Lockdown accelerated the rollout of technology in the classroom as teachers had no choice but to embrace the use of online platforms in learning. But has that technology had a positive impact on education?
The way in which schools have embraced digital learning and technology is one of the few positives to have come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Priya Lakhani, Founder CEO of award-winning artificial intelligence (AI) company CENTURY Tech.
“It has been so exciting to see how institutions have augmented teaching and learning with technology,” she says. “We are already beginning to see the positive impact technology can have on outcomes and reducing teacher workload.”
Benefits of technology for pupils
UKTN, the home of UK Tech, agrees. It says one of the benefits of technology is the power to transform dull subjects into interactive and fun activities. The good thing about that, is that knowledge that is acquired with entertainment helps students retain knowledge for longer. The use of technological platforms often means pupils can take the initiative and learn when they want to – with or without a teacher’s assistance.
At its best, technology can be used to create experiences for students rather than them simply imbibing information, something that Lakhani claims teachers are increasingly asking for.
Lakhani is also a board member of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, which has a learning programme for young people, aged 4 to 19, to inspire them with its awe-inspiring projects across science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
Many of the UNBOXED projects have used technology in innovative ways, making it possible for students to learn through playful experience.
Examples of technology being used to create learning experiences
- Minecraft is used to enable pupils to travel through the solar system and learn about the challenges facing Planet Earth. This Minecraft experience is created by Our Place in Space, a project designed by children’s author Oliver Jeffers in collaboration with astrophysicist Professor Stephen Smartt. Visit Our Place in Space Minecraft World.
- Immerse 360º video is used to make is possible to see what it’s like on board SEE MONSTER, a retired offshore platform that’s been transformed into an art installation featuring a garden, waterfall and design-led renewable energies. Pupils can go on a journey through the platform learning through interactions at various points along the way. Visit SEE MONSTER virtual tour.
- Live dashboards are used to an engaging effect by Dreamachine. Dreamachine helps children to understand perception through a series of videos hosted by Newsround presenter Martin Dougan. Through a specially developed online platform, pupils can consider such questions as ‘Can I believe everything I see?’, ‘How do I know time is passing?’, and ‘Are people the same all over the world?’ and see how their answers compare with those of pupils in other schools. See Life’s Big Questions.
Benefits of technology for teachers
Meanwhile, UKTN recognises that for teachers, the ability to digitally distribute details in a few taps means they can quickly identify weaknesses and provide targeted support.
Lakhani also points to the positive impacts that technology has had on teachers’ continued professional development (CPD), enabling them to attend symposiums and webinars. This supports opportunities for sharing knowledge easily at the end of a school day. And there are other important benefits, too, including sustainability and economics – teachers don’t have to drive to venues, and schools don’t need to find cover.
We know that the introduction of technology will continue to have a significant impact on teaching and learning. However, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has identified several issues should be considered before technology is rolled out across classrooms.
Firstly, schools need to consider how technology will improve teaching and learning. Technology has the potential to help teachers explain and model new concepts and ideas, but how explanations and models are conveyed is less important than their clarity and accessibility to pupils. The EEF warns that there is a risk technology will widen the gap between successful learners and their peers.
Technology also has the potential to improve assessment and feedback. But how teachers use the information they gather from assessments, and how pupils act on feedback, matters far more than the way in which it is collected and delivered. Technology is likely to be most beneficial if it is provided in addition to other forms of feedback.
Lakhani also urges us to think about two further barriers: affordability and confidence. Schools need to ensure all their pupils have access to the necessary devices and technology.
She also has a challenge for suppliers. In many cases, developing the use of technology in the classroom, will mean teachers have to change the way they do some things. Suppliers therefore need to provide evidence that the technology has a positive impact, supporting educators with models of practice so that it can be effectively adopted and embedded.
The use of technology in the classroom is here to stay. Make no mistake, it will never replace a teacher. But used creatively, it can transform a list of facts into a memorable, learning experience.
For more information about UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, please visit www.unboxed2022.uk