In the last two years, communities around the world spent a tremendous amount of money building new edtech infrastructures to support teaching and learning. In the UK alone, the edtech sector grew by 70% in 2020, as schools rushed to invest in technology to maintain students’ continuity of learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Initially, much of this spending was on hardware and connectivity. Inequity of access to technology was highlighted as a major issue during the pandemic, but schools and communities rose to the challenge, providing devices or paying for home internet access to help disadvantaged students continue learning.
By mid 2021, nearly all UK students had online access and while equity remains an issue, most schools feel better equipped to support blended learning than they did pre-pandemic.
With a powerful edtech infrastructure now in place, how can schools ensure continued ROI on their investment?
Here are 5 ways educators can use their new infrastructure to its full advantage.
High-quality digital resources
Technology has the power to transform learning, but it needs to be used intelligently to harness its true value. Having an array of devices and good connectivity alone does not improve education. Like all infrastructure, EdTech needs a strong, well thought out strategy to bring it to life.
High quality digital resources are a key element of any sound digital strategy. The right digital content transforms devices into compelling educational tools – tools that give students access to a powerful curriculum that engages them in learning wherever it is taking place.
The very best digital resources make learning an active experience by delivering attention-grabbing content that sparks curiosity. Designed to connect with students in an age-appropriate way, good digital resources use language targeted at the right level and favour short-form content to help students grasp difficult concepts and stay engaged.
Real-world video clips, interactives and audio can open doorways to even deeper learning, by enabling students to see and experience people and places far beyond the confines of their classroom.
If schools want to deliver exciting lessons that inspire students while meeting curriculum goals, then investing in high quality digital resources is a must.
The ability to switch between in-person, remote and hybrid learning has never been more important, and schools that get the most out of their new EdTech investment will choose a flexible teaching and learning platform that can be accessed everywhere. Even as we move beyond the pandemic, schools will need to retain some remote learning provision as disruption due to factors such as extreme weather and illness will continue to be a challenge.
The ability to deliver the exact same lesson to students, whether they’re based in the classroom or at home, is key to minimising lost learning. It also saves teachers time by preventing the need to set and mark ‘catch-up’ work.
By choosing a flexible daily learning platform built around great digital content, schools can keep students on track, connected and engaged. They’ll also make a sound investment in the future. Already, the ability to seamlessly move between modes of learning is the norm.
Personalised learning support
Delivering personalised learning is the goal of every educator and the best teaching and learning platforms enable teachers to do this seamlessly.
Schools should ensure that the platform they choose has built-in personalisation features that meet individual learning needs and inspire students at every level.
The ability to assign and share content with students directly to their devices and differentiate learning within a single lesson is a real game-changer for teachers. By assigning tasks according to ability, they can ensure that every child feels supported.
Collaboration and presentation tools can also be transformative. Teachers can use such tools to design and share personalised lessons, while pupils can create boards or slideshows to share and present their knowledge in creative ways.
Digital technologies which offer personalised learning have another benefit : they can help teachers identify learning gaps and offer targeted intervention where it is needed.
Assessing student learning gaps resulting from the pandemic continues to be an urgent priority and the best teaching and learning platforms offer intuitive, engaging tools that help teachers track pupils’ progress in real time. They also facilitate a two-way dialogue between teachers and students, which is vital for learning support.
Used effectively, the right digital technology can close educational gaps and prevent long term learning loss while keeping students engaged and excited.
If dynamic digital resources are key to delivering active, engaged learning then immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are surely the pinnacle of this. No longer seen as just another classroom gimmick, immersive has revealed its potential to create amazing, pedagogically sound learning experiences that put students at the very centre of the process.
The most cutting-edge immersive experiences exist within a ‘maker environment’, where students can create and shape their own virtual worlds. These hands-on learning experiences heighten engagement and improve students’ ability to retain knowledge longer, because they’re actively participating in the learning process.
Discovery Education’s cutting-edge Sandbox AR app lets students do just that, by building their own virtual worlds in history, science, the natural world and more. Instead of hearing or reading about these worlds, students can see, touch and inhabit them. Learning is lifted off the page and brought to life in spectacular 3D.
When it comes to creating exciting learning experiences, immersive technology is hard to beat. And at a time when regular trips and school visits might still be restricted, it has the additional benefit of bringing the outside world into the classroom.
Schools that get the most out of their new EdTech investment will choose cutting-edge digital tools and content to bring their technology to life. In doing so, they’ll ensure that they can use their new infrastructure to its full potential, as they prepare all learners for future success.
Howard Lewis is managing director of Discovery Education UK