Providing the personal touch

As learning materials shift from print to digital, there are opportunities for publishers to create dynamic digital textbooks, says Charlie Harrington

What many don’t realise is that new education technology is also helping teachers put the personal touch back into teaching. There’s a common misconception that technology in education is being used to replace teachers, when rather technology is actually being used as an effective tool to empower teachers. Technology can help teachers better understand student needs and provide students with an increasingly tailored educational experience.

One size no longer fits all 

Digital learning materials introduce new opportunities to help teachers measure and improve student learning. As students work through lessons online or study with interactive digital textbooks, adaptive learning technology analyses anonymised data to figure out what a student knows and how they learn best, and makes recommendations for next steps. Students and teachers can leverage learning analytics — i.e., observed or inferred metrics about student performance gleaned from data — to personalise learning experiences.

Furthermore, rather than rely on periodic high-stakes exams, adaptive learning technology enables continuous assessment of student performance — making it easier to know what a student needs before they fail or become disengaged. Imagine if an educator were able to quickly see exactly which concepts each student in a class of 30+ students knew at any given moment. Teachers could immediately identify skills gaps and tailor lessons accordingly to aid students in need of help or challenge advanced students. Educators could spend far less time figuring out each student’s level of knowledge, which constantly changes, and spend far more time actually teaching, engaging, and inspiring students.

Flipping the classroom

Technology’s impact on education may also change the way that classrooms are structured and alter the teacher’s role. Many teachers are adopting the “flipped classroom” method, in which students learn about concepts on their own and then participate in group activities in the classroom, with the help of the instructor. Whilst this may sound counterintuitive, the concept can actually revitalise the learning environment by providing more opportunities for students to learn through hands-on activity. 

Additionally, the flipped classroom lets teachers shift to the role of guide or coach. Rather than leading lecture-based classes, teachers can arrange creative group work, interactive debates, or small group sessions in order to better engage students or differentiate instruction. In a flipped classroom, teachers have more opportunities to interact with students and provide individual help during school hours.