We’re back to school, but should we go back to business as normal?

How schools can continue to benefit from technology-led learning

Remote learning tools have been used since before the emergence of COVID-19, particularly for alternative provision and SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students, but there’s now an urgent need for local authorities and educators to consider how the benefits of these platforms can be extended to all students in mainstream education, regardless of their background.

Although students and teachers are happy to be back in the classroom, there’s a risk that the positive lessons from remote learning might be lost if there’s not consideration of what has worked, and what has not, during the past year.

While a pandemic is hardly the ideal setting for schools to undergo a mass change in how education is delivered, the results are clear: edtech is here to stay. Demand for digital classrooms grew by 65% in the past year, with schools’ edtech uptake in general soaring by 131%.  But now we are looking forward to a future in which COVID-19 does not dominate the daily patterns of work and life, so it’s important to consider the specific elements of edtech that have been so effective in helping students through this difficult period.

Supporting teachers in the workplace

Pre-recorded lessons have given schools a huge opportunity to help students ‘fill in the gaps’ at a pace that suits them, benefiting their peers and teachers alike. With a recent poll from the NEU revealing that more than one in three teachers are ‘confident’ they will not be in education in five years, there has never been a more important moment to support teachers doing what they do best.

Back in 2019, a survey of teachers in the UK found that 70% wanted to use technology more in the future and 86% would recommend using technology in teaching to their peers. A more recent report has shown that nearly three quarters (74%) of teachers would like to move towards some form of blended or hybrid learning. Another recent report from Ofsted found that multiple benefits have been associated with technology-enhanced methods that allow teachers to give more effective feedback. It’s clear that technology could play an important role in retaining the talent in the teaching professions through the post-pandemic era.

Harnessing students’ enjoyment of technology

We also know that lots of students love engaging with technology when they learn. Research has demonstrated that young people who learn academic content in a technology-enhanced classroom outperform those who learn the same content without technology.

“Research has demonstrated that young people who learn academic content in a technology-enhanced classroom outperform those who learn the same content without technology”

What’s more, for some students – like those with anxiety, for example – remote learning has presented an accessible pathway for learning. Users of our own platform have examples of students to whom virtual learning has come as a genuine, practicable alternative to in-classroom learning. There’s little doubt that the prevalence of such cases should be recognised by policymakers and educators alike. The modern classroom and playground are packed full of elements that can at times prove overwhelming for many children.

This is reflected in the results that many users of our platform have already seen. The Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust, for example, has marked some remarkable benefits since they rolled out remote learning – including a 70% reduction in isolation, a 50% reduction in exclusion, and markedly higher levels of student engagement.

Digital skills for the future

The pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution in every sector, not just education. Digital skills have never been more important. Indeed, research from the Skills Funding Agency has predicted that within 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require some element of digital skills. As the first country in the world to mandate coding at primary and secondary level, England has been a trailblazer in this area so far. A revitalised approach to blended learning could help the next generation of learners to further develop these core digital skills that will be so important in the workplace of the future.

As we look towards the future, let’s consider how we can use the fantastic innovations we have witnessed during this difficult period to keep our teachers and students motivated in years to come.

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