25 Feb 2016

Technology and learning

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 25 February 2016
Apples, bananas and cabbage was all that these boys from St Theresa's school needed to create a musical instrument.

Apples, bananas and cabbage was all that these boys from St Theresa's school needed to create a musical instrument. The boys' assessment of the activity? "It's awesome. A lot of children don't like their vegetables and this is another way of using them." Photo: RNZ / Veronika Meduna

With technology becoming part of every-day life, digital literacy is an essential skill, for young and old. In a joint effort, the Mind Lab and Unitec have set up a postgraduate programme to encourage more teachers to move away from a chalk-and-talk approach to education to a digital and collaborative model.

Frances Valintine, the founder of The Mind Lab by Unitec, says even though more than 40,000 children visit the digital educational facility each year, she wanted to see more teachers confident enough to lead a change towards e-learning.

“We’ve gone into this world of technology in schools but the understanding and confidence of teachers was often low and I was concerned that if you only use technology as a consumer, the magic goes and we’ll lose student achievement levels.”

She says many teachers were using digital devices only as substitutes, going from pen and paper to a laptop to use spreadsheets or word documents.

“But to have access to a device can bring an entirely new world of learning. There is no end to things you can do with technology but you do need to understand the basic tools to get there.”

She says when school groups visit The Mind Lab, technology is used in playful ways to teach broader skills such as collaboration and problem solving.

Frances Valintine says The Mind Lab uses a problem-solving, enquiry-based approach to learning, presenting a challenge rather than instructions.

It is based on three pillars. “Wonder about how things might work, ponder how things could be done differently, and discovery. If you learn through fixing and failing the iteration means you really understand what is behind it and you can build from that.”

She describes herself as an education futurist, who scans the future to see what skills the future work force will need.

St Theresa pupils design their own sets to turn their stories into short animated movies.

St Theresa pupils design their own sets to turn their stories into short animated movies. Photo: RNZ / Veronika Meduna

The future for today’s children will be one of fast change and evolving skills, she says.

“Technologies that are really shaping our future have been around for 20 years, including 3D-printing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, drones and other autonomous vehicles, retail going online, banking online.

“Entire industries are changing and there isn’t really a safe gig anymore in terms of a career. So what we have to make sure is that today’s students have really strong adaptability and resilience, so they don’t feel that they’ll fall over if the career they’ve been developing takes a zigzag because technology is changing.”

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