Taking the PYP Forward - The Role of ICT in the PYP

This chapter infuriated me.  There, I said it.  That felt better.  They make some good points about higher order skills at the beginning of the chapter, and then go to provide five spotlights where schools could focus on these skills to... well, I'm not really what the purpose is.  Improve learning?  That seems to be what they are saying, that in order to improve learning you need to use technology.  I profoundly disagree with this.  Great learning can happen with or without technology.  Yes, tech can improve on some things, or make others easier, but it does not replace other forms of learning.  I see no separation between technology learning and non-technology learning.

A pencil is technology.

All of the examples of projects or units given in the chapter could have been easily done without technology, with no real change to learning or thinking going on.  That to me is the key word, thinking.

How is technology changing the thinking of your students?  Is it a necessary part of developing thinking skills?

Finally, I also don't buy the bit about the need to teach kids how to use technology. They will do that on their own.  When they leave PYP and start their lives as teenagers, they will surpass us in terms of their technological understanding.  They are natives.  Let them run wild in their natural surrounding.  Now, using it responsibly that is a different question and that is an area where we could have some meaningful impact.

Spotlight #1: ICT in PYP inquiry and communication

They make the case that ICT has been left largely to the teacher initiative without any guidance in form of curricular design.  That is very true.  It is also the way I want it as a teacher!  If there is a teacher who is not comfortable with technology, but is a master of getting kids to display their thinking visually and explain their reasoning, that teacher is still an amazing asset that should be cherished.  Not forced to implement something they don't see the relevance of.

I am comfortable with computers and tech.  I grew up with them.  They are part of my life.  That doesn't mean I need a bunch of standards and benchmarks to tell me how to do something that is part of the world I inhabit.

Spotlight #2: Thinking, social, communication, self-management and research skills

Technology can help elevate the tasks that we design for students.  This is the gist of my problem with the article for me; they make sweeping broad comments like this and then don't explain how or why this can be done with technology better than without it.  Every example they give, I can take out the technology and make it just as rich in terms of the thinking that is going on.  Kids create a virtual museum.  Kids create a real museum.  Kids narrate stories onto computers and edit them together with images.  Kids do a public reading of the story surrounding by accompanying paintings.  What is the difference?  What is technology adding?

Aside: The Corporation influence

Apple and Google are not in education to make the world better for people.  They are in it to make money.  Be wary of anything that they are selling to schools, and have these conversations with your kids.  Don't let them set the agenda, or start writing curriculum.  That is a bad road to go down.....

Spotlight #5: collaboration, inquiry, and problem solving

This is where technology has its true purpose to me.  It can connect kids to the world.  If we made an art gallery in the school we could invite people from the community using our analog methods.  If we did it digitally, we could invite the world.  It makes the learning community so much larger.  It increases the response to our work, and it connects ideas to new ideas which form ever newer ideas.

A Plea to Technology Coordinators from me

I love technology and I use it with my kids everyday.  I also love paint, and play-doh, and going outside, and getting dirty, and collaborating on big pieces of paper with those smelly markers.  My plea to educational technologists is this; please don't lose that in the future schools that you envision.  It is too important to throw away.  Technology is great, but so is making something with your hands.  The tactile must be defended.  Someone must write a chapter about the The Role of the Tactile in the PYP that goes right beside this one.

Apple Tree (by my three year old son)


  1. Hi Craig
    Fantastic honesty here - and thought provoking.

    We are about to take on a full time ICT coordinator and it scares me a little for a couple of reasons:
    1. That Homeroom teachers will now pass on all responsibility to the ICT Coord and we will lose some of the T/D essence
    2. ICT will become more of a skills base class where children learn to 'do' or 'use'
    My Principal and I have a plan and have set up guidelines....and I have printed out the Role of the ICT for our new position, and managed to find a couple of schools (ZUG) and one other who have mapped their ICT overview to include a more conceptual understanding and sense of responsibility and the use of technology.

    Even though I personally am loving learning to navigate blogs, twitter and other sources of sharing articles and PD, I can see all of these new options becoming overwhelming to our students - although, having said that they are the true techno generation and learn by doing and exploring and playing (and sometimes with too much ease for us old folk!) If we can teach our children first how to research, sort, organise, plan....then they will be more prepared for the multi-media stream of information out there.

    As with all our resources I think it is about the choices we make on how and when we use the resource. What is its purpose? What are we learning? Is it adding to the learning experience? Is it time-saving? appropriate? Safe? relevant?

    We have one class so keen to jump on the ipad wagon and have a paperless classroom - but my question is - is it just a gadget? Are discussions, arguments, scribbles and mind maps just as (if not more) valuable? What is it adding to the learning experiences?

    We have set up wikis for our Exhibition, and our Grade 2 class are just about to begin their "Quad-blog" and both of these will be valuable for sharing - but with these we have also ensured parents and students have had support and education about safety whilst using the www.

    We have the added complication of being in China and having the Great Firewall of China. Not everything works the way it maybe should. This has led to all of us being a little more 'creative' with the tools and software and websites we use. It has also ensured we have an appreciation of the problems faced - if not the frustrations!!

    I love the techno world and all that is happening - and am desperately trying to keep up with all the challenges and wonders it brings. I wonder sometimes if my personal reluctance is due to my own ignorance and lack of comfort - or maybe like you I still see the value in water play, creative mess and making cities out of blocks.

    Enjoying reading your blog very much - Thanks for your insights.

  2. Tania, thank you so much for your reflections on my reflections. They are wonderful to read.

    As to your iPad question, I do think they offer value to a classroom in terms of sharing documentation and connecting with the world outside of the classroom. Get kids blogging on them, have them use some sort of social media, use email, make files, create wiki's, etc. HOWEVER, it is not a replacement (IMO) for collaboration on big pieces of paper. There is something tactile about the process of working out ideas on a shared writing space that is different from using technology. I can't explain it, or put my finger on it, but it is there. Having multiple users in a joint googledoc is a great way to collaborate at a distance and I have written about it before, but if you are in the same room, then it is not the most efficient option.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. What is your twitter name? I will look you up!

  3. Thanks Craig. I have really enjoyed getting on twitter and discovering all the professional blogs out there.
    Yes - the scribble whilst you think...is definitely a process and a very valuable one. We were laughing in the staff room today about how many of us got tablets or ipads for Xmas - with all the apps at our finger tips. However, being true Primary teachers we had also gone out and bought ourselves new teacher planners and diaries - along with special coloured pens to scribble in them! The techno side is great - but somehow I never feel organised until I have written it all down in my diary...are we the old folk??
    Twitter is @hktans - Looking forward to the next PYP Chat

  4. I do my planning on my iPhone or in my head! I am a planner-less teacher. The only time I ever use pens or markers is for brainstorming.


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