To say that the pandemic has been disruptive to education is an understatement. Understandably, two years ago when the UK entered its first national lockdown, the discussion was mostly focused on continuing education despite the global crisis. Yet the lessons from 2020 helped me as an edtech expert and teachers in general to make better decisions in 2021. One of these decisions is being prepared for different scenarios and being ready to switch between them more fluently.
Now that we’re approaching the new year with the threat of the latest Omicron variant, it is clear we’re not out of the woods yet. Potential school closures and remote learning may be a likely scenario, which is why it’s important to take our lockdown learnings forward and put contingency plans in place. We’ve seen that going back to completely “normal” doesn’t just leave schools in a vulnerable position. It also doesn’t help students who are more engaged with the help of and prefer technology.
If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that blending traditional teaching methods with technology enables teachers to be more innovative in their approach. Teachers have grown more confident in their edtech skills, developed effective online teaching approaches, and even discovered novel methods such as edutainment.
At the same time, many schools have realised that edtech has the potential to create a better teaching and learning experience for teachers and students. Some of these positive developments include decreasing the teachers’ administrative workload, investing in their professional development, and making parent-school collaboration easier.
These developments are very important to ensure current and future students will have some semblance of structure and predictability amidst a chaotic global scenario. It’s hard to imagine how we could deliver any remote learning without the proper technology.
With this in mind, and as 2021 comes to its end, here are four edtech trends that will shape education in 2022.
1. Hybrid environments
The hybrid classroom is extremely flexible, covering a wide range of student needs. Teachers can accomplish this through an engaging virtual learning environment that allows students to be connected with everything that happens in the classroom anytime and anywhere.
First, edtech is great for creating both synchronous and asynchronous activities, so students don’t get left behind if they cannot attend in person. It’s easier than ever for students to catch up with lessons and make progress even though they’ve missed a few synchronous sessions.
Second, edtech adapts to student needs. For example, teachers can use learning platforms to measure student progress and provide reports quickly and easily. This helps teachers to identify exactly when to intervene to help students before they get left behind — something that is harder to do in a traditional classroom setting.
Of course, tools such as web conferencing, chat, and groups can create an interactive virtual classroom, which is crucial for social learning. This can also help to connect students, whether they’re attending the class in person or online. Consequently, a hybrid environment is also a more equitable one.
2. Asynchronous learning
While asynchronous learning is not new, the big trend that we’re seeing in this direction is the creation of more engaging asynchronous materials that are also very accessible for all students.
Most importantly, asynchronous learning is made easier with the help of offline mode. In this way, students with low or no internet connectivity at home can access their lessons without going to a library or any other public space.
Making learning content accessible from anywhere means that learning is not confined to the classroom, and teachers can implement a blended learning approach to help students reach their goals.
There’s also more flexibility since students can complete tasks at their own pace and take ownership of their learning. This approach is needed because, in reality, not all students will be at the same level simultaneously, even in a traditional classroom setting. Giving students the freedom to access a wide range of materials, together with teacher feedback, supports each student to reach an appropriate mastery level in a timeframe that suits their abilities, which may not be the same time as their peers.
3. Interactive learning spaces
Interactivity is essential since students need a social environment to learn better. An interactive learning space is a space where students actively engage with a platform in many ways.
For example, a definitive feature is that students aren’t passive content consumers — they also create content and share it with their peers. Learning platforms enable students to carry out projects together and submit joint assignments. Instead of writing essays, students can debate classroom topics, ask questions and help one another.
Additionally, the platform is responsive to their actions. For instance, this happens every time they receive a badge for submitting an assignment or get added to a study group if they need more help with their lessons.
Student-teacher interaction is also undergoing a big change — meaningful interactions where actual learning happens are mediated by asynchronous lessons, web conferencing, and face-to-face classes. Instead, administrative questions should be relegated to online spaces, where students can find answers to “when is homework due?” or “what should I do for extra credit?”, leaving more classroom time for important discussions.
4. AI personalisation
Features such as automation and gamification enable teachers to create more interactive learning experiences. However, that is just scratching the surface.
In 2022, we will be getting closer to more sophisticated systems that will allow us to personalise education like never before. To give you a perfect example, usually, teachers can track competencies and use an automated rules system to adapt the content that students see in a class. However, with an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered recommendation engine, students will also get more personalised recommendations of what to learn next. If a student wants to explore a particular subject or skill, the platform will send them the right learning content.
Higher education students who are studying towards a particular career track can receive tailored recommendations based on their interests. Of course, this means that teachers are still guiding the process by recommending learning paths and supporting students, but this time they have a powerful engine that they can fine-tune, so students receive more relevant content.
These edtech trends highlight how far we’ve come and how much we have yet to create a better, more personalised learning environment for our students in the physical and virtual spaces. Although 2021 hasn’t been without challenges, I am hopeful about the future of education and can’t wait to see the progress we’ll make in the new year.
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