The impact of remote learning and what it’s meant for the advancement of edtech

Peter Claxton, senior director for edtech solutions at ViewSonic, offers his opinion on where schools turn next in their technology journey

1. How did remote learning affect technology in education and how did education adapt to pandemic conditions?

Peter: The pandemic showed the great work that teachers are doing and really highlighted to all of us how passionate teachers are about education, just like we at ViewSonic are passionate about education. Teachers embraced remote and hybrid learning, we were shut down very quickly across the world, schools were closed, and it showed the power and the passion of teachers in adjusting to remote learning. By teachers embracing it helped fast-track learning and demonstrated how adaptable our teachers are.

2. What role did technology play in keeping teaching and learning afloat?

Peter: I think we can clearly see and certainly from my personal experience, that teachers work to continue to drive learning, to keep learning afloat, and that was done by teachers giving up an awful lot of their own time because often in the UK for example, teachers were also teaching children who were in school. Remember that even though schools were closed, Key Workers’ children still went to school so teachers were doing a hybrid role, teaching remotely and teaching children who were physically in the classroom. Edtech solutions such as  myViewBoard visual learning platform helped to drive teaching and remote learning.

3. How did remote learning affect learners in terms of both wellbeing/mental health and also opening opportunities to learn anywhere?

Peter: Well, in terms of learn from anywhere, children were learning from anywhere, everyone’s kitchen table suddenly became a classroom. You know, I was sitting at my kitchen table and my 10-year-old was in classes doing zoom meetings, Teams meetings, so it forced everyone to do that. It did show some of the challenges too, not all children have access to tablets and high-speed internet, but again, it showed how schools responded fantastically and rose to the challenge and provided those resources to those who didn’t have access, allowing them to learn anywhere and also to learn outside of the normal school day hours of 9-3.

Some of the effects of this will take time to emerge, another conversation I’ve been having about the wellness side is that teachers are used to dealing with some of these challenges, but parents might not be, so again, it really highlights the skills and great work our teachers do in dealing with the social and emotional learning of their pupils.

Of course, there is evidence about the number of hours of classes missed and the catch up that needs to happen and the damage that might do to the learning potential of students, and a lot of that work is emerging now. But I think my key message is let’s not just look at the negative side of things.

4. Is there any tech emerging to combat the issue of isolated learning?

Peter: The ability to meet others online in a classroom, or lecture theatre is something we are going to see emerging from the edtech world. Children are used to playing in various gaming environments in an immersive environment and the technology now will allow that to happen. Leading edtech companies will be looking to develop that kind of virtual world. It will also address the lack of ability to have multiple conversations at the same time virtually, or parallel group sessions. All of that is going to be possible in the very near future.

5. Did the pandemic serve as a catalyst for the direction that education was heading in?

Peter: I think it certainly did act as a catalyst because schools closed overnight and every child was at home, so it was certainly an amplifier of howEdTech was already going, which was allowing learners to learn in an environment that wasn’t just the four walls of school or university.

6. Do you think remote will ever replace the classroom?

Peter: I personally don’t think that. I think there will always be a mix, a hybrid of learning spaces. I think it can enhance the classroom and change the shape of the learning day. I also think it can lead to education not just being a 9-3 activity, or not just being for people from 0-18 Years old, it can drive lifetime learning as well.

We probably need to redefine what we think of as a classroom. Many of us will think of a classroom as something out of a Charles Dickens novel with children sitting in rows facing the teacher. I think it will help to redefine the classroom, and the classroom will change going forward. It might involve multiple large format displays and a much more immersive experience compared to what pupils have now.

If you’ve ever read The Children’s Machine by Seymour Pappett you’ll know what I’m about to say. He talks about that teachers from Charles Dickens’ time, from Victorian times would be able to recognise the modern day classroom, whereas a doctor wouldn’t be able to recognise a modern day hospital because technology has been more widely adopted in medicine and healthcare than education. The pandemic will drive the edtech adoption and allow classrooms to look very different, there will always be a mixture of remote learning but there will always be a central place to go, much like the current hybrid workplace where office workers have the choice to either work from home or go into the office.

7. What can we take/learn from the experience of pandemic learning?

Peter: We must make sure that we’re prepared, and certainly if I think of the schools that I work with, the ones that already had a vision for technology within their classrooms have done better because they had already out the right things in the right place. So, I think that senior leaders in schools and districts must have a plan and a vision of what edtech looks like. If a school doesn’t have that in place, they need to work on that and they need to build a team that can help look at that and put an edtech strategy in place to ensure continuity of learning should another COVID type pandemic emerge in the future.

Senior leadership have got to invest in edtech solutions, they must see the value of it and to learn from the experience we’ve been through. I think we need to finish by saying we have learnt just how brilliant our teachers are, they dropped everything and started to work in a different way, so we’ve also learnt that edtech can be adopted and companies such as ourselves at ViewSonic need to be there as a critical friend to schools to support adoption. This is a joint venture between industry, schools and the world of academia and we all must work together, so I think one thing we will see is longer term relationships start to develop. Another thing is that schools need to pick their technology partners carefully, because edtech investment isn’t a one-off investment, it’s a long-term strategic change. Schools should not just look at who’s got the cheapest hardware, they need to look at the overall solutions and choose a partner that they can trust, that they can work with. At ViewSonic we are very passionate about delivery holistic edtech solutions and we’ve learnt that building long-term relationships with the school and working side by side with the school is important.

Finally, we have learnt the adaptability of teachers and pupils in taking on a new way of working.

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