Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What's new and different: Technology in the PYP

This post is the second one about the PYP Enhancements and what is new and different as opposed to a deeper focus.  For today's post I decided to write about technology as this is an area I've been heavily involved in at all of the 4 PYP schools where I've worked.  The previous guidelines in Making the PYP Happen were sketchy to say the least: in the entire 146 page document there were only 14 mentions of technology!

The PYP has always maintained that ICT is not a separate subject, but a tool that facilitates learning.  As a result it is mentioned as a communication skill, where technology can be used for effective presentation and representation, and also as a way of connecting the PYP classroom to the wider world.  It was also recognised that acquiring the skills related to ICT was an important aspect of visual literacy - in particular because images can be very persuasive.  Technology is also mentioned in both the science and social studies scope and sequence documents, basically recognising the impact that advances in technology have had on society and the environment.  There is also about half a page dedicated to the impact of ICT on teaching and learning, with the advice to train all staff to integrate technology to enhance student inquiries and to support the needs of individual learners.  We were advised to use technology to document learning and to provide rapid feedback and reflection.

In PYP: From principles into practice the role of technology is more explicit as students are learning technology, learning about technology and learning through technology.  It is also clear in this document that technology includes both digital (computer, camera, iPad) and non-digital tools and resources (pencil, books, games).   Drawing on the IB Continuum Series Teaching and Learning with Technology, the focus is on integration rather than implementation (please see an earlier blog post I wrote about this in 2014).  Areas where technology is seen as being of vital importance is in developing students' literacy, competence and confidence.   Much of the deepened focus on technology can be found in the following paragraph:
Technology learning and teaching in the PYP is best supported, strengthened and extended within the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry where students can apply technology in purposeful and authentic contexts. Seamless integration of technology enhances student agency, enabling students to learn in any context—formally and informally, through individual and social learning, and in any time and place. Therefore, all members of the learning community are technology teachers responsible for both the learning and teaching of technology, as well as its integration.
 I love how explicit this is:  we are all technology teachers in the same way that we are all language teachers.  Technology should not be confined to a lab that students go to for one or two lessons each week, it should be seamlessly integrated.

Digital citizenship is also mentioned:
Learning communities support students in becoming responsible digital citizens, who make informed, ethical choices while acting with integrity. In a globally connected digital world, students are responsible for their actions, value the rights of others, exercise academic integrity, and practise safe and legal behaviours.  
The last post unpacked the Enhancements for the early learners, in the Technology in the PYP section they are also mentioned.  Young children presented with technology will first of all explore its functionalities before moving onto innovation where they can use the device in a new context.  Early years teachers are encouraged to have plenty of old devices around for students to investigate through touching, seeing and hearing.

Learning technology
Students learn about the functions of technology tools and resources, and they develop the capability to make use of technology to engage with opportunities and challenges in order to find creative solutions.  One subset of this is students using technology for research, for example for gathering and recording data during inquiries and to document and present their learning.

Learning about technology
Students learn about technology in the world, for example coding, robotics, sports equipment and so on.  Technology literacy is an important aspect of learning about technology, and involves using tools such as rulers, protractors and colouring pencils.  Students learn which technologies are most appropriate depending on the task.

Multiliteracies such as digital, media, information, critical and design literacy are all explained, including how technology literacy encourages multimodality - understanding and communicating using different modes of expression such as print, images and sounds.  Computational thinking is also part of technology literacy: even very young children can understand how to follow a series of steps to solve a problem or to write a series of steps to design and build their own solutions.  The document also has a section on design thinking and how moving beyond following directions can lead to creative and innovative solutions that address opportunities and challenges.  The PYP now encourages the incorporation of Makerspaces into the curriculum, providing students will real-world experiences.  Students also learn that a solution to one problem may well create another problem.

Because technology is so powerful in connecting schools, students need to understand how opportunities bring with them the requirement for being responsible digital citizens when using technology and how inappropriate behaviours can impact themselves and others.

Learning through technology
Students use technology to explore and extend their inquiries, therefore technology encourages the development of important elements in the Approaches to Learning.  Technology sub-skills include investigating, organising, deating, communicating through multiliteracies, and collaborating in online spaces.  Technology also facilitates students learning about multiple perspectives.

The main message I'm getting about technology in the Enhanced PYP is that the focus has to be on using technology purposefully to transform the learning.  Technology should not be driving the learning - and it is for this reason that if there is a dedicated technology teacher, he or she should be working with the students in their classrooms (the same is true of the librarian who should also be coming into the learning environment).  Remember too, that technology now needs to be documented in the learning environment field of the planner.

And, as always, here is a video showing how we did this at ASB.

Photo Credit: pennstatenews Flickr via Compfight cc

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