by Piet Coetzer


Schools shouldn’t be teaching technology, they should be using it

Richard Firth
Richard Firth.JPG
“In today’s world, technology is increasingly interwoven into the fabric of our everyday lives. The need to know how to use these tools is essential in staying competitive later on in life, but focusing only on teaching children to use technology is short sighted.

Most of us did not have today’s technology options when we were in school, so while parents realise that technology has become an integral part of their child’s education, they’re often finding it difficult to incorporate it into the learning process. It’s about much more than teaching children how to use technology; it’s about exposing them to technology in the right way in order for them to thrive in the future.

According Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, today’s children feel comfortable using tools and devices that many of their parents don’t, so providing them with a broader understanding of technology is far more beneficial for their future.

“Many schools are initiating programs that integrate learning with the use of technological devices and smart classrooms, but far too many remain focused on teaching children the 'front end' of computing.

“While most of us haven’t had to further the knowledge we gained in various school subjects, we can’t do the same thing with our knowledge of technology. Why? Because technology is constantly evolving and we have to keep up with it in order to be able to make use of it.

“While teaching learners to use tools such as Microsoft Office is valuable, the changing pace of technology means that these may not be relevant 10 years from now with the increasing evolution of applications like Google Docs. Teaching how the technology works and how students can get the desired outcomes using the technology is far more beneficial,” he says.

A perfect illustration is the mobile phone. “It is interesting that nearly every learner over the age of 12 has a mobile phone, but no parent has had the need to send their child on a ‘how to use a mobile phone’ course. Yet we still live in a world where we’re happy with a child learning a product like Microsoft Office on a laptop, with no thought given to all the other elements they are not being taught.”

No matter what careers learners eventually decide to follow, a good working knowledge of technology opens up opportunities and prepares them for the future. Technology is an important part of today’s society, and incorporating it into the classroom equips students better to make the transition to the workplace. In addition, studies have shown that children conversant with technology show improvements in their writing, reading and maths skills.

“For kids to really take ownership of their own education, and to be a part of the process, they have to not only understand technology, but use it. With 1:1 learning devices, learning becomes about students and their needs. This can mean more engaged learners with pride in their work and what they are learning about. The importance of usage cannot be overstated; today it’s not enough just to pass the information on to children and adolescents, as mobile phones and computing devices are a ubiquitous part of our lives,” says Firth.

However, Firth points out that there is an equal danger to falling prey to the tech hype in terms of the types of devices to which learners have access. “I do not understand why senior schools are issuing learners with iPads. These are consumer devices, much like mobile phones, and while they are fantastic for surfing the Web and basic computing, they do not teach students anything different to their mobile phones. An iPad is a great tool for younger learners because it teaches the consumption of services, but a laptop is still the primary tool used to generate content in every sector of business in the world, so it should therefore be the device of choice for senior learners. Giving senior learners a laptop enable them to become proficient with technical concepts, filing, connecting to a network, browsing and creating websites and typing.”

Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, our homes. Yet most schools lag far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning. Many are just beginning to explore the true potential technology offers for teaching and learning. Properly used, technology will help students acquire the skills they need to survive in a complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy.

(This article was supplied by MIP Holdings, a provider of risked-basedbilling services.)

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Issue 58