What if it was “Hogwarts School of Technology & Innovation”? – Part 1

Yes, I’m one of those crazily loyal, life-long Harry Potter fans who have thought about and discussed the series way too much over the past 20 years. Today is no different. Only today, instead of pondering Hermione’s relationship decisions and mourning Fred Weasley, I’m going to link the discussion back to technology and education. “But how?” I hear you ask. Well, imagine if we saw magic as a metaphor for technology. And what if we could then assess our approaches to technology and innovation in schools by analysing the “Hogwarts Approach.” You may think I’m clutching at straws here, but just bear with me…

Hogwarts Walt Stoneburner

Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner

Technology IS like magic

Think about it. 200 years ago, who would have believed that we could create/do things with the touch of a finger (wands), talk to someone ‘face-to-face’ from the other side of the world (Floo powder) or that we’d be able to fly (brooms)! 3D printers, smartphones, Skype and aeroplanes are today’s real magic.

We hear again and again that Australia needs to be an innovative nation, one that is digitally literate, understands how to code and that many of our future careers lie in the IT industry. Are we doing enough in schools to achieve and prepare for this vision? Sure, most schools provide students with access to computers, iPads or other devices – but what student at Hogwarts doesn’t have a wand?! Does the magical community give these eleven-year-olds a wand and leave it at that? No – that’s what all the structured and carefully taught Hogwarts subjects are for!

So, if we replace the wand for an iPad, just exactly what would students be learning about at Hogwarts School of Technology & Innovation? I plan on analysing each of the common subjects taught at Hogwarts to see what we can take away from their approach.

We’ll kick things off today with Defence Against the Dark Arts, or as I’ll now refer to it as, Defence Against the Online Risks.

“Defence Against the Online Risks”

At Hogwarts, Defence Against the Dark Arts (DADA) is a compulsory subject where students learn how to protect themselves from dark curses and beasts that exist beyond the walls of Hogwarts. In other words, they learn how to protect themselves from the risks they may face when venturing into the online world.

Starting from the age of eleven, they undertake DADA lessons on a weekly basis, which cover and include the following:

  • They are taught what dark magic awaits them beyond Hogwarts (for example, Professor MadEye Moody exposes them to the three ‘Unforgivable Curses’)
  • They are taught how to protect themselves from unwanted attacks (for example, Professor Lockhart facilitated a workshop on producing the disarming spell, Expelliarmus)
  • They are given a textbook each year, which provides up-to-date and relevant information about dark arts, curses, spells and dangerous beasts
  • They are provided with opportunities for hands-on learning (no one did this better than Professor Lupin, who in his first lesson had each student face a Boggart)

So, what can we take away from this?

Can I point out again, that this subject is compulsory – meaning Hogwarts felt the risk of students encountering regarding dark magic was so high, that every single student was obliged to take the class from Year 1 until at least Year 5.

We also can’t underestimate the importance of the teacher here. Compare Professor Lupin (experienced, qualified and knowledgable) to Professor Lockhart (need I say more?!) The difference in the quality of their teaching and the learning outcomes of the students is remarkable.

So basically, the “Hogwarts Approach” to Defence Against the Online Risks suggests we need to be teaching students from a young age and on a regular – and explicit – basis, about how to identify and respond to a variety of cybersafety issues. They need to be provided with relevant reading material and resources, as well as hands-on activities to develop their skills and deepen their understanding. All this needs to be led by a teacher who is skilled and up-to-date with the content.

Back to our world, and it’s wonderful that we are already beginning to head in this direction. The establishment of the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner and the incorporation of digital citizenship concepts into the Australian Curriculum ICT Capability strand are evidence of this.

But are we doing enough at the school level? Are we following the “Hogwarts Approach”? I believe there is room for improvement. Many schools struggle to integrate digital citizenship and cybersafety content into an already full timetable. The ICT Capabilities are intended to be integrated into other subject areas – does this allow for important concepts (such as online predators and cyberbullying) to be taught explicitly and meaningfully? Should every school have a compulsory hour set aside each week (perhaps during Health, Pastoral Care Time or an elective) to learn about cybersafety/online risks/digital citizenship/IT skills? I believe so – that’s why my focus this year is on providing schools with the training and resources needed to successfully implement this.

Stay tuned, more “If Hogwarts was a school for technology & innovation” coming soon!

About Me

My name is Kim Maslin, and I’m a West Australian educator who is passionate about digital technologies and developing healthy life-long learning habits. I provide a range of ICT-related seminars and workshops, as well as web design & digital marketing services. I am also a teacher and Digital Learning Coordinator. You can find out more about me here.

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About Kim Maslin

Kim Maslin is an Australian educator & author. She recently published a children’s cybersafety book, “The Tweeting Galah.” She is an ICT trainer, teacher & Digital Learning Coordinator. Kim is certified as an Apple Teacher, Microsoft Innovative Educator, Common Sense Media Certified Educator, a Family Zone Cybersafety Expert and finalist in the ECCI Business Excellence Awards 2017.