Over the past two years, communities around the world have spent an enormous amount of money building new edtech infrastructure to support teaching and learning. In the UK alone, the edtech sector grew 70% in 2020 as schools rushed to invest in technology to maintain student learning continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Initially, much of this expense was related to hardware and connectivity. Inequality of access to technology was highlighted as a major problem during the pandemic, but schools and communities have taken on the challenge, providing devices or paying for home internet access to help disadvantaged students continue their studies.
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 before the pandemic.
With a powerful edtech infrastructure now in place, how can schools ensure continued ROI on their investments?
Here are 5 ways educators can use their new infrastructure to full advantage.
High quality digital assets
Technology has the power to transform learning, but it must be used intelligently to harness its true value. Having an array of devices and good connectivity alone doesn’t improve education. Like all infrastructure, EdTech needs a strong and well thought-out strategy to bring it to life.
High-quality digital assets are a key element of any solid digital strategy. The right digital content turns devices into compelling educational tools – tools that give students access to a powerful curriculum that engages them in learning wherever it takes place.
The best digital resources make learning an active experience by providing content that grabs attention and arouses curiosity. Designed to connect with students in an age-appropriate way, good digital resources use targeted language at the right level and foster short-lived content to help students understand difficult concepts and stay engaged.
Video clips, interactive elements, and real-world audio can open the door to even more in-depth learning, allowing students to see and experience people and places far beyond the confines of their classroom.
If schools want to offer exciting lessons that inspire students as they meet curriculum goals, then they need to invest in high-quality digital resources.
The ability to move from in-person, distance and hybrid learning has never been more important, and schools that make the most of their new investment in EdTech will choose a flexible teaching and learning platform that can be accessed anywhere. Even as we move beyond the pandemic, schools will need to retain a portion of the distance learning offer as disruption due to factors such as extreme weather and disease will continue to be a challenge.
The ability to deliver the exact same lesson to students, regardless of whether they are in the classroom or at home, is critical to minimizing learning loss. It also allows teachers to save time by preventing the need to set up and mark catchup work.
By choosing a flexible daily learning platform based on quality digital content, schools can keep students on track, connected and engaged. They will also make a good investment in the future. The ability to seamlessly move between learning modes is already the norm.
Personalized learning support
Providing personalized learning is every educator’s goal, and the best teaching and learning platforms allow teachers to do this without any hassle.
Schools should ensure that their chosen platform has built-in personalization features that meet individual learning needs and inspire learners at all levels.
The ability to assign and share content with students directly on their devices and differentiate learning within a single lesson is a real game changer for teachers. By assigning tasks based on ability, they can ensure that each child feels supported.
Collaboration and presentation tools can also be transformative. Teachers can use these tools to design and share personalized lessons, while students can create bulletin boards or presentations to share and present their knowledge in creative ways.
Digital technologies that offer personalized learning have another advantage: 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 and 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 fill educational gaps and prevent long-term learning loss by keeping students engaged and enthusiastic.
If dynamic digital assets are key to delivering active and engaged learning, immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are definitely the pinnacle of this. No longer viewed as a mere gimmick in the classroom, the immersive has revealed its potential to create amazing and pedagogically sound learning experiences that put students at the center 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 increase engagement and improve students’ ability to retain knowledge longer because they actively participate in the learning process.
The vanguard of Discovery Education AR sandbox app allows students to do just that by building their own virtual worlds in history, science, the natural world and more. Instead of hearing or reading these worlds, students can see, touch and inhabit them. Learning is taken 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 travel and school visits may still be limited, it has the added benefit of bringing the outside world into the classroom.
Schools that are making the most of their new investment in EdTech will choose cutting-edge digital tools and content to bring their technology to life. In doing so, they will ensure that they can use their new infrastructure to its full potential, preparing all students for future success.
Howard Lewis is Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Education UK
Beyond the pandemic: how schools can guarantee ROI on investments in edtech
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