What does it mean to teach in the 21st century and how does technology fit into it? We already know that our students are digital natives and love new technologies. How best can we harness their use of these innovations to support and facilitate pedagogy?

I would like you to imagine trying to perform your job without the use of a computer or email, would you be able to do it? Yes, technically you would, but would you be efficient? Probably not. The point I’m trying to make is, if mobile technology is available, why not utilize it?

The use of technology vs traditional teaching methods

Today’s learners are avid multitaskers. At home whilst studying, they will also be texting, listening to music, watching TV, exposed to background noise, siblings playing, arguing etc. So when teachers lecture, they are unable to concentrate because lessons are not as dynamic as the world around them. They are asked to focus on one thing, and feel that the lessons are happening in ‘slow motion’.

Without the use of technology teachers can only provide content, facts, dates, formulas, research, theories, stories and information. If this is so, then our role in the lives of students has become obsolete. Students have instant access to virtually limitless amounts of information about anything at anytime from anywhere 24 hours a day 7 days a week. As a result, traditional teaching and learning methods are becoming less effective in engaging students and motivating them to achieve. With all this information available, should our curriculum be focused on facts and content, or skills?

[Compare Schools in the UAE]

The changing role of educators

The role of educators is changing, they are no longer the main source of knowledge, but in fact the filter, the facilitators. Our role now is to focus on functional skills where students are taught how to ‘handle’ knowledge, to be responsible, have the ability to validate, synthesize, leverage, communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with information. Technology provides the ideal platform to facilitate these skills.

We need to understand that we have entered an era in which technology should no longer be an intimidating novelty. Its use in business and industry is both accepted and expected, therefore we need to be upskilling our students and preparing them for the future and for jobs that don’t exist.

Using technology to facilitate learning

While technology is known to engage learners and facilitate learning, we must remember that it’s just a tool that can change the nature of learning. Pedagogy should always determine the use of technology not the other way round.

In a technology rich classroom students don’t “learn” technology. Technology merely provides the tools to be used for authentic learning. Technology naturally lends itself to exploration; a technology rich classroom, might have students searching the web for information, analysing it, charting the results and recording the information on a device. Acquiring content changes from a static process to one of defining goals that the learners wish to pursue. Students are active, rather than passive, producing knowledge and presenting that knowledge in a variety of formats.

[Related: IB career-related programme: A new trend in education]

In such an environment, educators can encourage a diversity of outcomes rather than insisting on one right answer. They can evaluate learning in multiple ways, instead of relying predominantly on traditional paper and pencil assessment methods. And most importantly both teachers and students can move from pursuing individual efforts to being part of learning teams, which may include students from all over the world.

Technology not only provides students with a rich and varied learning environment but it motivates educators to think more creatively, to challenge themselves and create more imaginative and exciting lessons that would not be possible without the use of technology. It is an exciting time to be teaching, and we must seize this moment and make the best use of the technology tools available.

Amun Qureshi is Head of Integration Technology at Greenfield Community School, a Taaleem school in Dubai. Amun has worked in the education sector for over 15 years. Her prior teaching and leadership experience has been in the UK. She has been responsible for professional development, integration of IT into the curriculum, management and deployment of mobile devices at GCS. Amun is an Apple Professional Development Consultant and has been invited as a keynote speaker at various mobile device conferences.