Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Top 3 student tech trends that teachers need to know

Now that the dreaded exam period is coming to an end and we all begin to look ahead to the summer holiday break, we’ve pulled together our three top tech trends that are likely to take place over the break.

So − while teaching professionals and students take a well-earned break, it’s important to appreciate the changes in preferences that young people will demonstrate towards technology so you’re fully prepared when students return in the autumn. What engages them, what they’ll be talking about and what teachers can harness and incorporate in their lessons to wow students and get them involved from the get-go.

Most schools and academic institutes have seen a dramatic rise in the level of technology available in the classroom, from iPads and netbooks to whiteboards and BYOD schemes. Digital technology is becoming more focused around the needs of education and it’s not likely to let up in the years to come.

As an educator, it’s important to understand what your students are doing online, what new technology they’re using and how they’re using it.

That’s why we’ve rounded up our shortlist of the top three trends likely to take place over the coming months.

1.    Facebook’s not cool but it does a job


Since us teachers and parents have joined Facebook, the social networking site has lost some of its appeal with young people. The constant updates, homepage changes and new features being rolled out are proof of this as the site attempts to maintain relevance in a market that is in a state of constant flux.

Nevertheless, while Facebook has fallen out of favour with teens it doesn’t mean they’re ignoring it. In fact, given the presence it established within young people’s everyday lives, it’s still one of the most common ways to communicate and share things with friends. Status updates, live chat as well as Facebook apps mean students are still heavily reliant on the online network for much of their social activity.

So, while this is relatively unsurprising, new market entrants have taken this to be the green light with young people open to innovations in the way they communicate. New startups such as Snapchat, Path and other private multimedia messaging tools are growing in popularity, adding to the challenges Facebook faces of retaining interest.

2.    Apps take centre stage


Within schools and colleges the use of smartphones and tablets is becoming more and more prominent. For many schools, budget has a decisive role to play. But for students their preference towards a particular device and brand is relative. Price will always have a practical concern but we’re now finding that the device itself is becoming less significant – what really matters are the apps!

It’s no coincidence that Apple and Google Android devices share a large proportion of the smartphone market. Yes − their brands are well established and millions are pumped into their annual advertising campaigns, but to teens, brand perception and desire is only one element persuading them to purchase. Most teens have a natural fluency in using different operating systems and tech trends almost always emerge from this consumer group. They trial apps constantly, deleting the ones that fail to impress and sharing their experiences with friends. Their goal is to create, discover and innovate; therefore, the device chosen centres on the quality and quantity of applications available to help them along the way.

So what impact will this trend have for teachers?

Many of us have a preference towards a particular device or operating system. The reality is that students aren’t all that bothered. And so whether a school introduces a 1:1 iPad environment, an Android-centric classroom or a Linux-based learning platform, students’ main concern is how this will support them creatively; lust for a particular device in this way is superceded by a strong need for functionality, design and scope.

3.    Video chat-in


Facebook has become a mainstay (for the time being, at least) in both students’ and teachers’ social networking arsenals, mainly down to its resolve in finding new ways to appeal to teens. Video chat has become a fast favourite for teens wishing to chat with friends and the recent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft and Twitter’s investment in video-extract tool Vine goes some way to highlighting the growing preference towards face-to-face conversation.

And it’s not limited to just personal use; flipped learning is an obvious example of the application of video in education, with the use of preparatory tutor-led videos replacing the need for the teachers to deliver content in traditional lecture formats. 

Teachers are also introducing video in other ways to encourage creativity and enhance peer-to-peer review, such as by asking students to demonstrate their understanding of particular topics or concepts – asking them to record, upload and share what they have produced.

The trends outlined here are just a few of the ways student preferences towards technology are likely to change in the coming months, but as we’re all too aware these are never set in stone. What is for sure, however, is that educators must continually stay up to date with the latest changes in order to stay relevant and fully engage young people in educational technologies.