Technology has supported education in classrooms for years. Now, with widespread digital transformation across all industries, tech is often seamlessly integrated into the learning experience today.
Naturally, the teacher remains central to a pupils’ education. Yet the benefits of more interactive, collaborative learning experiences have driven schools to embrace edtech to supplement lessons.
Over the years, an increasing number of tools have been designed for schools — not always with pedagogy in mind. Then 2020 arrived, schools became reliant on technology for basic lesson delivery. In doing so, teachers identified where edtech has the most value and where it falls short. It gave educators an opportunity to focus on new tech skills, and to collaborate with IT managers and SLTs to bring their schools’ software and hardware in line with wider learning goals.
How does edtech enhance collaborative learning?
Technology is a key enabler of creating a collaborative learning culture.
According to our latest State of Technology in Education Report, 43% of SLT members believe technology should be prioritised as a tool for collaboration. Indeed, the same research shows that boosting engagement and collaboration with tech has grown in priority over 5 years by 28% and 18% respectively.
Going above and beyond the one-way learning approach, collaboration embeds student knowledge through sharing. A pupil is more likely to remember something learnt with, and from, a peer than something broadcast from the front of the classroom. This dialogue and discussion of new ideas requires a deeper level of skill.
Collaborative learning isn’t just for pupils, however. It’s also a powerful way for teachers to work together. In fact, the more the teaching staff are prepared to use it among themselves, the easier it will be to adopt the approach with students. Introducing an effective working culture of collaboration will put you in the best possible position to implement the practice amongst pupils.
Edtech is valuable for creating a collaborative environment, particularly when using tools that allow the dynamic flow of information between teachers and students. Interactive front-of-class tech like a Promethean ActivPanel, for example, enables seamless collaboration on projects. These tools facilitate an easy flow of tasks, actions and dialogue.
Read more about collaborative learning and what it can do for your students here.
Why use edtech for engagement?
Our annual State of Technology in Education Report has followed edtech trends and the evolution of teaching methods for half a decade. We’ve tracked which tools have become essential in supporting lesson delivery and maximising student engagement.
Over 80% of educators say edtech is a great way to improve engagement in classrooms. Our 2020/21 industry research also revealed, however, that student engagement and motivation was the biggest challenge for school staff during lockdown.
This insight shows that technology is only truly valuable when it supports all pupils’ learning outcomes in a balanced and thoughtful way.
It’s critical, therefore, to keep the classroom at the centre of the learning experience — tech should always, first and foremost, complement face to face interaction, rather than replace it.
Children may have different preferences for learning — some pupils will prefer interactive learning whereas others may prefer listening to absorb information. Many pupils are multimodal, however, meaning they respond well to more than just one format of learning.
It’s possible to engage all four types of pupils through edtech by varying the formats and resources. When teaching any topic, you can use technological resources to serve the needs of multimodal pupils and single-preference learners alike.
Teachers often choose to teach with lesson delivery software on an interactive display to engage their students. With a suite of inbuilt tools, teachers can even use this software to deliver engaging lessons both in the classroom and remotely if necessary. If teachers use software like ActivInspire, for example, they can browse, edit and share flipcharts with colleagues and pupils.
A rounded classroom, meanwhile, is ideal for driving engagement for all learners. By using screens on all four walls, pupils in all corners of the classroom have front row seats. It allows all learners to see and hear, and get involved.
Lockdown forced a realism around practical tech use. The potential of interactive classroom learning tools, like front-of-class technologies and handheld tablets, has been greatly recognised this year. In fact, the number of educators that expect to see substantial growth in front-of-class technology like ActivPanels has increased threefold since 2017.
Ensuring the classroom remains the nucleus of the learning experience while facilitating digital-first learning, will create the flexibility educators need to respond to the uncertainty of the coming months.
Find out the 5 edtech trends to watch out for in 2021 here.
Using edtech for assessment
Accurate information about a student’s current level of understanding is especially crucial to ensuring all pupils achieve their full potential.
By giving pupils the scope to discuss lesson content in a format they feel comfortable with, on mobile devices or interactive front-of-class technology for example, teachers get a more accurate picture of their pupils’ motivation and understanding.
If pupils attempt tasks that are too difficult, they are likely to get frustrated and fail. Likewise, if they are assigned tasks that are too easy, they are unlikely to progress as they should.
Edtech can help with formative and summative assessment in five ways:
- Increased flexibility with how assessments are completed
- Improved scope of feedback and real-time assessment
- Catering for mixed-ability classes and ensuring differentiation
- Allows pupils to communicate emotions in a more private way
- Consolidating a pupil’s learning and work in one location
Collaborative lesson delivery software, such as ActivInspire, allows teachers to deliver engaging content. Cloud-based solutions, such as ClassFlow, enable teachers to assess comprehension in the moment of learning, with real-time assessments and instant polling.
By immediately identifying and addressing any gaps in knowledge, educators can then tailor their lessons to the real needs of each pupil, and help them prepare for their final exams like SATs, GCSEs and A-levels.
See more tips on using edtech for assessment in our blog, How can technology be used for instant assessment?
Is edtech part of your school’s strategic plan?
Only a third of educators confirm their school has an IT-specific strategy. The largest proportion (44%) of respondents are unclear whether an IT strategy exists in their school or not.
When asked how significant technology is to achieving wider goals, over a third (35%) agree that technology is indeed important. Over 22% confirm that it’s included in the strategy, but does not contribute to meeting wider objectives.
The biggest challenge? Budget. So, when it comes to refreshing schools’ tech roadmaps, established tools are just as likely to take centre stage. There’s likely to be increased focus on how teachers can make better use of existing technologies rather than the constant introduction of new tools.
As budgets seem unlikely to improve in the near future, the school IT manager’s insight on longevity and return will be invaluable. Schools must establish which edtech investments will meet the extensive learning needs of the pupils whilst also solving problems like improving teachers’ workloads, staff communication and internal collaboration.
The classroom of the future will certainly be technology-rich, but schools aren’t necessarily under-equipped today; they simply don’t always have the resources to maximise their existing tools. With better IT support and budget for training, there will be more scope to craft immersive, holistic learning experiences from the technology already in situ. These experiences will serve only to complement and enhance the role of the teacher, not replace it.
For more information about refreshing your edtech roadmap, read our blog: Exploring the classroom of the future.
How edtech trends have evolved
In 2020, educators became heavily tech-reliant during lockdown to keep in touch with their pupils. Yet still, keeping pupils motivated from afar was a complex challenge.
This ongoing issue with remote learning has forced a pragmatism around tech-use. Teachers and other school staff have recognised that edtech must support learning goals and pupils’ results to be effective in the classroom.
According to our report, the preference for interactive panels and tablets continues to increase, together with apps—all of which saw their highest use rates yet. This was along with laptops, cloud-based lesson delivery and screen mirroring.
This year, perhaps unsurprisingly, remote teaching software, distance learning and video conferencing solutions have come into their own, supporting the many teachers and pupils working and learning remotely.
At the same time, there’s been a significant uptick in the use of hardware like laptops, visualisers and interactive flat panel displays. Emerging technologies like VR, 3D printers, however, are waning in popularity.
When it comes to the future of edtech, it seems key lessons have been learnt from lockdown.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our annual research has shown that over half of SLT members expect virtual learning environments to see the biggest growth in the future. At the same time, however, teachers (40%) and IT managers (46%) expect front-of-class technology to have the biggest growth.
Remote learning certainly isn’t the future — 9 out of 10 educators expect technology to seamlessly blend with traditional teaching methods in the next 10 years.
This points towards a more holistic approach to learning in the future — perhaps combining traditional class-based learning with the flexibility of cloud-based homework submission and online assessment.
To read more about the predicted edtech trends of tomorrow, and find out which edtech tools are expected to stand the test of time, read our blog.
The State of Technology in Education Report 2020/21
See what over 2,000 educators said about strategy and tech use this year and over the last 5 in our widest-reaching report to date.View the report