While most teachers agree that technology has an active role to play when it comes to cultivating abilities such as problem-solving and technical literacy, many are concerned about the impact ICT has on pupils’ soft skills.
In fact, 54% of educators think that interpersonal relationships are hindered by the use of technology in the classroom, and only 14% believe that edtech can help to develop a pupil’s emotional intelligence.
“It is difficult to develop emotional and relationship-building skills when you are working with a computer rather than other people.” Promoted Teacher, Isle of Man (State of Technology in Education Report, 2016)
“Increased use of technology by students extends well beyond the classroom and does not necessarily help in every area of their education. A lack of social interaction through increased reliance on technology to communicate, is resulting in students growing up with poor interpersonal skills.” Network Manager, Saltburn-by-the-Sea (State of Technology in Education Report, 2016)
So, could the rise of technology in the classroom actually be harming the development of soft skills in today’s pupils?
The importance of collaborative learning
The business world is already collaborating; sharing resources, ideas, and information for the common interest. As such, employers are demanding employees who know how to work in a culture of cooperation and co-creation; employees with established teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills.
Collaborative learning is essential to creating these well-rounded citizens in the 21st Century; citizens who know how to work together, how to interact appropriately, and how to exchange and listen to views.
How is technology in education boosting student collaboration?
Collaborative learning can take a variety of formats, such as quick, active learning activities or long-term group projects. Rather than hindering co-operation in the classroom, in many schools technology is actually enhancing this way of working.
“Although I teach a subject that is totally reliant on communication and interpersonal skills, it is clear to me that technology helps all of the above. Used in the right way, e.g. the child who does not speak English relies on Google Translate – aiding communication, and promoting interpersonal skills from this. I could think of a thousand more examples!” Promoted Teacher, Warrington (State of Technology in Education Report, 2016)
Here are just some of the ways educational technology can help you to introduce collaborative learning in your classroom:
- Facilitate classroom discussions. With instant assessment tools allowing pupils to send their answers, from their devices, in real-time, learning can then be shared with the whole class, raising questions that stimulate discussion.
- Create study groups. Technology can help teachers to create study groups and set assignments based on ability, level, and learning style. With this approach, students are less liable to become frustrated and disengaged, and more likely to play an active role in group activities.
- Fuel student engagement. Teachers can use social media to boost collaboration in the classroom. For example, by creating a Pinterest board for a class to contribute to. By adopting the tools pupils are familiar with and enjoy using, teachers can boost student cooperation and engagement.
- Encourage free-thinking. Instant Whiteboards can be used to create a student collaboration or brainstorming session. Not only does this help students to become better at working together, but by letting pupils feedback on how well they think they collaborated, technology can also be used to demonstrate what behaviours are needed for group work to succeed.
- Create more collaborative classrooms. Nurturing communication and interpersonal skills can be tough with pupils sitting inactive in rows of desks. But mobile technology and cloud-based platforms can be used to create more flexible classrooms; providing students with a range of different learning spaces that foster group activities.
Despite concerns that a prevalence of electronic devices and classroom technology could lessen the ability of pupils to communicate face-to-face, edtech – when used correctly – is actually helping teachers to instil the soft-skills employers so desperately need. Indeed, only by integrating technology into the classroom, and making it a core part of the learning experience, can educators hope to prepare pupils for long-term career success.