This post was originally published on May 6th, 2019, in eSchoolMedia.
The purpose of any educational institution is to prepare students to become successful adults in the future. Success may mean different things to different people and the future can at most be predicted — unknown for sure — but there’s one thing I think we can all agree upon: technology will play an important role in many aspects of the lives of adults in the future.
We may not realize this as they happen, but the recent advancements in technology are downright impressive; just think about the differences between an old Nokia phone and the latest iPhone or Samsung. A decade is smaller than it used to be. And the development of technology doesn't show any signs of slowing down; it only accelerates towards the future.
All things considered, there’s a consensus that today's students should not only learn, but also use technology to support their learning. Worldwide there's a growing number of initiatives to include education technologies — or edtech — in the classroom. Inclusion is only the first step. The next one (and the more important one) is to use said technology at its full potential and support students in achieving better academic and personal results. This of course is easier said than done. But not impossible.
Even though effectively integrating education technology in the classroom comes with various challenges for everyone involved, it’s all worth it nonetheless. Edtech surely seems a win-win solution for both students and teachers.
Students win with edtech
It is a well-known fact that students learn differently and have varying needs and requirements during the learning process, no matter which grade they are in or the subject they're learning. Another common agreement is that one teacher can't possibly meet all these diverse learning needs of multiple students at one time, all while holding the class up to school and state standards. When education technology comes into play, things change for the better. Students receive a more personalized instruction and therefore have better chances of getting the best academic outcomes.
Engaging learning materials are one factor. Teachers can use technology to deliver instruction in more than one format — lecturers and textbooks, but also videos, audio files or various visuals. They can add interactive elements to these online materials and also can gamify some parts of the learning experience. All these contribute to higher engagement rates from the part of students, pushing up their retention rates as well.
A higher degree of control over their own learning process is another factor. When diverse learning materials are made accessible online whenever the student wants or needs, how many times and for how long they need, they are more in control. Self-paced asynchronous online courses are an obvious choice, although blended learning solutions can do the job as well.
The latest advancements in edtech make the delivery of personalised learning more viable than ever before. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have opened up the door to immense possibilities in education, by immersing the student into the subject. Higher Education is an obvious beneficiary, but things look promising for kindergarten students as well. Also, adaptive learning systems — systems that learn about the student as the student learns — are a true game changer too. These edtech solutions evaluate a student’s prior knowledge about a certain subject, provide appropriate initial learning materials and then adapt the delivery of further materials based on student performance. Some learning management systems already have adaptive learning features.
Educators also win with edtech
Edtech enables the move to a more student-centered approach to education, but teachers continue to be an important piece of the puzzle. A teacher’s role in the classroom develops and expands, from the sole guardian of knowledge to a facilitator (like a hotel concierge), a network administrator and even an innovator. Making the most of education technologies is vital for teachers’ success.
First of all, there are plenty of edtech solutions that allow teachers to design and deliver engaging learning materials, encourage more agency from the part of students and also automate processes, identify patterns and otherwise make adaptive learning possible. Better meeting the learning needs of more (if not all) students makes better teachers.
Secondly, with the help of edtech, teachers can provide targeted support to each student, no matter where they are on their learning journey. Learning analytics and reporting tools that are integrated within many edtech solutions make this possible. Based on classroom or individual reports, teachers can identify exactly where a student struggles and needs help — and offer it.
Last but not least, education technologies can ease teacher workload by taking over the most part of assessments. Assessing student papers is one of the most time-consuming activities educators must perform, so being able to delegate at least a part of this task to edtech is a very attractive idea. Successful such initiatives and the continuous development of such technologies keep teachers hopeful they'll be able to produce this task to a minimum.
Education technology is imperative in improving student performance and better preparing them for the challenges they might face in the future. Educators can identify meaningful and effective learning tools to ensure teaching and learning is at its very best — not only helping students succeed, but providing ways for them to streamline workloads. Edtech really does seem a win-win solution for students and educators.