Are the learning opportunities you provide enabling all of your students to be heard, demonstrate their learning and ultimately succeed?
All students are different and all of them bring their own needs and requirements to the classroom. Successful teachers make use of strategies and resources that engage, motivate and encourage active participation and learning by all of their students. Edtech can give teachers the tools they need to offer learners an active learning environment and challenge them to reach their potential.
However, we need to be careful that the use of technology does not introduce further barriers for those students we are trying to support. So what do we need to think about when considering introducing technology into the learning environment?
- Will it enhance learning for the student, i.e. help them to learn and function more effectively?
- Does the technology provide remedial support by helping the learner to practise and consolidate new learning and skills?
- Is the learner able to be more independent in their learning and able to complete activities with less input from the teacher or support staff?
- Does the technology allow the learner opportunities to further extend and explore their learning, knowledge and abilities?
If the edtech we are using in the classroom is to enhance learning then it must support both the student and the teacher - ultimately teaching and learning is a process that occurs between two people. From the student’s perspective the technology must facilitate access to the learning, making it easy for them to find the resources they need, understand their tasks and activities and submit work in whatever format suits them.
As teachers we want technology to give us more time to work with our students and support them in their learning. To this end we need solutions that are simple to use and enhance the learning experience rather than replacing the teacher. It should be easy to manage the classroom and get at a glance visibility of each student’s needs. Ultimately, if we can spend less time managing the learning process we have greater opportunities to teach and engage our students, whatever their needs.
A good technological solution will make it easy for students to revisit learning resources and practice their skills. Providing students with a carefully structured repository for material means that they can access a rich content library whenever they need and have a framework to work within. This allows schools to offer on-demand resources and helps the student be more independent in their studies, whilst a range of different types of resources, from video and audio to text and images means that the content should be accessible to anyone.
Some students need more support than others and we need to bear this in mind when selecting our learning solution. Built-in text readers for example mean that information is more accessible, either to students with visual acuity problems as well as those with reading and processing difficulties.
The ability to provide video explanations can make a real difference to some students who would be overwhelmed by pages of text and make it easier for them to be more independent in their learning, whilst being able to submit pieces of work in a variety of formats makes it easier for all students to demonstrate their understanding and the skills they have acquired. This ultimately gives more time to teachers and support staff to help the student with their learning, rather than simply helping them access it.
Of course, we also need to support students to achieve their personal best and this means providing them with opportunities to extend their knowledge and skills. Providing what might be described as a low floor - high ceiling makes it easy for students to engage initially and then encourages them to go as far as they can. Whether this is with extension work within the curriculum, the freedom to explore their creative skills, or opportunities to collaborate with their peers, technology can provide a wide variety of different routes and strategies for teachers to employ in this area. The trick here is to be led by the student - how do they want to learn?
There is no doubt that schools have seen a change in the way children learn in the classroom. Technology has altered how students engage in learning activities, the format of learning materials they use, how tasks are completed, and how they demonstrate what they know. As classroom teachers we can embrace the new opportunities we have to support students with diverse abilities and needs, cultural backgrounds, experiences and learning styles. The right technology can improve access to the curriculum, enable the learner to experience success and engage fully in the learning experience.