Education in the digital age

Transcript of interview with Madonna King, Dr Chris Blundell and Sue Suter

Madonna: Welcome to season two of Podclass, a series of conversations that delve deeper into the world of educators. I'm Madonna King and I'm excited again to be unpacking some of the important issues that face teachers and parents today.

Intro: Teachers help shape our children for the future. They develop the next generation of leaders, thinkers and innovators and they know better than most that learning never stops. Even for themselves.

Dr Chris Blundell: Technology is viewed as being part of learning now and so schools are moving in that direction. It's valued as something that's essential.

Alison Quin: It's certainly an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander way of seeing the world where country is foundational.

Intro: This is the podcast for educators by educators.

Dr Lyndal O’Gorman: I think it's about communicating and understanding meaning, then that helps to step up our understanding of what art can do in education.

Dr Jennifer Alford: There could be 30 languages represented. Teachers don't need to feel that they need to speak all of those languages.

Dr Jenna Gillett-Swan: I think what are the key things is ensuring that students have an equal seat at the table.

Intro: This is QUT Podclass, and we look forward to diving into season two with you.

Madonna: What plays a role in success in the classroom? What challenges do teachers face? And what new opportunities can they embrace? There are so many important topics to cover, but today's episode is all about education in the digital age. What can help teachers deliver technology? Do parents have a role here too? And how does a school teacher communicate that? So many questions. So, let's start at the beginning, and to help unpack this, Dr Chris Blundell, a lecturer in digital pedagogy at QUT. Chris, hi.

Chris: Good morning, Madonna.

Madonna: You've come to teaching pre-service and post-grad students, but after 26 years in the classroom. Why the change?

Chris: I've always been passionate about teaching and learning. And the opportunity to move into the tertiary sector and engage with new teachers, help them develop their skills, and just motivate them towards the core of their job, which is student learning.

Madonna: Yes, student learning. So just before we get on to technology, your PhD is about teachers consciously changing their approach to achieve better results. What was the big learning or take out there?

Chris: The big learning was around as teachers we use routines; classrooms are very dynamic and so we use routine as a way to deal with the dynamics in our classroom. And when we change things, sometimes those routines get disrupted or altered and it could be quite challenging as a teacher, because things that used to work sometimes don’t. And so one of the big findings out of my research was around when you introduced digital technology and consciously try to do things differently, it can make you feel a little less expert, a little bit more tired, as you learn how to do the new things with these technologies.

Madonna: So how well do you think we use technology in the classroom now?

Chris: It's mixed. So there's a range of different uses. We use technology sometimes to enhance what we're already doing. So we also use it to improve or create new opportunities. And one of the really powerful things is as new ways for students to show their learning and to gauge their own growth.

Madonna: What constraints do you see on its use currently?

Chris: There are many. Sometimes it's around as teachers how we view the technology and what we think it's capable of. There are other times where just whether or not you have access or access to the right technology too. And an even just that process of change, sometimes it's easier just to do what we know. The process change can be a bit daunting sometimes.

Madonna: You mention the word access, what kind of difference do you see in the level of resources between different schools or different classrooms?

Chris: Can’t speak to all schools and all contexts. There is a range, some schools have made strong decisions to go to one-to-one technology, so one piece of technology per student. Other schools are still in that journey as far as that process of change is concerned. Certainly, as a teacher when all your students have technology, there are certain opportunities. You can be more dynamic, you can follow interest. When there's not one-to-one you've got a plan a little more about using the technology that’s available to you or creating strategies where some students are on technology and some students are not.

Madonna: And we will come to some of those challenges and opportunities, I guess. But how often are you seeing a conscious decision by a school leadership team not to engage in schoolroom technology?

Chris: I would say it's increasingly rare. I think technology is viewed as being part of learning now and so schools are moving in that direction. And schools have to make different decisions about how they deploy resources and how they bring the community with them.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: But increasingly it's valued as something that's essential and it's also part of the Australian curriculum.

Madonna: Is it fair to say some schools might be a bit frightened about using technology because of the whole debate about online we're seeing?

Chris: Yes, there are concerns. There are things that when you introduce technology that you need to manage, and you need to positively support teachers and students and families with. And that can take some work and it can be sometimes easier to think look if we don't do it, we don't need to worry about it. But technology is part of our lives. So if we think about life beyond school, everyone has a piece of technology in their pocket. And so actually thinking about how we learn with it now and create opportunities for kids to sort of explore their responsibilities, is an important thing that schools need to do.

Madonna: We're seeing the growth in BYOD or bring your own device or it's called various things in various schools in many areas. Is that a good thing?

Chris: Again, it comes down to school decisions. So for some schools, they have a philosophical reason for doing it. They look at it as this is a student’s technology and so they use a BYOD type model. Other schools, in order to manage the dynamic, to manage how the technology’s used, they'd prefer to own the technology and lend it to the student or to have parents pay some sort of levy.

Madonna: What about if you're a teacher, there must be some variance in most classrooms because one student might have a computer and one not, the capability of the technology might be different in the same classroom. Where does the teacher go there?

Chris: That's certainly one of the challenges if you to a full BYOD where in students have got their own technology, it can create a lot of variation. So in some schools, they actually say we all want students have a certain type of technology to reduce that risk. The other way that some teachers deal with it is they don't teach towards a particular application or platform.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: They teach in terms of, we are using this mode of technology use.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: For a certain outcome. So rather than talk about, say Microsoft Word, they might be talking about word processing. And so they allow the students to use the tools available to them without teaching the application specifically.

Madonna: Let me ask about the role of parents here, because some have a strong view for and against technology in the classroom.

Chris: Yep.

Madonna: Presumably there needs to be very good communication between a school and a parent community, or between teachers and parents?

Chris: Education’s definitely a partnership between the school and the family and so that communication is essential. That includes both the school saying here's why we're doing what we're doing with technology. It's also about having open communication channels so parents can come and ask questions or seek advice, but then really the powerful advantage is that the good thing about technology is the student can share what they're learning with their parents.

Madonna: Yeah.

Chris: Really efficiently and there's a really nice conversation going on in the back of that.

Madonna: Is it challenging in your view for schools to actually bring the parent community on board here?

Chris: Can be. Again, it depends on the nature of the situation how the school chooses to approach it. I think, based on what I see anyway, in the secondary setting it's not necessary as a challenge. I think parents expect the students will be using technology fairly commonly in the space. Typically in the lower primary setting it is more of a challenge. So parents might view the technology as being a problem or an inhibitor and they worry about things like screen time and things like that. But then most schools don't use technology where the students are staring at the screen the whole day or even large chunks of the day. It's a tool that's used when it's needed.

Madonna: But is that something parents have to consider? Because if there is some screen time at school, presumably that means less screen time after school?

Chris: Screen time’s a broad term.

Madonna: Yeah.

Chris: And kind of in my mind it suggests you standing there and passively or sitting there passively looking at the screen. Whereas often when students are using technology they’re very, very active. So they're creating and they're researching and they're developing things and so it's a very active minds on experience, as opposed to just absorbing.

Madonna: Do you see technology as a bit of a silver bullet in learning?

Chris: No, I think technology is a tool, one of many tools, in the same way that pen and paper is a technology and a tool. It's all about using it in the right ways and not using it when it doesn't help.

Madonna: You stole my next question. Because if you're listening, I'm wondering if you're thinking what about the power of writing? Does the use of technology mask the need to learn how to draw, for example? So you're saying they're just as important.

Chris: Yes.

Madonna: Do they become more important the more we use technology?

Chris: Writing and drawing have a really powerful effect in terms of learning. They’re a big part of how we learn and how we process things, and the way we kind of visualise what's going on our minds onto a paper, a surface. So I think that writing and drawing have a place. Some technologies allow you to do that, other technologies, if it's a physical keyboard, not so much. So if the way of processing and thinking is enabled by writing or drawing, that's what should be done with. If the writing and drawing doesn't allow a student to process something then that's where another technology, like digital technology, might come into play.

Madonna: Okay, so more broadly then, how would you answer this: when is it best to use technology? And when wouldn't you use it as a classroom teacher?

Chris: Every teacher knows their kids, they know the learning outcome and their role is to make strategic decisions about - what am I trying to help my students learn? Where are my students at? What do they need? And they then make a decision about the technologies that are available to them; paper, pencil, whiteboards, all those sort of things, digital technology, and they make a decision about what works. And there are times, I'll share an example, I was working with a school with a student who was English Second Language, so still learning English. And what they found was a lot of the ways they were traditionally asking the students to demonstrate understanding was through written expression.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: Now this particular student was still developing that skill set and the teacher realised that by asking this child to write, she wasn't actually seeing the full evidence of his capacity. And so by using video animation, other sort of things, allowed him to prove what he knew and she realised that it became, she became, more clear about what he was capable of. But also more clear about the gaps that she could work to, because it was hidden behind his written expression otherwise.

Madonna: That sounds like a great point to bring in Sue Suter, who's an Education Officer for Learning and Teaching Technologies with Brisbane Catholic Education. Sue supports 142 different schools Sue, hello.

Sue: Hello, Madonna.

Madonna: Let's talk about how digital technology can be used in the classroom. Firstly, does the curriculum dictate a level of digital literacy being delivered?

Sue: The curriculum definitely does dictate because one of the general capabilities is the ICT capability. And I guess the importance of having the ICT capability is that it's taught within all of the learning areas. So we don't actually report on any of the general capabilities, but they are the skills that need to be taught to our students to actually be able to achieve what they need to in the learning areas.

Madonna: What about under teaching standards, is there a requirement to deliver digital learning?

Sue: There is in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. There are specific ICT standards actually for educators for them to achieve.

Madonna: Primary? Secondary? Across the board for both?

Sue: Both, for all. So that's within their registration.

Madonna: So give me a few examples of how you're seeing, in classrooms, technology used in learning.

Sue: I think Chris is given some really good examples there too. I love the examples of there being no boundaries. So for the first week or the second week in prep, where before we probably heard teachers say ‘Oh don't give the students a device’. But I would be saying do give them a device and allow them to take photos of themselves, or of each other, because they've been taking selfies on Mum and Dad's phone probably from the age of about two. So let's not take the technology away from them as they actually come into school. Let's actually keep them engaged. Because this is something that's part of their life.

Madonna: And teach them how to use it properly.

Sue: Absolutely. So again, in that ICT capability, one thing that we really and I find, in my role as supporting all of the schools from prep to all the way through to year 12, is that that capability still needs to be planned for. It needs to be explicitly taught because we can't assume that every student in our class has the same skill as the child next door. So I just think too, for teachers, it's really important to allow yourself some time to play with the technology, to be aware of what it can do, but allow the kids time to play with the technology as well.

Madonna: That's an important point because presumably some of our young children would know how to use technology, perhaps even better than the teacher standing in front of the class.

Sue: Absolutely, and I think sometimes teachers need to be aware that it's okay to let go and I don't have to be the expert in the room.

Madonna: What? Get the children to show him or her how to do something.

Sue: Absolutely. I've had, in the past, I've had students who had their own YouTube channels and who are fantastic at creating their own movies. For example, one student I'm thinking of is with skateboarding and yet, in class, they weren't actually allowed to use the movie making equipment.

Madonna: Yes.

Sue: They had to only use a PowerPoint. So this student was actually quite bored. But when we actually opened up and said well you show us the way that you can, you know demonstrate your learning in whatever way is possible for you, that really showed the engagement and what that child was able to do was amazing.

Madonna: I'm wondering whether, also let's take early childhood, you go up as a parent and you say how did little Johnny or little Jane go today? What did they do? Did they eat their lunch? How did they go at drawing? But if there is some kind of, are you saying it extends that far, where there can be video journals, for example of a child's day, so parents can see and feel and look and hear?

Sue: There is definitely. And I think a lot of parents, if their children have been involved in a childcare situation where they are constantly updated by – your child just smiled at another child, coming to school is a little bit different because the response that we want and what we want the parents engaged in, is in the learning and teaching. So we want them to actually see and be part of the learning that's happening in the classroom and definitely technology allows that to happen.

Madonna: We'll go through some more examples a bit later perhaps. But can I ask you what you see is the blocks to teachers or indeed schools really embracing technology on the ground?

Sue: I think legalities of data security can be a concern because, as an adult, if I'm not confident with what I'm allowed to be storing and the data that I'm allowed to have and photos etc. of students, then that could be a blocker for me.

Madonna: There was a privacy change in 2014, wasn't there? Is there anything schools should know about keeping children's work, for example, or sharing it?

Sue: Look, I think the most important thing is to have the conversation with your leadership and be very clear. I think the questions and questions and questions when I'm not sure is really crucial for teachers. To keep on asking if they're still not sure, keep on asking. You know, just to clarify their own needs. The other thing too is to actually have a plan. As a teacher, I would be planning exactly where I want it to be, who is my authentic audience. Do I want my parents to be involved in. I want parent feedback here or is this another class that I would like them to come in and see.

Madonna: Where do you see it used most successfully?

Sue: I think in communication. I think obviously creativity is the passion that drives me when I said technology for creativity is crucial for all engagement of learners but communicating the learning process and not communicating a task at the end of the day. So I don't I want to see my child's piece of writing written up that's been spelled checked. I want to see the whole process. So I need to know the feedback that my child's been given from the teacher. I need to know the feedback that my students are also being given possibly by another peer. I need to see the whole process, that it doesn't just magically happen.

Madonna: We’ll bring back QUT’s Dr Chris Blundell in just a moment. But Sue, a teacher needs to be confident to embrace this. How do we increase that?

Sue: I think teacher confidence is honestly by getting on and having a play. It was sort of mentioned it before, in any of the professional development that we run for teachers, we always include sandpit time. And sandpit time is getting to know some of the tools that we're using in the classroom, knowing that you might actually think you've got it all covered and you'll walk into a room of seven-year-olds and they're going to show you something else.

Madonna: I'm so pleased you explained that because I had this image of a group of teachers sitting in a sandpit. Is there a difference in teacher’s experience though, if a teacher is very digitally literate in their private lives or in their 20s. Are they more likely to embrace digital learning in the classroom or is that just not the case?

Sue: I don't think we can assume that. I think the assumption that you know, I'm very au fait with social media can easily translate into a classroom. Because we need to be aware of all of the data security of the students that are in our care throughout the day. So it's bigger picture.

Madonna: You've raised that a couple of times. For someone listening, apart from referring it up, are there really strict laws around data security that a teacher beginning this process really needs to know?

Sue: Again, ask their school and what the school user agreement would be.

Madonna: Okay, so it comes down to a school decision.

Sue: Yeah, it does and the leaders in that school would definitely have policies in place.

Madonna: Do teachers know the range of tools available in technology do you think?

Sue: I don't think we'll ever know the range of tools available because they change every day and that's the exciting part.

Madonna: Yeah, look at the smile on your face. So Dr Chris Blundell is from QUT. And Chris, is there a particular child who can benefit most from digital learning?

Chris: I wouldn't say so. I think digital learning works for all students. It might work in slightly different ways and we know that students have different preferences for how they might learn or different senses of how they’re strong or weak. And so from that point of view digital learning can work for everybody.

Madonna: So everybody, every child can gain from digital learning.

Chris: Definitely and again, I think it comes down to teachers making good decisions.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: Working with the students that they have in their classes and making the right decision and as the students get older even negotiating that. So some of the interesting things that I've seen is actually teachers saying to the students - you have an opportunity to demonstrate how you understand something. So students might write it, other students might make a diagram, other students might record a video and audio or podcast and just giving students the latitude to go to that.

Madonna: It’s increasing their number of tools.

Chris: Absolutely.

Madonna: You teach pre-service teachers and postgrad teachers. What's the difference in how those groups think, anything?

Chris: The main difference is that people come into a teaching degree, so pre-service teachers, they aspire to be a teacher, they've got some initial ideas about what it means. But often that's based on either their own experience at school and maybe for some of them the experience of a parent or a family friend. So they have some initial ideas about what it's at but they start developing their identity as a teacher. So they start thinking about who they are and who they'd like to be. Post graduate teachers, on the other hand, have been teaching for a while. They understand the nuances of teaching, they understand the kind of key processes. So they tend to come back to study with some strong ideas about what they'd like to learn or the gaps that might like to fill or the ways they want to stretch themselves.

Madonna: I loved your term ‘they're trying to find out their identity as a teacher’, because that's different from their identity as a person. You're saying.

Chris: Well in my view, really good teachers, who they are and who they are as a teacher, overlap.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: But there are definite things that a role of teaching needs from you as a person. How you work with children and students, how you respond to them, the relationship you form with them to help them grow about trust and confidence and things like that.

Madonna: I just love how you said that about identity because it's a conversation we don't often have in the public space - about who they want to be and how they transfer that in terms of role modelling, I guess even.

Chris: Absolutely, teaching is a passion career.

Madonna: Yeah, and we see it every day in our own children.

Chris: Absolutely.

Madonna: Yeah, so I know I keep coming back to the access issues. But some schools have resources, others don't. Are you at all concerned we're graduating two different cohorts of children the same age in different parts of the state, rural and city, or public, private, or whatever?

Chris: There will probably be some differences about the way students have used technology in schooling. There's an interesting body of literature that actually says that students are more technologically literate outside of school than they are inside school. And so one of the kind of, to take a slight negative and turn into a positive, there's at least value in knowing that many students have quite a strong digital literacy through their own experience. And so, you know, even as the school if you for whatever reason there aren't that many resources available, finding the right ways to develop the really important skills like information literacy; being able to critique and evaluate the validity of an idea; finding ways to communicate in addition to the traditional ones; they're all things that you can strategically target. So even if a school, it doesn't have a lot of resources or one-to-one technology program, being strategic about that and particularly, you know in a modern environment giving students that ability to evaluate information and its validity, is in my view, one of the really important things that we get to do and need to do in education.

Madonna: Sue talked about laws relating to storage and sharing. In addition to that, do you see rules that a school needs to put around digital literacy and the use of technology in the classroom?

Chris: Every school needs to understand and be able to articulate what the role of digital technologies are. They need, like all school rules and dynamics, you need to have boundaries about what's appropriate in that context. Digital citizenship, being responsible and sensitive about your relationship with other people, what you and don't share, they’re all significant things that are both, Madonna, a combination of rules, but also really strategically targeted programs. So there's the boundaries but then there are things you do to enable and grow those skill sets.

Madonna: Now as a parent, you're both making me think differently and more positively about technology. And Sue I was just thinking, you know, how could the use of technology support the different learning needs of children? You've got text to speech, speech to text. We've got colour differentiation. Just talk to me about, is it being used in that space and how.

Sue: I love working, recently, in some of our rural schools and there were some students who, from their data, were quite low literacy and they were looking at creating text. And of course, they would come in from running around out on the open paddock and then sit down for 40 minutes and you're actually going to have to write a text. Well, when I sort of challenged the teachers and said, oh there's some technology devices up there, they're actually only creating text - how about we actually get the kids to talk about what they were doing at playtime. And some of those things might be whip cracking and they do have those sorts of things in our schools out west. So that's exactly what they did. So these students came in from where they would normally get one or two words down on paper and they had created the best text about their playtime. The success that they felt and being able to share that, so when they had author’s chair, they were the author because they’d actually created a text. If it wasn't for technology, they would have had two words down.

Madonna: They get to crack a whip?

Sue: Absolutely.

Madonna: How good is that?

Sue: I know. And they go to the Ekka and all.

Madonna: Chris, do you see with, let's say a child with autism or a child with different learning needs, how do you see technology enhancing their learning experience?

Chris: So one of the advantages of technology, because it's a tool and it's a very dynamic tool, it can meet various needs.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: And so students with autism, for example, it actually allows the student to zone in. So put some headphones on, focus on a particular task, remove other distractions, which is really useful for a student with autism. In the same way that a student, who this is before might be developing language still, can find other ways to communicate their big ideas or to draft their next set of thoughts.

Madonna: I'd imagine it could really boost a child's confidence if they recorded, for example their progress in a particular subject. You know reading Harry Potter over a six-month period. Are we seeing things?

Chris: Absolutely. In fact, a lot of schools are using the recording features on devices to ask a student to read something and the student keeps doing the work over weeks and they record again in a few weeks’ time and they can actually hear the difference in the quality of their reading. And that's really important because often I think to younger kids, they know that as teachers we want to support them and we want to build their confidence, but sometimes they don't quite believe us that they're growing because they can't see their own growth. So when they hear it they can see their growth and the confidence from I know I'm improving because I can hear how much that's changed.

Madonna: Mum and dad can see it and hear it.

Chris: Absolutely.

Sue: Absolutely and give them feedback. So I think at the end of the year, that's where you see these excited students running home and saying no, no go back to the beginning mum. And the parents then, and sometimes we've even had Nonna who's living in Italy, getting the recording of this story reading as well.

Madonna: That's delightful.

Chris: Yeah.

Madonna: So QUT and Brisbane Catholic Education joined together for some interesting research in this area. Chris, just explain, what was that about?

Chris: Okay, Sue and I've been working with three primary schools and these primary schools were interested in trying to do deeper things with digital technology. And so we've been working together across the course of this year and we started out by understanding the power of routine in our practices, teachers and how we introduce technology. Sometimes those routines don't work and that makes us tired and not feel very expert. So we developed up a shared language around how to understand that and then what we used is something called design thinking. Which was for the teams to decide what was the problem that they were trying to solve, the learning problem, the problem of practice that they were trying to solve and then designing a solution. And they went away and little small strategies, little small things that they wanted to try and then they came back, shared and we repeated that process.

Madonna: So what kind of problems were they trying to solve?

Sue: They were so different from school to school and I think the other thing that we really noted was about keeping it simple.

Madonna: Yes.

Sue: So it was really important that, even though as teachers we go in with the big problem because I want to teach science and I want to use my digital technology to teach science and that is such a large space, whereas we actually got it back down to - what was the explicit teaching that you wanted. What skill did you want these prep students to actually know?

Madonna: Be more specific for me.

Sue: Okay. So for example, I'm just thinking of the earliest teachers in is project and they were responding to a text that they were reading. They wanted to actually see, the students to actually choose the tool that was best for them to respond.

Madonna: Yes.

Sue: But to do that, the students had to be exposed to a lot of those different tools and explicitly talk which comes into that ICT capability.

Madonna: Yes.

Sue: So they actually, the teachers planned, to teach the skill of - we're going to use the camera. We're going to mark the camera up and we're going to use some video. We're going to add that - where could we add that. And the students then, were in control of their learning and how they wanted it to look. In the end, these students who the teacher would have said there is no way they can take a photo and there's no way that they would be able to add that in and make it animated, well some of the students actually decided that that's what they did and they created their own animations. And that was actually their response to the text. Through animation, they recorded their voice and they explained.

Madonna: At what age?

Sue: They are six.

Madonna: Wow. So what would you say, Chris, to a teacher who really wants to embrace this but is not sure of the first step?

Chris: So the first step is probably pick something small, pick something relatively simple and just try it quickly. So don't try and change everything, just pick something you'd like to have a go at, devote a 20-minute learning activity to it and involve a colleague - either as a someone you talk this through prior to getting started or someone might come and watch. Or even if you just set up your own device and video record the session and then sit down with them afterwards and say debrief. You know, what happened?

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: How did it go? How do I think about it?

Madonna: So it can be trial and error.

Chris: Absolutely.

Madonna: And you start small in early childhood and then graduate as that students travel through.

Sue: It’s a continuum really. And that's that ICT capability isn't lock, stock and barrel, that this is what you do when you’re in prep and this is what you do in year one and this is what you do in year seven. It actually builds on what they've done prior.

Madonna: Well, what about then, Sue, schools - how do they decide what technologies to use?

Sue: I think that's the million-dollar question. Some systems actually suggest preferred technologies to be used in certain learning areas. But really it is up to schools and in BYOD schools you have no choice.

Madonna: But are we seeing schools block technologies that are important?

Sue: No.

Madonna: I'm not saying it but you know, the mobile phone for example, does it have a role here or not?

Sue: In certain, like and I've certainly seen that used really very, very well in mobile labs. But again, it comes down to the teachers and their context.

Madonna: You don't need a mobile phone to enhance digital learning.

Sue: That's right.

Madonna: Or to embrace it.

Sue: No.

Madonna: What about parents here? What's the advice, because they can influence their own children's use of technology. So if they fear it, perhaps their children will also. Or there becomes a disconnect between what the parent knows and what the child knows. Chris?

Chris: I think it's important to be curious. We all develop, the word I'd use, if we territorialise technology, we learn how we use it and we tend to stop where we're happy. And so sometimes we can extend our own understanding on to our kids, we can assume they know less than us because they’re younger. And so my kind of encouragement is to be curious. So rather than just assume what your children can and can't do, rather than assuming what they might be using the technology for at school - ask them. Be curious about it. Now there's two values that: one, you'll be surprised what your students are actually doing with that, your children are doing with it. And secondly, that it's valuable to them - where they actually teach someone else what they know. That's probably most powerful forms of learning you can have.

Madonna: Yeah.

Chris: And when a child understands they can teach someone else, their confidence comes up. It's a really rewarding beneficial experience, but it does require us as parents to be a bit curious and maybe just hold back on our fears for a little while, while we asked about what's actually going on.

Madonna: And perhaps even to admit that we don't know everything.

Chris: And really good teachers are the same, really good teachers also admit - I can't know everything, the technology keeps changing so I need to be open about there are other ways to look at it.

Madonna: So let me put you both on the spot and ask you for your top three tips, whether it's to a teacher or to a school wanting to go down this track, but not knowing where to start. Let’s start with you, Sue.

Sue: One of my top tips would be to allow yourself to get in the sandpit. Go and explore, investigate, ask questions, YouTube it. But explore yourself without putting up any boundaries.

Madonna: Yeah. Chris?

Chris: I'll add to that. My suggestion is start with the technology you have. Don't look for the next technology. Don't be frustrated by what you have. Start with that. As I said before, start small, make something work, see how it goes and then grow from that.

Sue: And I think the other thing is to collaborate with peers. And I know, Chris, you sort of touched on that earlier, but peers within your team, in your teaching team. You'll have someone in your staff that will know something about one of those tools. And if not, ask the kids. The kids are a great spot.

Chris: I'm interested in suggesting that school leaders have a role to play here. And I think it's really important for school leaders to promote collaboration, openness, getting the teachers sharing their experience, but giving teachers time to explore and develop those new routines.

Madonna: Will this be done better if there is school leadership buy-in?

Chris: Yes, definitely.

Madonna: But does it stop an individual teacher embarking on this?

Chris: No. Individual teachers, teachers are typically very creative people.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: And they’re driven by a need to improve learning for their kids. And so individual teachers will find ways to use what's available to them and those teachers are actually really powerful assets in a school because they're the ones who prove what can be done.

Madonna: And Chris, what about a tip for parents?

Chris: I think it's really important for parents to create boundaries for their children about when the technology is used, when it's not. But the really important part of that is actually involving your children in that negotiation.

Madonna: Yes.

Chris: So setting up as a family, so rather than saying this is the hard and fast rule, having a conversation about what those boundaries might look like. Particularly if the kids are using technology as part of their learning at school, they might be bringing that home as homework.

Madonna: Any final tips?

Sue: I think the other thing would be for schools and school leadership to be involved and be aware that user agreement policies from five years ago aren’t going to be up to date - so change them regularly.

Madonna: That’s QUT lecturer Dr Chris Blundell and Sue Suter, who supports digital learning in 142 different schools. I'm Madonna King and you're listening to QUT PodClass. And remember, the more you learn, the more they learn.

Madonna: Thanks for listening to this episode of Podclass. I hope you got as much out of it as I did. For a little homework, links to further information and insight on this topic, see the details provided in the show notes. Or to continue broadening your thinking in the classroom, listen in to the other season 2 episodes.

Outro: Podclass is an initiative of the QUT Faculty of Education. To take your teaching potential to the next level, explore their range of professional development and postgraduate study options on offer. Because the more you learn, the more they learn.