
“We believe it’s of utmost importance to educate students in the appropriate use of technology,” says Peter Gittins. “This includes digital citizenship, referencing materials, safe sites, cyberbullying issues, and of course child protection issues.”
Students at Renaissance can expect a cutting-edge, dynamic and highly customised educational experience that not only prepares them for the digital world, but teaches them to be good citizens both online, and off.
Published in January, 2019. Written by John Mark Harrell, citypassguide.com.