Key Resource: Using new technologies

New technologies, often in educational contexts meaning information and communication technologies (ICTs), offer huge potential for classroom use. Although the availability of such technologies is limited in many African countries, that situation is changing rapidly. New forms of ICTs are appearing all the time. The experience of those with some knowledge of ICTs is not always a guide to the way in which new forms of ICTs can be most effectively used for learning.

This key resource, therefore, suggests how you, as a teacher, approach new technologies, rather than acting as a guide as to how they can be used. Here are ten points to help you establish a good approach to the potential of new technologies:

  • The use of new technologies, like any other teaching and learning strategy, needs planning for: you need to understand the potential of any specific form of ICT (a computer with Internet access, for example) before incorporating it into your daily teaching.
  • Get advice about how different equipment and applications work. The introduction of computers into schools is usually linked to some sort of training. Computers also have plenty of ‘self help’ systems, so make sure that you understand how these work.
  • Pupils may need some help in acquiring basic skills: it is important to establish good class routines and positive attitudes to the use of ICTs.
  • ICTs allow the use of ‘software’ that can significantly help the learner, individually or in a group, but some software is better than others. As the teacher, you need to think carefully about which ICT applications are useful, in the same way that you might decide that some books are more useful than others.
  • The most expensive technologies are not always the most effective! Audio clips or radio instruction, which has been around for a long time remains highly effective – but now you can deliver it using mobile phones and computers as well as radios and tape players.
  • The presentation of pupils’ work through the use of word processing packages can be very good, but it is important to remember that good presentation is not the same as good learning. Just using new technologies for ‘presentational purposes’ fails to exploit their potential for learning.
  • New technologies can help speed up tedious processes and make learning more interesting. For example, mathematics or science investigations can move more rapidly if some calculations are done electronically.
  • Some new technologies can really transform learning opportunities. The use of simulations in science teaching, for example, allows pupils to investigate things that it would be impossible to experiment with in the classroom. It is important for you, as the teacher, to think about how such technologies really do transform the learning experience.
  • New forms of technology may have greater potential for use in the African context than older established technologies. Mobile or cell phones, for example, are now becoming like mini computers. Teachers and pupils can use the skills they develop in using mobile technologies for teaching and learning and this should be kept under review.
  • Community awareness of the use of new technologies is also important. The resources that are likely to become available for schools and teachers could also provide useful support for the community.

For more ideas about using new technologies, look at the TESSA website.