Lessons from 2020: EdTech tools can future proof the classroom
Nobody is likely to forget 2020, not least the education sector, which has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But on the bright side this may well be the year education technology (EdTech) revolutionises the sector, with EdTech tools bringing it into the modern age and future-proofing it for the next generation of students.
With schools, colleges and universities closed, teachers and lecturers are working incredibly hard and employing great ingenuity to deliver online teaching. But – for the most part – schools simply aren’t set up for remote learning. A quick video chat among the working parents at GingerMay revealed a range of home schooling issues. These included inaccessible resources and learning tools, over-reliance on written texts for learning, minimal feedback on completed work, a lack of differentiation in tasks for varying abilities, and an absence interaction with classmates.
These are all challenges EdTech tools can help to resolve, and education providers should be taking lessons from this situation and exploring the technologies available to streamline learning and engage students. There are already great examples of EdTech being used for online teaching, such as 730,000 K-12 students attending classes via the Tencent K-12 Online School in Wuhan. In the UK, the government is helping schools set up on either Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 Education, while providing laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils and encouraging peer-to-peer support through the EdTech Demonstrators programme.
So, EdTech tools are already helping to improve remote learning as students remain at home, and will continue to play an increasingly important role as they gradually transition back to schools and campuses. When schools reopen they will have smaller class sizes and social distancing measures, meaning at least some learning will still be done at home. Students starting university in September may well begin their courses online if premises are still closed, and there are calls to create an ‘Open School’ similar to the ‘Open University’ to help children return to the in-school curriculum. An EdTech-enabled hybrid model where learning is split between the classroom and online environments is likely to become part of the ‘new normal’ that is so often discussed.
Here are just three ways adoption of EdTech tools will improve education during this challenging time, as teachers and students transition back to the classroom, and beyond COVID-19 into a technology driven future.
Resources become accessible and immersive
Teachers are currently finding workarounds to share resources with pupils, such as scanning and emailing relevant pages from text books. But online resources such as digital textbooks provide a far better experience, allowing students to access the information they need whenever they need it, in a format designed for digital. Digital textbooks are also cheaper than printed versions, take up no space in school bags, are impossible to lose, and can be updated regularly.
Moving beyond textbooks, EdTech can be used to make learning resources more immersive and engaging for young people. Anyone at school before the millennium will remember the excitement when the school’s single TV was wheeled in to the classroom to play a VHS tape. Well the tech may have moved on but the principle hasn’t – video is still an incredibly effective learning resource and one that can easily be integrated into online teaching. Live streaming of lessons and lectures via a video link is invaluable at this time. Taking immersion further, educators will begin to use extended reality – including virtual, augmented, and mixed realities – to enable learning by doing and allow students to physically engage with their studies.
Teaching becomes more interactive
In the unprecedented situation they are currently facing, teachers simply don’t have the capacity to assess all the work students are doing and deliver the individual feedback necessary to keep them on track and motivated to learn. EdTech tools such as virtual lesson planners, grading software and course construction tools can help free up teachers’ time and speed up assessments, giving them more opportunity to interact effectively and encourage students.
EdTech also helps students to work collaboratively together, no matter where they are physically located. Many pupils are currently feeling isolated and cut off from their class mates but EdTech tools can help them connect with one another, work on creative group projects and learn from their peers in a social, cooperative environment.
Learning becomes more personalised
Differentiated learning, where activities are tailored to the individual student’s needs and abilities, is complex enough in a classroom of thirty children, but teachers are finding it even more challenging with pupils sat in bedrooms and at dining tables. EdTech and digital learning provide the answer, allowing pupils to progress at their own pace and take control of their individual learning experience.
Teachers and lecturers can use data insights generated by EdTech tools to monitor how pupils are progressing. They can quickly identify particular areas of strength or weakness and determine interventions where necessary, further personalising the learning journey to get the best out of each and every student.
Schools, teachers and lecturers may want to forget 2020 as quickly as possible, but it’s vital to learn lessons from this extraordinary year. EdTech tools can future proof the classroom and make learning more accessible, immersive, interactive and personalised both in times of crisis and in times of normality.
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