Whatever happened to James Bond?
When I was growing up, our erstwhile hero went out on his missions surrounded by enough gadgetry to satisfy even the most ardent techno-geek. From wristwatches with built-in lasers to cars that could turn into submarines, or fire missiles out of their roof, Bond was always equipped with a dazzling array of supporting kit. However, recently he has been lucky if he’s been issued with his trusty Walther PPK and then told to get on with it. I know we live in a period of austerity and budget cuts, but even so……!
Actually, what has taken place within the secretive halls of MI6, is a similar process to that which has occurred in our schools and classrooms; there has been a recognition that whilst technology can certainly be enticing, what it cannot do is replace the teacher, (or agent) on the ground. It’s not that long ago that teachers could find themselves surrounded by enough gadgets to make the average classroom look like the lair of the latest Bond villain. With interactive whiteboards, gyroscopic computer mice, laptops that turned into tablets, individual ‘voting pads’ for their students and now 3D video tours of ancient cities, the opportunities to use the latest piece of technical wizardry seemed unending, and actual teaching risked getting lost in the ongoing whirl of innovation and development.
However, more recently the amount of technology employed by teachers has started to lessen as the focus has moved towards the kind of tools that teachers actually need. Teaching and learning, (like international espionage) is a very human process. It is the interaction between the teacher and the student that lies at the heart of success and this being the case, technology needs to support the teacher in their activities, rather than try to replace them. Teachers should not be planning lessons around the gadgets that they have available, but rather concentrating on how to engage with their students - technology should be an almost invisible partner in that process. Fortunately, this is becoming increasingly the case and we are seeing edtech companies working more closely with teachers and students to find out exactly what tools they need. As a result, technological innovation is becoming more focused and consequently more effective.
Whilst we might look back fondly on the rocket packs and the latest Bond car, (he always seemed to end up destroying them anyway), the return to a more human way of working, using technology as a means to an end rather than a scene-stealer, reflects a wider truth. Technology is a tool that should be working for us, whether that is foiling the plans of Blofeld, or making sure that Year 9 get their homework in on time; it is important to be able to step back for a moment and remember what our core objectives are, before looking at what is available to help us achieve them. That does not mean that technology doesn’t have a role to play - we have seen that one effect of online resources for example, is the way in which they facilitate independent learning by the student so that classroom time can be spent working with each other, as opposed to simply absorbing information. But as teachers, we have the opportunity to work with our students in a manner that was simply not available to us 20 years ago, and we need to look carefully at how to make the best of the tools available to us. It is not necessarily about changing what we do, but technology allows us to look at how we do it in order to bring about most benefit to our charges.
So the next time you step into the classroom, consider the tools you are planning to use. Is it because they are shiny and new, or will they make a positive impact on your students learning? Conversely, do you use them simply because you always have, or are they still the best way to help your students learn? And remember:
“The name’s Bond…… Mr Bond, (Head of Year 10).”