There is no doubt that the state of education has changed in recent years — in large part due to technology. The intersection between education and technology, dubbed “edtech”, has now become its own field.
On the whole, many believe that education has been augmented by the use of technology in many respects. But there are also numerous challenges. For example, according to Project Tomorrow, fewer than 10% of schools say they have access to tools like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and other innovations.
How, then, do educators at all levels ensure that the tools they use in the classroom are effective? More importantly, how do they gain access to these technologies in the first place?
How to Identify Your EdTech Needs
In order to develop an edtech infrastructure, you must first identify your needs. Here’s how to go about doing so:
- Perform an audit of your current systems and tools.
- Conduct a survey of your educators on staff to identify their individual educational and technological needs.
- Consider your priorities as an institution of teaching and learning.
- Monitor the progress of students as you use current technologies and implement new solutions.
- Reflect on the purpose of unique tools and how they will be used in your classrooms.
- Formulate goals with regard to your edtech plans.
Advantages of EdTech
EdTech has the potential to offer numerous advantages to students and educators alike. For example, technologies in the classroom can:
- Enable you to improve and increase collaboration.
- Allow you to scale instruction effectively.
- Better equip you to reach learners with different needs and abilities through, for instance, differentiated instruction.
- Increase your ability to engage learners.
- Provide you with real-time feedback and data on how various lessons and initiatives are paying off.
- Personalize the learning experience for students.
Examples of Effective EdTech Innovations
Innovation is taking place across the field of education, often with obvious learning gains. These are just a few examples of EdTech in recent years.
Gamification of education, through tools like ClassDojo, Duolingo, and many others, has been shown to increase engagement in learners, as well as motivate them to participate in their education. One study involving 4th-grade students in Santiago, Chile, tasked learners with competing against one another in tournaments using instructional math software and correlated with meaningful improvement in the national student assessment in math.
Student Response Systems
Online student response systems have been around for a number of years, but as we move into a space where e-learning has become more of a norm, they are even more prevalent. Online polling tools, for example, can be used to take attendance and encourage students who are less likely to participate to engage in the class discussions. Instructors, too, can gain insight into areas of concern for their students, along with gathering feedback on lessons.
Video Tutorials and Lessons
In an age where teaching and learning are taking place both synchronously and asynchronously, video tutorials and lessons are becoming more mainstream. Instructors can record themselves illustrating a concept or use premade videos to teach students without even having to share a screen with them, allowing them to learn in their own time and at their own pace.
This way, education experts and instructors can also make their lessons and tips available to a wider audience, too, by posting their videos on platforms like YouTube.
Digital Experiential Learning
Thanks to innovations like augmented reality and virtual reality, learners don’t even have to leave their schools — or homes — to effectively “experience” distant lands, periods in history, and much more. They can gain a view from the Eiffel Tower or go on a safari — minus the travel involved.
As digital and online concepts and technologies have become woven into the fabric of our daily lives, so have the challenges of separating fact from fiction. This is certainly something we all grapple with, and in education, instructors must be especially cognizant of false information to which their students are regularly exposed.
But educators can also see this as an opportunity to instill digital literacy in their students. For example, they might have students review web pages via sources like Wikipedia to learn how to identify how reliable resources are.
Responsible Internet Use
Digital citizenship goes hand in hand with digital literacy. Along with learning how to consume information online and separate fact from fiction, students must also gain insight into how to communicate with others in an online space in a responsible, diplomatic, and polite way.
When you’re contending with gadgets and tools in a classroom space, distractions will inevitably abound. It’s possible to impose barriers to these distractions, such as by blocking certain sites from a specific location. This is more complicated when the teaching and learning are taking place online, however.
In order to ensure that technology isn’t a distraction, instructors can take several different approaches. For example, they can set times for technology use, as well as incorporate technology into the learning more strategically.
Many educators worry that edtech won’t be accessible to people with disabilities or learning differences. On the contrary, edtech can actually enhance learning and mitigate challenges, allowing them to learn, for instance, at their own pace via tools that adjust to the specific level.
There is, of course, always room for improvement, particularly in the accessibility space. For example, in all industries, more and more people are using alt tags for images in digital content and closed captioning for videos.
The advantages of edtech are clear. But in order to gauge whether your learning technology is effective, it’s important to understand the challenges associated with it, as well as take stock of the abilities, strengths, and weaknesses of your specific students. Only then can educators truly take stock of the tools they are using and find ways to improve.
Moreover, they must realize that the technology can’t do the work on its own — the best results take place when it’s used in conjunction with effective teaching.