This post has been updated on October 17, 2020.
A good teacher-student relationship is at the front and center of a great education. There is no denying that communicating openly and freely with teachers can do wonders for most students.
Yet, in many schools around the world, we can see a gap between educators and learners that not even a great communication system can apparently solve: different beliefs about learning and what learning should look like.
This is mostly seen through debates about how traditional education is at odds with progressive education, rote learning with a deep understanding of a subject, and so on.
However, in many parts of the world, the most polarizing debate is still the use of technology in the classroom. While 65 percent of teachers say they use digital learning tools to teach every day, a negative view of edtech perseveres among them through widespread beliefs that somehow technology dilutes the educational process since it’s associated with distractions.
This creates a vicious circle in which students see technology as being there for entertainment purposes, while some teachers are pro banning device use in the classroom. As you can guess, none of these beliefs or actions are actually productive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, since technology is a part of our students’ lives whether we like it or not.
Bridging the gap between traditional teachers and modern students
So, what should be done to break this circle? The answer isn’t as clear cut, but today we’re going to discuss some ideas about this disagreement between traditional teachers and modern students, and the main points that schools should figure out in order to bridge this gap:
One of the fallacies of edtech is that you’re either all in or don’t use it at all. Reality isn’t as simple as that. Teachers who are willing to learn and stay connected know that technology is a big part of their students’ lives, and no generation is one hundred percent the same when it comes to using it. Plus, they also know how to teach the basics of staying safe online and being a good digital citizen. This idea usually doesn’t get enough credit, as trying to distance students from these things only makes them more attractive.
One solution is to broaden our perspective of technology. After all, the interactive whiteboard is also edtech; the humble pencil is also edtech if you use it to teach. Even social media can become a teaching tool, so it’s not about what we have but what we do with it.
Technology makes learning accessible to more students. From replacing physical textbooks with digital ones to making learning easier for students with disabilities, we’re looking at a new and improved way of doing things.
The reluctance of letting go of the old ways is twofold. First, the digital divide is a major problem, and second, teachers feel more confident in doing things the old way. The latter is true, especially if the school environment doesn’t particularly encourage innovation and (controlled) risk-taking when it comes to teaching.
We could be beating around the bush all day, but that tends to amplify problems. The lack of resources is a huge issue in schools all around the world. We can’t talk about classroom technology without acknowledging that the socioeconomic background of students is usually a significant factor when it comes to technology use.
After all, addressing these constraints that teachers face each day will make it more likely for them to use technology in their classrooms. With the recent pandemic, it’s become clear that we can’t go back to being complacent and have to work on accessible and affordable edtech.
Read more: Digital Divide 2.0: a few facts and figures
Just because teachers stick to a curriculum, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have the freedom to design unique lessons that are fact-checked. For example, I distinctly remember learning about the tongue map myth, which scientists have debunked for years. Persisting in teaching wrong facts is, well… wrong.
In fact, six in ten teachers and 71 percent of principals agree that digital learning tools help students practice using real-world problems. Each generation is different, and each student is different, so adjustments to your materials should be done often. With online tools, it’s as easy as logging in to your learning management system and changing whole modules or lessons in a matter of minutes.
Expecting current generations of students to learn entirely without technology, when it’s a fact that their future jobs and even university courses will depend on it, is detrimental to the educational process at this point.
Seven in 10 older students strongly agree or agree that digital learning tools help them learn things on their own. Since teachers only have a set amount of time to dedicate to each student, switching to student-centered teaching is a challenging process. Edtech is the best way to achieve this goal since it functions as a teaching assistant and a tool that allows students to take ownership of their learning.
While students come from different backgrounds, the school culture remains largely the same without major changes such as a change in leadership or an intervention. In any organization, we have unwritten rules about how things get done. These rules are handed out to other teachers, which in some cases can stifle any degree of innovation.
If the school doesn’t upgrade their methods and technology, how are we supposed to ask teachers to adopt new teaching methods? Not teaching the basics of edtech in teacher training programs is one of the biggest mistakes we’re making today. Ideally, educators should have the basic knowledge that allows them to pick the best tools for their classrooms, which will slowly change the way schools in general use edtech.
Edtech isn’t a magic bullet, but an instrument. It depends on how and why it is used. Plus, ignoring aspects such as teacher training and students’ socioeconomic background is largely hurting efforts to integrate more tech in schools. While there is a gap between teaching methods and students’ real needs, there’s always a chance to meet halfway if aspects such as school culture and upgrading learning materials are taken into consideration.