Even as digital technology becomes ever more pervasive in learning and teaching, 'I don't do digital' is still a comment we hear from teachers and staff in further education.
Yet, this attitude completely overlooks all of the excellent things that can be achieved by using new technologies and systems.
Here's five reasons why people should embrace digital in the classroom.
New platforms for reaching learners
As an educator, the learner should be at the heart of what you do. If you’re not bringing digital into your teaching then it’s going to be really hard to meet their needs.
Digital actually gives teachers more opportunities than ever before to converse with and support learner development, on their terms – whether that’s through the virtual learning environment (VLE) or social media.
Recent research from Jisc found that 40% of students in further and higher education were using social media to keep in touch with tutors. You only need to look at the range of excellent examples – such as Burnley College’s @ChemistryALevel account on Twitter, which encourages discussions between chemistry students – to see how beneficial digital platforms can be to student-staff relationships.
It's easy to blame technology if learners get distracted, but in a lot of cases it’s a conduit rather than the cause. The learning experience needs to be compelling and engaging to capture and keep learners’ attention, and using technology can actually be one of the most effective ways of doing this.
It’s not about using tech for tech’s sake, but maximising the pay back on content by looking at how it can be made more engaging. For example, rather than learning by rote, how about using an app that encourages repetition of items through gamification? The result tends to lessons that actually maintain attention, aid retention and improve performance over the long-term.
Equipping learners with employability skills that will allow them to have successful careers is a new emphasis for teachers. But, with digital capabilities such an important part of employability, how do you expect to meet this aim if you refuse to ‘do digital’?
Most jobs today have an element of technology involved in them, from the delivery service needing a digital signature to warehouse staff inputting into hand held terminals, and even farmers using digital passports to track the movement of livestock. And it’s only set to grow in the next five years.
By making digital a complicit part of the learning experience, you’re already going some way in equipping them the skills they will need for using new digital equipment and systems when they move into the working world.
Supporting professional development
Professionalism demands practitioners continually update their knowledge and skills - would we accept our doctors prescribing a course of leeches? Certainly not!
The message is clear: “The use of digital technology in education is not optional.” Digital should be seen as simply another part of your repertoire and worked into continuous professional development plans. See it as an opportunity to expand your own skillset.
There are a range of training tools and courses available, take a look at just a few Jisc guides.
Going digital should also help in other areas of development, by giving you access to a global network of peers where you can share learnings, expertise and resources.
In a time of constant change and financial pressure, colleges need to be extra vigilant and look out for the warning signs identified by the FE Commissioner of potential failure.
You might not realise it, but effective use of digital technologies can actually support your organisation in becoming more sustainable and prosperous. Digital delivery of the curriculum can be used to counteract low class numbers and attract more learners, such as supporting distance learning, particularly in rural areas.
West College Scotland hosts a virtual campus to help overcome the distributed nature of its catchment area. This also appeals to adult learners who may be returning to education, by allowing them to study when and where it suits them.