When it comes to educational content and learning, proponents of textbooks and advocates of technology probably agree on more than they might realise; everyone wants the best outcomes for students, after all. Therefore, instead of debating “for or against”, we need to focus on what gives students the best experience with the most impact.
The edtech market is growing at an exponential rate, and with all the recent changes and proposed plans around academisation, school accountability and grammar schools, for example, it’s fair to say that we’re experiencing a period of educational revolution. However, knowing what edtech to invest in can be a challenge for schools, especially with budgets being increasingly tightened and new products and resources entering the market regularly.
Unfortunately, all too frequently, schools become entranced by all the exciting technology available, and are won over by the false promise that it’s something they need to transform learning. However, after spending valuable funds, it can quickly become apparent that the new resource is adding nothing to the learning environment. This might sound like a familiar situation; it’s happened to a lot of schools, which is why we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: what’s truly going to benefit today’s learners? Edtech needs to be an investment, not a gimmick.
Collaboration and innovation
While there are lots of resources that are entirely new, why can’t edtech collaborate with traditional pedagogical tools? As the fundamental principle of teaching and learning is the same, if they were effective resources in time gone by, then combining them with technology is surely going to make them even more effective and, more importantly, engage and benefit the learners of today? The good news is that the edtech sector is beginning to focus on the needs of 21st Century students.
If we take paper notebooks, for example; these have merged with technology to provide students with a more efficient way to make and store notes. In paper form, notes are often lost, damaged or find themselves at the bottom of schoolbags, yet they’re synonymous with academic achievement, as note-taking consolidates learning. However, we’re now seeing notebooks being digitised and students being able to keep notes on their iPad or tablet, enabling them to store work in one easy-to-access place and manage their work effectively.
Textbooks are another paper-based resource to have been revolutionised by tech to bring it into the 21st Century; technology and the textbook are no longer mutually exclusive, they’re now being used as one, and are improving each other in the process. Despite once being a staple classroom resource, textbooks slowly became disregarded and perceived as “old-fashioned”. Yet, they are one of the most comprehensive resources available to teachers and students, as all the information needed for a course is brought together in a single place. By merging the two, students can now access entire libraries of textbooks on their digital devices and are able to use the resource to develop their knowledge in ways unlike ever before; they’re able to highlight, add to, amend and annotate their textbooks, and can even access supporting materials, curated by their teachers, such as YouTube clips or web links next to important text too, thereby consolidating their learning.
It’s not only students who are benefitting from the integration of tech and tradition; teachers are now able to create their own content easily, such as end-of-module tests, PowerPoints they have used in lessons, or whiteboard captured images, and send these to students’ devices immediately. From there, they can monitor how students are engaging with the curriculum content and assessments in ways not possible with paper-based resources.
We’ve seen the blackboard become an interactive whiteboard, whole-school records move from the filing cabinet onto comprehensive digital platforms, and homework being sent straight to students’ devices, instead of handed to them on a piece of paper. The world around us is changing and evolving at an astonishing rate, and so are the ways in which we deliver and manage learning.
The edtech resources are there and evolving all the time – we’re undergoing an education revolution, after all – so just like the traditional and the technological are working together in unprecedented ways, let’s work with edtech to provide today’s learners with truly beneficial learning opportunities.
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