Learning to embrace edtech

Canvas VLE’s Sam Blyth looks at some of the factors holding schools back from embracing edtech in the classroom

By Sam Blyth, Director of Schools, Canvas VLE

As proponents of edtech, we believe that technology in the classroom is a force for good. Whether it is providing students the opportunity to learn in new and innovative ways or reducing the amount of time that teachers have to spend marking, well implemented education technology has a clear benefit to teaching and learning. 

However, this is not a view that is shared by all, with Canvas research finding that more than one in five (21%) teachers say they find classroom technology intimidating. At Canvas, we feel that understanding the concerns of technology skeptics, and addressing them effectively, is crucial to the success of any system. 

What holds schools back from adopting edtech, and how can edtech providers allay those fears?

Some of these concerns may be driven by legacy issues with IT, with staff and school administrators alike remembering the protracted implementation periods, cumbersome interfaces and steep learning curves of the past. As providers of today’s education technology, we are able reduce these fears and prove that there has been significant progress since the ‘bad old days’.

One of the best ways that we can do this is by being an active presence throughout the implementation process and ensuring that if a problem arises, it can be nipped in the bud. Creating good relationships with the institutions that use your systems will build trust and allow them to feel that the burden of administering the tech is not on their shoulders.

The next step is ensuring that teachers are confident enough with the technology that they can happily use it day to day, and this is where training comes in. Without proper training, using classroom technology can feel like an uphill battle, which is not a welcome prospect if you are a teacher under considerable time pressure. The time associated with providing training sessions may be regarded by some educational institutions as a reason not to implement new tech, so it is crucial that the training materials are made available to all users from day one, and continually throughout their time with the system.  

If education technology does not promote and enhance teaching and learning, or adds to the workload of teachers, it is not doing its job correctly. But, by providing the right support, listening to the concerns of users and prioritising ongoing training, edtech can earn its rightful place in the classroom.

How do we reflect modern life in the classroom with tech?

There’s a wide variation in practice and attitudes towards some edtech.  Some schools have embraced BYOD and others ban phones. As a mum, I know that trying to secure any ‘screen free’ time is pretty challenging. There are some teachers who feel that having smart phones or tablets in the classroom is distracting and takes away from their students’ ability to learn. 

But, given that today’s students are used to living their lives on their devices it seems strange that we are drawing a line at the school gate. Young people now expect that all the tasks they need to achieve, from booking doctor’s appointments to ordering dinner, will be able to be done quickly and easily from the device they have in their pocket. And, with adequate training and stringent security policies, we know bringing mobile phones out of school bags and onto desks can offer an opportunity to explore pedagogy in a new way.

By only looking at mobile phones and tablets as objects of distraction, many educational institutions are missing the potential benefits that they can bring to teaching and learning. Allowing students to access their grades, assignments and deadlines remotely through their devices means that they are in control of their education in new ways. For teachers, bringing these devices into the classroom opens up the possibility of using advanced concepts, such as augmented reality, and enables them to broaden their teaching tools beyond the textbook. 

By capitalising on the tech savvy that is now inherent to every student, educational institutions will be able to change up the way that they deliver information, and in doing so make it more relevant to the online generation. Mobile technology is not going away, and by embracing BYOD schools can harness the pedagogical power of personal tech for the benefit of teachers and students. 

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