Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ensure digital technology meets the needs of students, today and tomorrow

‘Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time’
                                                                                                                      Hebrew Proverb

Digital technology - preparing for tomorrow
Innovation in technology – from smartphones and smart TVs to tablets and even Leap pads for primary school students – has propelled our children into a digital age. A time where the average teen sends 60 texts a day, where they check and update their social statuses daily and where the average student spends from 6.5 to 10 hours a day consuming media, most of which is in a multi-activity environment. Young learners are experiencing new advances, opportunities, pressures and challenges far different from that of their parents, teachers, head teachers and school board members.

What we need to do as educators, thought leaders and key decision-makers is to ensure that educational technologies, whether in the classroom or at home, meet the needs of students, today and tomorrow.

Prompted by the National Association of State Board Education’s (NASBE) report on the Role of Technology in Schools and Communities we’ve considered the key components for effectively responding to the evolving needs of learners in the twenty-first century.
In the last ten years access, or more specifically affordable access to digital technology, has been transformed, expanding the digital influences that affect students’ lives and changing fundamental educational experiences over time.

As is true of any transformative era, this changing world, which includes instant communication, cloud-based computing and personalised learning, provides both opportunities and challenges to teachers and administrators. It also presents challenges to school boards, as their policy decisions for a digital environment will deeply affect teaching and learning and impact more than on simply what happens in school buildings.

To address these concerns, NASBE commissioned The Study Group 2012 to develop a robust report to assess how the digital age has affected the learning needs of students today, and to establish how governing bodies can support their schools to fully prepare and address the impact of rapid technological change on teaching and learning in the future.

In summary, the report identifies three major findings:

1. Addressing the voices and needs of today’s students

Students today are commonly referred to as digital natives; a demographic that has grown up with smartphones, wi-fi and 3G connectivity. Easily able to adapt to new technology, they are constantly plugged in. For young people, technology has become a significant part of their lives, redefining the way they create, store and access information.

Today, the blend of hand-held devices, instant messaging, and the Internet presents education with an enormous number of opportunities, challenges and imperatives.

For example, for educators the rise in digital coherency creates the imperative that all students are digitally literate. This will require educators to meet students in the technological world where they reside, in order to bring them to a higher place of learning.

There are the challenges that come with ensuring students are ethical when in digital spaces − that they understand the potential consequences and are able to harness the power of technology safely, respectfully and responsibly.

Finally, there are the vast opportunities that technology offers as a vehicle for improving the learning process through greater personalisation − something leaders may need to address through policies, providing the flexibility and incentives needed to allow educators to take advantage.

2. Ensuring schools can meet the evolving needs of today’s students

Meeting the needs of today’s students is dependent on us all – teachers, bursars, specialists and key decision-makers. Reinventing learning experiences can seem a formidable challenge but progressive, incremental developments are what are needed in order to take advantage of the numerous opportunities technology offers.

Increasing flexibility has been highlighted within the report as the core attribute that needs to be considered at every stage of implementing a new e-learning resource or digital platform. Time, place and the pace of learning must be personalised around the learner; one size fits all is no longer an option.

3. Educational technology infrastructure

Integration of new technology means more than just providing students with a new tool to absorb information in the same way. Meaningful integration of technology offers teachers the ability to personalise activities, acting as a coordinator as opposed to a lecturer, directing their effort and time to supporting learning. However, to do this integration strategies must be planned, scalable and intuitive, built upon over time.

Developing an effective education technology infrastructure will play a significant factor in being able to connect to and engage students, creating sustainable plans that benefit each student’s learning through a channel that they prefer.

Achieving such a robust infrastructure, centred on digital learning, is a challenge and one that is unlikely to be truly realised without the support of Government funding and state support. However, if we are to move our students to a higher place of learning there are already numerous schools that have integrated learning technologies with great success.

GCSE Revision Videos and AppsHomewood School & Sixth Form Centre is one such example, according to the vice-principal: ‘Next year, over 1,000 students will start using LearnersCloud’s GCSE e-learning resources at school and at home. Children only spend 15 per cent of their lives at school, so the learning that takes place at home is therefore extremely important to their future success. Mobile learning for Homewood is not a replacement  
for traditional in-class learning but by creating an accessible and affordable source of high-quality content, students can prepare for classes, reinforce learning and revise key information, extending the learning support that we provide in the classroom to the home and family.’

Find out more about GCSE revision videos and apps from LearnersCloud