2020-21 IBSC Action Research

Boys and Technology: New Horizons, New Challenges, New Learning

Please note: Due to the disruption of the school year and travel by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 IBSC Action Research cohort will start its research cycle a year later than originally planned. These researchers will present their final projects at the 2022 IBSC Annual Conference at St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas, Texas, United States.

Educational technology has shaped learning for millennia—from the invention of the first wax tablets and the use of paper and writing instruments, to typewriters, blackboards, overhead projectors, televisions, computers, and the internet. Today boys in our schools engage with emerging technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), 3-D printing, robotics, and virtual and augmented realities, across a range of blended learning environments.

Technology promotes flexible, active, and differentiated learning. It empowers students to take control of their learning, engage deeply with interactive media and online platforms that cater for a range of learning preferences, and learn anywhere at any time. [1]

While technology offers many benefits, we must think critically before embracing all it offers. We need to be aware of the many complexities and ambiguities surrounding the use of technology in schools. [2] The Horizon Report 2019, for example, notes the importance of developing digital fluency: “the ability to leverage digital tools and platforms to communicate critically, design creatively, make informed decisions, and solve wicked problems while anticipating new ones.” [3] How might teachers best develop this fluency while remaining mindful of the many challenges that accompany the use of technology in boys’ education? If boys are relational learners who learn best when they feel connected to the teacher [4] and learn about character through a process of apprenticeship to their teachers, [5] then we must investigate how technology directly impacts their learning. We might also consider whether face-to-face time is overvalued given that relational contact can occur in many ways. Furthermore, if technology is increasingly being linked to problems with sustained attention, [6] anxiety, depression, body image disturbance, and internet addiction disorder, how can we as teachers moderate our students’ intake of it, as advocated by Shimi Kang’s Tech Diet? [7]

[1] The EDUCAUSE Horizon Report. (2019). Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2019/4/2019-horizon-report

[2] Lewin, D. (2016). The Pharmakon of Educational Technology: The Disruptive Power of Attention in Education. Studies in Philosophy & Education, 35(3), 251–265. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-016-9518-3

[3] Sparrow, J. (2018.) Digital fluency: Preparing students to create, big, bold problems. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/3/digital-fluency-preparing-students-to-create-big-bold-problems

[4] Reichert, M. & Hawley, R. (2010). Reaching boys, teaching boys: Strategies that work – and why. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

[5] Cummins, P. & Adams, B. (2019). The Way: The Character of an Excellent 21C Education. Australia: CIRCLE

[6] Cox, A.J. (2018). Cracking the boy code. Canada: New Society Publishers.

[7] Kang, S. (2019). Discussing the “Tech Diet” with BBC World News. Retrieved from http://www.drshimikang.com/2019/01/17/discussing-the-tech-diet-with-bbc-world-news/

Projects for this cycle might focus on innovative ways of developing digital fluency and harnessing the power of technology in teaching and learning. Or action researchers may opt to address some of the challenges of integrating technology effectively in the classroom. Given the appeal of technology to boys, the possibilities are limitless.


Contact Margot Long, IBSC Action Research program coordinator, at longma@stjohnscollege.co.za.

Hear directly from team leaders and action researchers about their firsthand experiences with the program in Episode 2 of the IBSC Exploring Boys' Education Podcast, which details the IBSC Action Research Program.