Accessible tech will power interactive education in a blended world

Exploring the tools that will enable teachers and students to innovate today and tomorrow

The pandemic, a global crisis in itself, has had a profound effect on education, impacting students, educators, administrators, and parents around the world, creating a pedagogical crisis unlike anything we’ve previously experienced.

In the past year, we’ve seen teaching practices quite literally transform. Educators have had to grapple with a rapid shift to remote learning and uncertainty about the future, not least whether they will be in the classroom or teaching remotely in any given week. What we’ve seen is nothing short of inspiring.

True to their commitment to students, teachers everywhere have shown huge willingness to take on new ideas and ways of teaching.  However, there has to be a level of support from tech companies to enable teachers to offer a ‘new teaching experience’ in the easiest way possible. It’s now vital to make it simple for teachers to find the information they need, and then present it in the format that they require.

Prior to the pandemic, the idea of running complete curriculums without students attending physical classrooms was nothing more than a concept for many. Today, it has quickly become a reality for educators worldwide. This has encouraged educators to be far more open and flexible to new technologies and ways of teaching.

Interactive education outside the classroom 

Gone are the days when science experiments were confined to school labs and technology equipment could only be utilised in the classroom. We’re entering a new age of teaching that relies upon technology to create an enriching and interactive ‘blended’ learning experience. This surge in edtech is now helping to bridge the learning gap inevitably created by the sudden decrease in classroom time, ensuring students can still collaborate and develop future skills at scale.

“We’re entering a new age of teaching that relies upon technology to create an enriching and interactive ‘blended’ learning experience”

Teachers are working hard to adapt the way that they plan their lessons and then deliver the learnings. As technology providers, we now have a duty to provide the tools that will support remote learning in the short-term. When the pandemic hit and schools closed, we saw a huge shift – a shift we never had to even contemplate before. Teachers were searching frantically, considering how it would even be possible to run a class within a virtual space, so it was down to tech providers and facilitators to make it as straightforward as possible to provide the right technologies and answers to questions.

There was an understanding that whilst it was important to continue to provide information in the written format, it was equally as vital to expand into a more visual sphere, producing video content and ‘explainers’. For example, producing a range of virtual lessons that showed users how to utilise student toolkits, making content not only as accessible as possible, but also highly intuitive.

Learning lessons at home – particularly in the realm of STEAM – simply isn’t quite the same as learning in a classroom, side by side with your fellow students to bounce ideas off and provide a spare pair of hands for trickier tasks. These subjects have been significantly affected, given that a lot of STEAM lessons are collaborative by nature, with students actively sharing ideas to a problem and then getting hands-on to resolve it.

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When remote learning became the new normal, technology providers quickly realised there was a way we could support students and educators. Much like teachers, learning technologies and their developers also had to quickly adapt and deploy new ways of working to support students, educators and parents through this crisis.

Tech companies are having to innovate to a new way of learning to ensure that students continue to learn effectively from the comfort of their own home. Where teaching methods – and the technology that surrounded – were previously based on working with multiple students together, or in a specified learning environment, steps must be taken to ensure that learning can still take place when on their own and in a virtual workspace. The importance of independent learning, where students can learn without a teacher being present, is more important now than ever.

Making complex technology simple and accessible

Now, the key to achieving interactive learning is to provide accessible tools and resources that enable educators and students to innovate, by making complex technology simple to learn, use and understand from anywhere – even outside the classroom. With this in mind, there are many things technology providers can do to keep students engaged whilst learning remotely.

Delivering accessible resources that replicate in-class experiences is paramount. For example, we’ve created a new STEAM kit specifically designed for home learning that lets students get hands-on in programming and electronics. Making the same projects, exercises and activities as students would use in the classroom, teachers can still deliver inspiring lesson plans that make sure students are not missing out on hands-on, project-based learning. When such tools are combined with video conferencing, students can collaborate and work on those all important future skills, such as communication and creativity.

Accessible learning resources that allow students to easily conduct and document experiments through means they are most comfortable with such as their mobile devices will be instrumental to helping STEAM thrive in a blended learning scenario. Open-source resources can actively encourage students to learn interactively outside of the classroom, with little equipment needed, in a safe and inclusive environment – features that hold huge importance in the current climate.

That said, it’s not enough to simply equip students and teachers with the hands-on tools they need for lessons. Technology leaders must also provide in-depth materials like online webinars and video tutorials, backed up by detailed step-by-step  instructions that help educators understand how to use these solutions to teach students studying at home.

There’s a strong desire around the globe to keep schools open and students in the classroom, alongside individual students learning from home whilst isolating. The tools must be made appropriate for use in the classroom and at home, to truly make them an ideal solution for those adopting a blended learning approach that will eventually become the new norm. As education navigates an uncertain future, technology will play a vital role in keeping students engaged and interacting today and tomorrow.

By working closely with teachers to understand the needs of both themselves and their students, we can deliver the essential tools for hand-on learning that challenge students and help them to develop, as they progress through school and university now and in the future.


You might also like: How students are staying connected and informed during COVID-19


 

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