How virtual learning platforms are facilitating innovation in schools

Christopher Roche, head of digital learning and computing at Windlesham House School, shares his insight on how digital strategies are evolving in schools

The proliferation of technology over recent years has been disruptive, transforming teaching and learning, and revolutionising the way teachers and students communicate.

As learning technologies continue to evolve at pace, students are keen to embrace these new tools as they allow them to learn at their own speed, provide engaging content and allow them to ‘create’ as part of the learning process.

There are a range of different learning platforms available to schools today, and these are used to deliver learning content to students across multiple subjects. But as technology develops, these are becoming more dynamic in their functionality. Teachers are now able to provide a range of engaging learning activities such as virtual field trips, interactive quizzes, simulations and different assessment techniques, to name but a few.

Providing a framework which integrates technology as an integral tool to support the curriculum is vital

With digital strategies in schools continuing to develop, the impact on the learning environment is significant. Having a clear vision for the use of technology in school ensures students are equipped to develop into skilful tech users, but are also able to make the right choices both in learning and daily life. Providing a framework which integrates technology as an integral tool to support the curriculum is vital. The focus should be on development by enhancing and transforming learning and teaching experiences.

Nurturing responsible digital citizens

Technology should support learning beyond the classroom by providing opportunities
to learn at any time and anywhere. Certain tools can also provide learners with the skills to make use of technology to create, curate and publish content. Learning experiences should always be designed to support and encourage independence, critical thinking and collaboration. Schools have an important role to play in ensuring students become responsible digital citizens who are able to use technology responsibly while recognising and avoiding potential pitfalls.

Additionally, schools need to support staff in becoming qualified and skilful users of technology; experts who are able to design innovative learning experiences to maximise outcomes. Parents are also a valued partner in supporting this process. Where possible, schools should provide regular opportunities for parents to learn about the latest

advancements and how they can play a role in supporting their child’s use of technology.

Adopting various technologies really helps to nurture student learning and teacher competence, but these tools should be carefully selected from the outset to ensure they have a major impact in the classroom and also allow teachers to develop their technical skills quickly. CPD (continuous professional development) is crucial to ensuring that skills development remains in place.

The challenge of change

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing schools in terms of a successful edtech programme lies in the change that it brings. The role of key stakeholders is vital in navigating this process to ensure the whole community is part of the shared vision and clearly aware of the different stages of implementation. Providing a clear rationale for any changes helps to create a solid framework to support impacted groups through that change. There are, of course, various change models worth exploring; for example, The Kotter Change Model is made up of the following elements:

● Establish a sense of urgency about the need to achieve change
● Create a guiding coalition
● Develop a vision and plan
● Communicate the change vision
● Empower broad-based actions
● Generate short-term wins
● Consolidate gains and produce more change
● Anchor new approaches within the corporate culture.

Although all of these aspects are important, when choosing the right digital tools, the following two factors from the change model should be considered:

1) Generating short-term wins – this is crucial to ensure staff feel that they are able to use tools swiftly and effectively;
2) Consolidate gains – when staff feel they can effectively use digital tools in their lesson design and classroom.

Professional development is key to ensuring that the teaching profession is able to keep pace with innovation and ensure that staff become skilled users of technology to facilitate change. Through
a commitment to CPD, staff will be more receptive to learning how different applications are used in educational contexts and apply this knowledge in innovative and effective ways in the classroom.

Future-proofing learning

The rapid changes in technology are leading to innovation on a number of different fronts. A major challenge faced by those using technology is in using devices for homework. It’s important that students are given the chance to use technology to reinforce and extend their learning during home study. For example, in some cases an iPad could facilitate this reinforcement while further enhancing and transforming the learning experience.

Giving students the responsibility and opportunity to make wise choices and to use creativity is important and every student’s learning needs are different. Leveraging tools such as Google Classroom and Nearpod can also help to provide more direction and engagement to individual learning experiences.

Embracing new technology is always about future-proofing, so having a shared vision, developed through the support of all members of the community, makes all the difference. The technology vision should be embedded across the school and should continue to provide a range of meaningful learning experiences for students – both in and outside of the classroom.

The future is bright, and learning platforms are constantly evolving and developing more features that will be used to enhance and transform teaching and learning in classrooms all over the world. The big developments over the next few years will provide greater opportunities for the use of virtual reality experiences within the platform; and (AI) artificial intelligence to develop greater understanding and better use of dynamic, asynchronous learning tools.

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