Developing hard and soft skills is crucial to a successful teaching and learning experience. However, while the majority of educators believe that technology has a positive impact when it comes to teachable skills such as IT literacy, many still feel that it either hinders, or has no bearing, on a student’s personality-oriented interpersonal skills.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that while STEM teachers are successfully utilising technology in the classroom, there has yet to be significant adoption of edtech across all subjects.
Despite this, used correctly, educational technology can be used to help pupils to develop soft skills.
Here are just a few examples of how this can be achieved:
Teachers can use social media to aid collaboration in the classroom. For example, by creating a Pinterest board for the whole class to contribute to, educators can fuel student cooperation and engagement. Once done, the teacher can view the board, and leave comments and feedback on the resources pupils have pulled together.
Collaborative learning can, of course, take a variety of formats. One simple way to create collaborative learning experiences is with ClassFlow, with pupils sending answers to assignments and assessments directly from their devices, in real-time. These answers can then be shared with the whole class, raising questions that stimulate discussion.
Fears that a prevalence of electronic devices could lessen the ability of pupils to communicate face-to-face is one of the biggest criticisms facing the use of technology in schools.
However, classroom technology is no longer about a solitary individual on a computer screen. Instead, edtech should be used to deliver multi-sensory learning experiences which develop deep communication and interpersonal skills.
Tools such as Skype can help foster communication skills in a way that translates directly to the real-world, with blogs used to enhance written communication skills, personal expression, and creativity. Social media platforms can also open up communication with external contacts. For example, science teachers can use Twitter to interact with organisations such as NASA, and pupils can tweet their questions and observations, helping to add a new level of interaction to lessons.
Likewise, while nurturing communication and interpersonal skills can be tough with pupils sitting inactive in rows of desks, technology such as mobile devices 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, pupils can be asked to articulate why they have chosen a particular learning space, and why it works for them.
Online videos, podcasts and digital gaming are opening up new styles of learning and helping students to develop critical thinking skills. Likewise, 3D printers are helping to inspire a new generation of engineers, architects, and designers by combining problem-solving skills with creativity and innovation.
Educational tools such as Bee-Bots also provide colourful, easy-to-operate, and friendly little robots that are perfect for teaching young children about sequencing, estimation and problem-solving.
Student-centred learning models also help to instil independent analytical skills by bringing pupils into the decision making and evaluation process. For example, with ClassFlow pupils can appraise and feedback on their own success. By letting students see first-hand what behaviours are needed for a group to work together, this approach teaches them to become better problem solvers.
Technology can be used to instil time management skills in pupils, as well as helping teachers to manage their own time more efficiently.
Technology can be used to instil time management skills in pupils and likewise help teachers.
By introducing flipped learning methods cloud-based platforms allows learning to take place beyond the classroom; delivering content that students can access anytime, anywhere (as long as they have an internet connection!). For example, while homework has long been used by teachers to help maximise learning and instil time management skills, today some schools are flipping the script, with pupils using technology to watch lectures outside of the classroom, and complete corresponding tasks in school hours.
Apps and cloud-based platforms can also be used by students to improve their time management skills – letting them keep track of all their notes, documents, and images in one central repository – and making it easy to find everything they need for an assignment.
Interactive display technologies (such as whiteboards and newer display options), can be used for group exercises, with individual pupils taking turns to run these sessions. Groups can use these whiteboards to present to the rest of the class, helping to foster leadership skills and boost student confidence.
ClassFlow also lets teachers create study groups and send these groups assignments based on their ability, level, and learning style. With this approach, pupils are more likely to play an active role in group activities and are less liable to become disengaged and frustrated. What’s more, while it is often difficult for less confident pupils to shine in group activities, with ClassFlow teachers can assign specific responsibilities to individual students, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to excel.
While teachers are demonstrating a willingness to use technology in the classroom, there remains a good deal of misunderstanding about what this involves when it comes to developing soft skills.
However, with technology now a core part of the modern world, educators must be made aware of the full range of benefits provided by edtech to maximise success.
Only by integrating technology into the classroom, and making it a core part of the learning experience, can teachers use edtech to inspire collaboration, communication, and critical thinking; and ensure that tomorrow’s employees have the complete range of skills required by employers.