Thursday, 29 September 2016

Exploring a Contemporary Issue or Trend: The Development and Ubiquity of New Technologies

There are many trends that are impacting on education. In this post I'm going to consider the development and ubiquity of new technologies

Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

Relevance to My Practice

As noted in the report produced by the OECD (2016), the internet has become very much a part of most people's lives, they expect instant answers to their questions, and are never far from it, especially with the growing uptake of various hand held devices. This is of particular interest to me, as over the 20 odd years since I first accessed the Internet, I have leveraged its potential as a tool to support my learners, as well as using it to grow both my professional capacity and my personal relationships. I am very much a self described "gadget girl" never far from one of my many devices. I am also a mother and a teacher, and over time have seen the potential for both harm and good that comes from a connected society. In my own classroom, I have children pleading for more time on our 9 devices as they explore different learning opportunities, and I also see the number of them who carry smart phones and iPods in their school bags. For me, my main focus, my main concern, is how to harness the power of this trend so that our children and their families can benefit from it.

According to data presented in the OECD (2016) report,  in 2013 the average number of Internet users was around 85% of the population, with just over 50% of those accessing the Internet from mobile devices. Interestingly, this placed us in a fairly similar position to Australia, but significantly ahead of the USA (although admittedly, both of those countries have larger populations). This indicates quite a high uptake in New Zealand, and when you consider that this data is 3 years old, it would be interesting to see the results if a survey were to be conducted today.
This trend certainly has a significant impact on our education system. When looking at CORE Educations Ten Trends for 2016, they identify issues such as equitable access, they explore the rise of networked communities, and also discuss the need to develop computational thinking and digital fluency with our young people (and I would add, their teachers and whanau too). In fact, a scroll through past iterations of the Ten Trends presents an interesting picture of the change over time, while also illustrating the increasing prevalence of digital technology in our lives.  
In July of this year, the Minister of Education announced that digital technology would be formally included as part of the New Zealand Curriculum.  This means, whether teachers are ready or not, whether parents want it or not, New Zealand children will be expected to explore digital technology as part of their learning.
Responding to the Trend
The OECD (2016) report suggests that with people now having the potential to be accessing several different things at one through their devices, this "... gives rise to worries about decreasing attention spans among today's youth" (p103).  This means that as educators, we need to make sure that learners are made aware of when it is appropriate to skim and scan, and when a deeper focus may be needed - and equip them with the skills to do both.  
One thing we need to consider is the role of reading and writing versus the use of video - both to present and share new learning. Unfortunately I can’t find a written reference, but many times in our work with Mark Treadwell, he has challenged our staff with the provocation that reading and writing will be unnecessary in the future.  I’m not sure I’m completely convinced, but this does mean that as educators, we may need to consider teaching our learners more in the way of visual language skills - such as interpreting and presenting visual media. Certainly in my own classroom, with the introduction of SeeSaw as a way of curating and sharing their learning, my students have produced a significant amount of video footage, and for many it is the preferred way to share their learning.


OECD (2016), Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:
Core Education's Ten Trends for 2016 Accessed from:
NZ Curriculum to include digital technology Accessed from:


  1. I think that you have posed some really good questions Kirsten. I have a teenager who must have a chromebook as part of his stationary at college and the majority of his learning is done using this tool - not a great deal writing happening at this stage of his education. In contrast, I am currently teaching Year 1 and 2 children and find that it is essential for them to be able to Read and Write in the "traditional" manner to be able to access and use the technology we have in our studio. However, I agree that we need to incorporate more visual ways of learning for our students and agree with your statement about educators having to make our learners aware of when it is appropriate to skim and scan or take a deeper focus on the information at hand. I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you :-)

  2. I like the points you raise in your blog. We do have a very large uptkake of digital device use in New Zealand and I have concerns as well. At our school we are just starting out on our digital device journey, and so are working our way through our own teething problems as well as addressing teacher concerns. Technology is an exciting, engaging and excellent way to enhance student learning, however, it needs to be implemented in a way that doesn't negatively impact other parts of 'traditional' learning that are still required or necessary for our students to be exposed to.

    My major concern is that the use of digital devices will lead to a lack of social and interpersonal skill delopment and interactions in the 'face-to-face' environment. This is not only between students, but between students and teachers, which could result in a lack of or loss of student-student and student-teacher relationships. I have already seen how the introdcuation of digital devices has allowed students/teachers at our school who already shy away from interaction with others, do so even more and instead of discussing face-to-face they do so via messaging online. We already live in a society where everyone seems 'glued' to their phones 24/7 do we really want to bring this into the classroom? We need to encourage the use of digital devices in our classrooms, don't get me wrong, but we need to ensure we balance this out with real life interactions and discussions. Thank you for your post and for asking some thought provoking questions.