One of the worst things that can happen to any edtech product is not being prepared for the next big thing, because that can be devastating for a product’s reputation and for its users. It also makes it that much harder to break into a market full of incumbents who have a head start.
The world is changing dramatically. More and more young people are going back to school, looking for better jobs and finding they need new skills to succeed. In today’s digital world, you can be fluent in coding, design, photography, graphic design and even 3D printing. If you need to learn how to code, there are free online courses and boot camps you can do from the comfort of your home, with a little bit of home work and a lot of motivation.
The research team at custom-my-paper.com have spent the last few weeks sifting through a mountain of data to find out what every student wants and needs from education technology in 2018. We found that tablets, tablets, and more tablets are the key devices for student learning and the future of class preparation.
Over the past 15 months, students in many communities have gone to school virtually or in a hybrid environment, with technology being a big help. Looking ahead to a somewhat typical school year, it is essential for education leaders to assess which digital tools and practices should be retained and which should be abandoned. Why? For starters, author and education activist Rishon Biddle has convincingly argued that virtual learning should be preserved for students until the pandemic is over.
In a recent commentary in the New York Times, Biddle noted that many families of color still want to be able to attend school remotely. By providing this opportunity next year, education officials will address both health and education disparities. Looking at the contribution of educational technology as a whole over the past year, it is clear that some digital tools have made a difference in education, enabling students to study and excel even in challenging environments. However, it is also clear that some of the digital strategies were not particularly useful to the students.
Resources that failed to meet student engagement expectations, failed to meet learning objectives, failed to provide feedback to students, and led to unfair grades made national headlines. Education experts are convinced that districts need to be freed of some of these resources before their use becomes a bad habit that schools won’t get rid of once the pandemic is over. The biggest problem was that some schools and systems expected digital tools to do too much of the heavy lifting of essentially teaching children and developing students’ knowledge in key subjects. But this is bad pedagogy.
Teachers best support students through a balanced combination of teacher-led, student-led, and direct instruction. It is the teachers who organize discussions of the major literature, conduct virtual or in-person labs, and engage students in solving mathematical problems in a variety of ways. Teachers should always be supported by ample opportunities for professional development and by good quality materials that enable them to acquire the knowledge that students need.
What to do with asynchronous learning
Asynchronous education, where students learn independently, has become commonplace. And while they have their place, they can never replace teacher-directed or supported learning. Teaching is a complex process. Teachers know their content and their students. For example, a computer cannot read a child’s emotions, see how they struggle, or recognize a student’s delusions and when they occur. Asynchronous learning can improve the effectiveness of training. But we need to strike a balance between digital tools and human communication.
We also need to strike a balance between real-time learning – face-to-face or through a digital platform – and asynchronous learning through recorded lessons. During the pandemic, I remained on the board of directors of a company that offered schools interactive digital lessons curated by experts. These lessons supported the work of the teachers in the classroom and matched the learning objectives of the students. For example, a teacher can have students view digital lessons to reinforce knowledge, review a concept, or view upcoming lessons. To increase student engagement, next year we will look at how to bring more interactivity to these lessons.
Technical means in support of classroom training
Other technological tools will play an even more important role in schools. Digital surveys and quizzes increase engagement, give teachers useful feedback, and are easy to use. Teachers can continue to use platforms that facilitate collaboration by sharing student work online. New online assessment and grading tools have also given teachers more time to plan lessons or pursue other forms of learning. But technology tools cannot assess all aspects of student learning – for example, a child’s contribution to a class discussion or his participation in group work.
As a teacher for many years, I have seen first-hand the opportunities that technology offers to support differentiation and meet the diverse learning needs of students. These tools are constantly being improved, providing new ways to help students access texts and multiple methods to show what they know and can do. Often the best technological tools allow students to create something that demonstrates their knowledge and skills in a particular area. Math teachers are especially excited about tools that allow students to write equations and models and make their thinking more visual, even when working online. So with the right software, tablets and pens can be extremely useful.
I also appreciate that digital platforms allow teachers to bring outside experts into the classroom, anywhere in the world, in person or at a distance, to interact with students. In this way, teachers from across the country, and even around the world, can connect their classrooms, expand students’ horizons, and give them a new perspective. We can’t be caught off guard like 15 months ago. Schools must have strong professional development plans to ensure that they are prepared to serve their students in all circumstances. Continued investment in technology is needed to implement these plans and meet the daily needs of the children.
But we need to make sure it’s a solid investment that builds on and contributes to a high quality learning experience. Whatever other conclusions we draw from the pandemic, we must not forget the technological choices that put students and teachers at the center of the school experience. Photo twenty20photos, Envato Elements-licensed.The modern world is changing at an unprecedented pace, and our educational systems need to change too. While the nature of education has not changed in a long time, the way we teach it is far more sophisticated. The systems, tools, and technologies we use, however, are not keeping pace.
In this age of virtual learning, where the classroom has become a virtual classroom, we need to find new ways to make sure our students and institutions are always ready for the future.. Read more about reach capital and let us know what you think.