Our recent report, The State of Technology in Education 2017/18, has revealed that educators in the UK believe geography is a subject lacking technological innovation, despite the range of tools and technologies available. Noeleen Leahy, however, is an experienced geography teacher that has been encouraging the use of edtech in her secondary school classroom since 1985.
Noeleen has been a Promethean and ClassFlow advocate since 2010. She’s written a guest piece for ResourcEd about her experiences of encouraging digital pedagogy in Geography for more than fifteen years. Here’s why she was ahead of the curve:
Back in 2000, when I submitted my Masters thesis on the effect of technology on teaching and learning in my classroom, I was referring to the use of the internet / software disks by students and a new approach to pedagogy — reconceptualising the role of the teacher in the classroom. Roll on to 2007 and I had dramatically remodelled my digital teaching methods, to appeal to all the different learners in my classroom.
One night, I went to a course in my local education centre and discovered the joys of an interactive whiteboard (IWB) – the predecessor of today’s interactive flat panel displays, such as ActivPanel. At the time IWBs were becoming popular in primary schools, not yet in secondary schools, but boy could I see the potential. In the summer of 2008, I was involved in a campaign to recycle old mobile phones for a local charity. Successfully gathering over 400 phones, I was rewarded with an IWB for my school.
Tech is not just for STEM
I happened to visit the school during the summer holidays on the day that the board was delivered, only to find out that the Principal had decided it would be installed in a maths classroom. I protested with, “I collected the phones! I know how to use the board and the Maths teacher doesn’t! It’s just not fair!”
My tantrum guaranteed that the board went into my geography classroom, not just allocated to another of the STEM subjects.
Shortly afterwards, the IT coordinator and management decided to install Epson interactive projectors in the school. In the end I was the only teacher with, not just an IWB, a Promethean ActivBoard. I was left to maintain the board myself as the school did not purchase it. I still wonder if I should have taken the board with me when I retired!
I shared my room with other teachers and one was so scared of the board, she got timetabled elsewhere. Another teacher insisted on getting the normal whiteboard reinstalled on another wall. Whenever she was in my room, she asked her students to turn their desks away from the board, to face the whiteboard at the back. Gradually, however, I was able to influence a number of teachers and the board got used by more than me.
When I retired, I was able to reallocate my room to a maths teacher who would use the board to its best effect. I often wonder how ‘my’ board is doing now I’m not there, but I am happy to report that I am now supporting other teachers in a new school where there is more than one front of class display.
Encouraging digital literacy in pupils is increasingly important for their future development. With teachers frequently pressed for time, technology like Promethean ActivPanels and free software like ClassFlow can also significantly reduce planning, reporting and admin time.
Thanks to edtech advocates like Noeleen, spreading enthusiasm and inspiration for digital teaching across non-technical subjects like geography, more and more teachers will understand the benefits of technology and digital teaching in their classrooms.