Strengthening digital literacy through tech in the classroom

Steve Beswick, Business Development Director for Microsoft Education, discusses blended learning methods and digital literacy

While the office and classroom can feel worlds apart, a recent Government Office for Science report has illustrated the importance of integrating learning technology into UK schools to meet the increasing demand for digital skills.

As the UK looks to overcome its digital skills ‘gap’ – with rapid digital development changing the ways businesses operate and individuals work and collaborate every day – educating the next generation of employees is an increasing priority for educational institutions and organisations.

So much so, schools are already looking for ways to insert technology seamlessly into the learning experience. Nevertheless, a recent Forrester report has revealed that teachers still feel there is more to do when it comes to preparing students for the technology expectations of future universities and workplaces.

With powerful, portable devices, students have everything they need to get homework done whenever and wherever they are. 

Acquiring new skills through interactive learning

One of the most effective ways to overcome this challenge and meet growing digital demand is by embracing blended methods of learning, combining e-learning with traditional classroom methods and independent study. Moreover, it is a compelling way to improve both the teaching and learning experience – bringing subjects to life and enabling students and teachers to collaborate and learn in new ways.

This includes creating more interactive lessons using devices that enable teachers to prepare comprehensive lessons, as well as simultaneously sharing materials and know-how with colleagues. Independent study time that is guided by resources and skills acquired in the classroom are also paramount to embracing blended learning.

Tools such as OneNote allow teachers to share online resources such as handouts, presentations and pre-recorded aids that replicate the in-person experience that many students want. When in the classroom, teachers can share their screen with a student’s individual device and deliver content directly to the class, or tailored materials to match an individual’s learning ability.

Both staff and students are already reaping the rewards of electronic assignments on online school learning management systems

Beyond this, teachers are embracing technologies that permit the ‘democratisation’ of content. With the ability to share lesson plans and learning materials in real time, and the option to collaborate on documents in real-time, teachers can embrace more productive preparation time. Forrester highlights that, by using such tools, teachers can save time developing lesson plans by over 30 minutes, and can spend at least half an hour more in the classroom. Additionally, peer collaboration allows for teachers to mutually support one another, helping them to meet the innovation requirements continually demanded of them, resulting in a more digitally skilled profession.

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E- learning is accelerating student engagement and progress

Both staff and students are already reaping the rewards of electronic assignments on online school learning management systems, which collect instant feedback about subject comprehension and deliver real-time feedback. At this level, teachers are continually equipped with the latest profile of a student’s progression. Likewise, students themselves can self-assess their strengths and weaknesses for continued improvement.

Forrester also found that when using devices such as laptops and tablets for homework, students were not only more likely to complete the tasks, but on time. With powerful, portable devices, students have everything they need to get homework done whenever and wherever they are. This is enhanced by the fact that students and parents do not have to deal with a myriad of ad-hoc devices and tools. When schools unify their systems and break down barriers between different department and expectations, e-learning becomes a lot more accessible, productive and worthwhile.

The added advantage of digital inking is that, in early years learning, teachers are empowering students to acquire essential skills such as reading and writing, while also familiarising them with the digital tools of the future.

Technology always has a place in the classroom

With all this change, we must not forget that traditional processes like writing still play a key role in student’s classroom experience. This is where digital inking has huge benefits. In more traditional subjects such as maths and science, students can use a digital pen or stylus to write equations, draw diagrams, make notes and annotate data. In the creative subjects such as music and art, students can write symphonies and create masterpieces without being limited to pen and paper. The added advantage of digital inking is that, in early years learning, teachers are empowering students to acquire essential skills such as reading and writing, while also familiarising them with the digital tools of the future.

Also, further education institutions like the University of Bristol are implementing collaboration technologies such as Surface Hub to optimise learning experiences. The University uses devices for scientific training and research, connecting researchers and industry stakeholders across the UK to participate in lectures remotely, and collaborate on projects in real time. Collaborators can illustrate complex concepts and ideas using digital inking and video capabilities, some of which are often impossible to explain via email or telephone. Such innovations are working to bridge the technology gap between education and industry.

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