Education technology is on the rise, and the industry is filled with companies, both large and small, that want a piece of an $8 billion-plus annual market for software and hardware, according to Benjamin Herold of Education Week.
As schools and universities find new ways to use technology in and outside the classroom, creating a digitalization process that meets the needs of students, staff, and teachers in practical ways can be a daunting prospect.
Herold notes: “But a significant body of research has also made clear that most teachers have been slow to transform the ways they teach, despite the influx of new technology into their classrooms. There remains limited evidence to show that technology and online learning are improving learning outcomes for most students. And academics and parents alike have expressed concerns about digital distractions, ways in which unequal access to and use of technology might widen achievement gaps, and more.”
While Herold writes in the context of the public education in the United States, some important facts can be drawn out of his statements for schools around the world considering digitalizing their teaching. The underlying point is this: pedagogy is more important than ever in a world where technology dazzles us with its capabilities and potential for teaching and learning.
1. Content is Still King
As curriculum developers prepare content for e-learning platforms, they must optimize it to take full advantage of technology’s capabilities. Personalized learning plans, game and case scenarios and other engaging ways of presenting material to students should be capitalized upon to ensure that students are mastering individual standards for their grade levels and subjects. Multimedia content that incorporates video and audio helps students to retain more. Practice problem sets or scientific experiments that have students virtually solve real-world or in-the-lab problems are more likely to encourage paying attention than just reading an instructional text or typing in answers.
2. Teachers and Staff Must be Trained
When students are learning on a digital platform, teachers should be well-trained to answer their questions, and how to best utilize technology in general to help them learn. Even when students are at home or in a computer lab, teachers should know how to incorporate the use of technological resources to supplement their students’ learning. While the goal may not be to completely change how teachers teach, it should be to help them use technology to the advantage of their students as they prepare them for the 21st century.
In 2010 researchers Peggy A. Ertmer of Purdue University and Anne T. Ottenbreit-Leftwich of Indiana University, in Bloomington stated that “Many teachers lack an understanding of how educational technology works. But the greater challenge. . .is in expanding teachers’ knowledge of new instructional practices that allow them to select and use the right technology, in the right way, with the right students, for the right purpose.”
3. Students Must be Educated to Use Digital Processes and Best Practices
As technology is utilized more and more to teach students of all ages, they still need to be trained in how to work, research, and study safely online. Student safety is of the utmost importance, and it is imperative the students have basic internet safety skills. Students should also know how to use computers and technology to do their school work as it is necessary for working and living in the 21st century.
When these components are put into place, the digitalization process can be relatively smooth and successful, and benefit teaching and learning alike. When they are not, the entire digitalization process can go awry and cause disagreements and problems among and between staff, teachers, and students.
Finland introduced a new national curriculum in August 2016 including requirement for teacher training program for 21st Century Skills. This program is available through Claned.