Teachers need to be tech-savvy. There’s a whole standard in our Australian Professional Standards for Teachers that requires teachers to use technology in their classrooms, but what does this really mean?
When I was on my teaching placement, I needed feedback from my students on how I went. They were given a survey, and one of the questions asked them to rank how often I used tech in my lessons on a scale of 1 to 10.
I was shocked at their response. I had used slides and videos in almost every one of their lessons, and several involved using Google Earth on the SMART board or similar. They have me an average of 3 out of 10.
I asked a few why, and they said that they didn’t really think of that as technology.
The definition of tech literacy is changing
I scoffed at first and assumed that these students didn’t know what they were talking about. I was a young twenty-something! I’ve got to be up-to-date with current tech.
Technology is changing every year, and the problem now is, teachers may not be aware of what is out there.
Teachers will know if they need to familiarise themselves with computers. They may need more confidence with Moodle or Google Classroom or need to learn how to record and edit their videos for their students. Even being able to connect to the projector is a technological accomplishment for some.
Our curricula are putting a greater focus on coding skills. Gone are the days when simply using computers was enough, we are now needing to teach students how to manipulate them. I’ve had conversations with senior science teachers about how they can’t include anything with coding! They need more time to teach an additional skill to their students! The fact is that students are now coming into these classes having done some form of coding, 3D modelling, etc. From about grade 3. It’s the teachers who are behind.
Why this is every teacher’s problem
AI. Artificial intelligence. No longer is it something only seen in sci-fi; almost everyone who uses the internet has seen AI generated content at some point.
It could be a Snapchat filter or a Twitter bot. Increasingly though, entire websites are being built using AI. You can pay a reasonable monthly fee to access AI writing software, and some less-refined versions are free.
Why AI is a problem
Plagiarism has long been a scourge for teachers, but AI is another beast altogether. It’s currently much harder to detect, and unlike random sources online, it often doesn’t even try to resemble facts and truth.
There are increasingly useful tools for detecting AI-generated text, but they are currently only possible to access if you know how to code yourself. Something that we know many teachers struggle with. To make things more complicated, different methods for generating AI text are being developed all the time, so the detection tools need to keep adapting to keep up.
Is this actually a problem?
There are huge debates in the art world at the moment about AI art. AI is getting very good at generating very reasonable images, and most of these programs are free to use on the internet. How can an artist make a living if people can simply auto-generate an image for free?
The world is heading further into an AI-integrated future, and it will be an even bigger part of our students’ lives as they grow up. There’s no use saying that they can’t use it because they won’t be able to do it at university or in a future job because we don’t actually know that.
What we do know, as educators, is the purpose of our assessment tasks. We want to know that our students got it. We want to know that they have the skills to apply concepts to solve problems or evaluate a situation and develop a better solution. Writing and text has always just been the vehicle through which they express this.
There is of course value in certain text types. It is important to learn how to write a report, resume, or formal email. However, if AI becomes more prevalent in the future, they may not actually need writing skills to the degree that we do now.
What’s more important is understanding. How they talk about issues or design experiments. What we need to get our students doing is talking, explaining themselves and creating things to learn and make a change. This is the most human thing of all.