Kids are our future. Everyone seems to agree with this statement, regardless of skin color, creed, political sympathies, age, and so on. Our kids will live in the future, and we are all responsible with supporting them to become successful citizens of tomorrow's world. Besides family and local civil society, schools play a crucial role in this.
While it's hard to know for sure how the schools of the future will look like and function, I think it's safe to assume education technology will be omnipresent. Well, at least more than it is today.
Education technology already assists teachers create diverse and engaging learning materials and deliver better classes. Some people even lobby for a right to technology for every student, in the hope of making the presence of laptops and tablets in classrooms as spread as that of blackboards and notebooks.
Technology in the classroom may not have reached its full potential yet, but both teachers and students know there's more to it than meets the eye. Students are particularly excited about all of the new possibilities digital learning can offer. Maybe they should be the most entitled to share their opinions, as they will be living in the future, after all.
Why do kids love e-learning?
Besides the "cool" factor of knowing how use the latest gadgets, students today are more practical than we adults usually give them credit for. Here are four big reasons why K-12 students love e-learning:
E-learning is closer to their digital lives
Everyone is online now. Social media channels provide the digital alternative for the "traditional" social life and support communication within online communities non-stop.
Facebook demands its potential users to be at least 13, but a lot of school kids say they never or rarely use Facebook anyway. They turn to other social media sites, like Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Yik Yak, or Twitter. On the other hand, only a minority of teachers are interested in all the new social media channels, and this is partly due to a lack of understanding of how social media can help students with their learning.
A great marketer puts their product where their audience can see it. Students are the audience of teachers, and if they spend so much time on social media, why not put learning on social media as well?
- Twitter chats can be a great digital tool for a debate;
- YouTube supports collaboration when a group of students need to create videos about the founding fathers of America, how volcanoes erupt, Newton's laws of gravity, and so on;
- Pinterest, with its eye-catchy visual pins, is quickly becoming a go-to spot for lesson plan ideas and other classroom activities.
An LMS with social media-like features and integrations with social sites will surely keep more students logged in and active during an online lesson. What's more, teachers can better monitor students' activity, and notice any struggle they might encounter.
E-learning supports videos
I purposely only mentioned YouTube in the previous paragraphs, as it deserves its own shiny section. YouTube is by far the star of digital education channels. Kids simply love videos.
Tutorials, how-tos, or simple videos with educational content can keep kids still and attentive for longer than text-loaded learning materials. The reason for this lies within learners' brains: videos require a higher brain activity than reading does, as it involves more senses in the learning process. This combination of sight, hearing, and sometimes even touch, and recognition of what happens on the screen, makes students better retain and remember new information.
Data from Speak Up 2015 National Findings show that 54% of students use YouTube all the time, and almost 40% of them are finding online videos to help with their homework. For middle schools, the percentage of students watching online videos for schoolwork rises to 74%, and the subjects for which video supports their learning are various: science, math, social studies, history, English, language, and arts.
The same report gathered data on teachers' use of videos in their classes. If five years ago less than half of teachers reaped the benefits of online videos in supporting their teaching, after three years their numbers rose to 68%. Teachers use videos not only to stimulate class discussions, but also to provide a real world context for the academic learning content.
E-learning lets them play
You're probably familiar with the notion of gamification — the use of gaming principles and mechanics in a non-game context, like learning.
If you go to a class and ask students why they like digital games and how these games can impact their learning, you'll probably get a recurring answer: games make difficult concepts easier to understand. From this to getting better grades is only a small step.
An LMS is the perfect tool for gamifying learning content. It can keep all learning materials in one place, but most importantly, it can gather all the data on the learning activity of each student. Gamification is all about data.
While students have fun and concentrate on gathering points and badges, filling in the progress bar, and leveling up to get the trophy, they also develop new skills. Through games, they can learn multiplication and division, calculate the time it takes the cheetah to reach the antelope, find a hidden treasure based on pirates' indications, and so on.
Teachers can then look at students' data and see how fast they passed on to the next level, how many errors they made during the game, or where they struggled. Making sense of all this data will help them support each student in their learning process.
E-learning is mobile
Consider this: how many people do you know who still have and use landline phones? Or this: when two people argue over what is the capital city of Brazil, do you think they pause their conversation until they get home to their desktop PCs and look up that piece of information, or they just pull out their smartphones and end the discussion then and there? (The answer is Brasilia, FYI).
Kids live in the same world as we do, and they keep up pretty well in terms of mobile devices ownership. A recent Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey clearly states that the number of students who regularly use a tablet has grown compared to the previous year. 78% of elementary school students, 69% of middle school students, and 49% of high schoolers now use a tablet in their school life. The figures for smartphones are a bit lower, but this shouldn't come as a surprise, since smartphones are not the most preferred mobile device to support students' learning anyway.
Tablets are the number one choice for classroom learning, as they are somewhere in the middle ground between the reliability of laptops and the mobility of smartphones. What makes them particularly appealing to students is the fact that they can access learning apps on tablets. Learning apps allow students to go through their online courses without an internet connection. Data from the same Pearson survey says that 50% of high school students use learning apps, and this percentage grows in the case of students in elementary school.
Being able to access learning materials any time, anywhere, helps students stay engaged in their classes, and also supports their native curiosity; if they get the answer they need, when they need it, they'll better remember it later.
Schools play a critical role in supporting today's kids become tomorrow's successful citizens. We may not know what the future has in store for us, but education technology seems like a safe bet for the school of the future.
Integrating learning management systems in schools' way of modern teaching may soon become the norm. A school LMS can offer all the tools students love about learning — social media-like features, video integration, gamification, or mobile support — as well as many, many more.
FREE Resource: How to make learning engaging with gamification
This post was originally published on eLearning Industry, on June 18, 2016.