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EdTech: Digitising Learning

According to Promethean’s UK&I State of Technology in Education Report, the use of EdTech as a tool in education is steeply on the rise, with 86% of educators saying technology should be a core part of learning. The report finds that ‘the focus on boosting student engagement with technology has grown 29% in five years’ and is ‘now a priority for 39% of schools.’ This growth is certain to skyrocket in 2021, with remote learning making technology essential to education and increasing the tech savviness of teachers and students as they navigate the transition.

Reliance on technology for lesson delivery in distance learning has prompted schools to harness the functionality of their current services and infrastructures (through extensions such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams) and to refocus their budgets on tech procurement, while teachers are also independently seeking out additional resources as they identify their remote teaching needs. Promethean reports that ‘almost 80% of educators agree that technology helped them do a better job in education this year,’ as high numbers of educators have ‘subscribed to or used a new piece of software’ recently, showing the natural evolution and migration of education to technology as teachers work to meet the demands of the day.

Technology meets teaching

EdTech is a booming global industry and a business sector predicted to be worth £3.4bn in the UK by this year. Yet in the daily delivery of education, EdTech can seem to be underlying, blending into the background of school systems and classroom teaching, particularly as technology is so integral to how we transmit and absorb information every day. Recently, EdTech is catapulting beyond the smartboard into the hands of both teachers and students, with teachers now discovering the extent to which EdTech can infuse and boost the learning process on micro cognitive levels.

What is EdTech? A digital-style portmanteau of the phrase ‘education technology,’ EdTech is the practice of combining information technology (IT) tools with educational practices to facilitate and enhance learning. Essentially, EdTech is when technology meets teaching and is purposefully incorporated into pedagogy. As teachers plan and structure lessons to work through the stages of learning – from understanding to application, synthesis and eventually creation – they are discovering myriad tools and apps that can aid these different modes of thinking. When built into the progressive stages, EdTech has the capacity to make learning more accessible and engaging for students, as the technology actively supports the transmission of information via stimulating shapes and forms, and gives students more practical and interactive agency in the learning process.

Accessibility reimagined

A core challenge for teachers is inclusion – the need to meet the various styles and fluctuating needs of learners. Traditional linear pedagogy, involving more direct and controlled teaching and learning, is giving way to more flexible approaches over time, as inclusion demands more dynamic strategies. The capacity of EdTech to boost engagement coextends to its stimulation of different types of learners through the use of various digital tools in a virtual or hybrid classroom. Traditional reading/writing learners benefit from working with digital text, while visual learners are stimulated by images, colours and movement as information is gathered, arranged and modified on screens. Auditory or aural learners are stimulated by audio features and sounds effects. Kinaesthetic (hands-on) learners are animated by manoeuvring the content on interfaces such as interactive whiteboards and gamified learning platforms. Multiple methods for connecting mean multiple neural pathways to learning, with this greater accessibility having a greater chance of leading to proficiency for more students.

Interactivity as agency

The most significant value that EdTech adds to learning is the prospect of turning passive learners into active ones. Increased close interaction with teachers and other students has the potential to enliven learning, as digital skill development supercharges the application of new knowledge. Where students’ interpersonal interactions are often mediated through technology, curating their education to match that reality translates learning into their language. Students instinctively want to try to work with these new tools, as digitality is essentially more fun. From a teaching standpoint, interactive learning fuels, and is fuelled by a sense of collaboration and reciprocity, giving students agency in their learning and ultimately the most important factor in their progress: confidence.

In 2019, the DofE released a strategy entitled ‘Realising the potential of technology in education’, stating its aim to ‘support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload, fosters efficiencies, removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in educational outcomes.’ Where this outlook was visible then, the remote learning landscape of 2020 and 2021 has brought it into sharp relief: EdTech is the way forward.

The remote and hybrid forms of learning now required present the opportunity for educators and schools to take a digital-first attitude to education, with this adaptation set to energise education for the masses.

— Katie Musgrave (katie.musgrave@oxfordtutors.com)

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