September 4, 2017

You might be familiar with Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. In the 1890’s he did an experiment training his dogs by positive reinforcement. This lead to a theory that learning can take place if correct/desired behaviour gets reinforced by positive rewards.  Behaviourism is probably the oldest theory we have explaining how people learn, in the meantime other theories like constructivism and cognitivism has been developed to describe other parts of learning. None of them is replacing the other, but rather shedding light on a different aspect of learning.

Teaching with technology is often treated as something entirely new, almost a learning style by itself. Using technology is not a learning style, it is only a new way of implementing what we already know about learning. For the first time, since Pavlov’s dogs, we can make fully use of the power of behaviourism.  Teachers know that positive reinforcement is one of the strongest forces for learning and that immediate individual feedback is the way to accomplish that. But with 30 or 35 learners in a class, it is impossible to give each child feedback. General comments or feedback that is given weeks later is nowhere near as effective.
However, quick electronic tests provide all the students with feedback and rewards all at once, with almost no input from you.

Individual and immediate feedback have more advantages than just the positive reinforcement it provides. Until I started using it, I did not realise how often the kids in my maths class would do one sum after the other irrespective of whether it is correct or not. By incorporating technology to tell them when they are wrong, they are suddenly forced to stop and find their mistake, before they continue. This has brought a whole new dimension to their homework.

Technology does not just improve feedback by automatically marking work. It can also make it a lot easier for you to give feedback to your learners. Earlier in the year I wrote a post about using Google sheets and Classroom to make notes on Lord of the Flies. Just opening the folder and looking at the date each file has last been modified gave the teacher a quick overview over who is keeping up with their notes. Opening a few of them, meant that she could incorporate their ideas and questions into the next lesson.

I know that one of my weak points as a teacher is the time it takes me to give feedback. Using technology to change that has already had a huge effect on the teaching and learning in my class.

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