Much has been made of the potential for Edtech – educational technology in the classroom – to transform the learning environment into one of fun, engagement and incremental achievement; shot through with the kind of higher concept understanding that computer simulation is so readily able to deliver. But although the vision is inspiring, the uptake and results on the ground have until recently lagged behind the hype.
In the English speaking world, the United States is ahead of the curve in the adoption of learning technologies in the classroom, and it there that UK schools are looking for a balanced picture of the benefits – and challenges – that emerging EdTech and the consequent evolution of teaching techniques has brought.
Teachers report that although there are significant challenges to be faced over student internet access, mobile phones and social media, the benefits of computer visualisation, gamifaction, augmented reality and collaboration are profound in a wide range of subject areas.
Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail, and problem-solving, all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated at schools.” – The Education Arcade at MIT
Finding effective ways of building technology into classroom learning takes time and effort, but according to a statistically significant eight year survey of U.S. teachers by PBS and Grunwald associates almost all teachers have now integrated Edtech into their lessons.
The results show that more than ever educators are buiding games, simulations and digital activities into classroom learning. 62 percent reported they employ digital media twice a week or more, and nearly a quarter reported using it every day to help them teach. The volume of teachers utilising video content in lessons is even greater. Over 80 percent of teachers report using TV or video to teach once a month and nearly three quarters of those are streaming it from the web.
Over 80 percent of teachers report using TV or video to teach once a month and nearly three quarters of those are streaming it from the web.
Notably, modern educators are becoming selective and strategic in their use of digital media to convey an idea or teach a concept. The survey identified that educators are more likely to use a short video segment streamed from the web than invite their students to sit through a 30 minute film on the same subject. Easy access to brief video resources has been shown to promote greater student motivation, stimulate discussions and help teachers and students to think more creatively.
According to the PBS survey almost all teachers (between 87 percent and 96 percent) agree that the use of Edtech:
• Increases student engagement in learning
• Enables personalized learning
• Improves student outcomes
• Helps students collaborate
That said, there is still room for improvement even in the United States. Often teachers require professional development to get the most out of the resources on offer, and many report facing real challenges in finding good Edtech resources. Many have technical problems due to campus bandwidth or budget constraints. But the hurdles notwithstanding the overall the trend is encouraging for UK schools and colleges.
The PBS annual survey (now in its ninth year) has painted a compelling picture of teachers’ understanding of the use of EdTech as well as their own attitudes to using the technology. What is striking is that although educators say they use more technology now than ever before, the extent to which they appreciate its value has increased even more.
The benefits of digital and video technology in the classroom
From multi-screening to biometrics to wearable tech, the future is all about an increasingly seamless relationship with technology and information resources. Education can’t lag behind.
Games that provide visualisations of mathematical concepts or that require the solving of equations. Games that encourage collaboration and discussion. The motivational benefits of ‘unlocking’ harder levels of understanding, and the ability to view a problem from an alternative point of view are just a few of the benefits of games in education.
Promoting a deeper understanding of the core concepts at play while learning the methodology and language to express them is a key benefit of computer simulation. Learning becomes fun.
Layering the real world with geospatial overlays is an engaging way of unlocking hidden information and inspiring the imagination. Engaging and fun but still in its infancy, augmented reality is evolving fast.
As Search and the world wide web has led educators away from the idea of authoritative sources of content – into a broader notion of open and ubiquitous information; schools and colleges are starting to feel a social responsibility to create and share their own content.
The power of data mining, interpretation and modelling is beginning to revolutionise the way educators can identify which students might benefit from an alternative learning strategy – such as manipulative or visual approaches.
Personal learning environments
A PLE is an approach to the learning process that is by nature individualised from person to person. Although the widespread adoption of PLEs is some way off, as EdTech and Learning Analytics advances, the dream of education tailored to match the unique traits of the individual is not far from becoming reality.
Digital Learning promotes collaboration, communication, team building, listening, planning, mobile learning, problem solving, diversity engagement, a broad world view, self direction, and engagement with social communities.
The bottom line is that Edtech has come of age. It’s here to stay and has finally begun to deliver on the early hype of positive outcomes in classroom learning. There is some way to go before we see Personalised Learning Environments or widespread adoption of Augmented Reality, but students and educators alike are enjoying a quiet revolution in education as more and more Edtech resources are concepted, authored and deployed in schools and colleges around the world.