Most teachers and students were forced into a digital world due to the pandemic. Although it was undoubtedly a difficult situation, and the education system continues to face challenges, it did make education move leaps and bounds. Hybrid learning technology quickly enabled this transition and created a space where all teachers and students could meet on an equal level, regardless of their physical location.
However, it’s important to note the difference between compulsory education and higher education. There is less choice for compulsory education because at the early stage of development, social interactions at school help to develop their sense of self and social skills. Whereas there is more flexibility in higher education.
On the third episode of Midwich Live, our hosts Jenny Hicks, Head of Technology at Midwich Group and Chris Neto, Market Development Manager at Starin (part of the Midwich Group), were joined by two educational specialists. Giancarlo Brotto, Global Education Advisor at SMART and Joe Way, Director of Learning Environments at the University of Southern California discuss how technology has enabled learning in the classroom and remotely.
According to Giancarlo, Covid has been an instigator to consider how learning continues without brick and mortar, and how it should continue post-pandemic. Although many schools already had the technology installed beforehand, teachers had to learn how to leverage the tools to ensure that they are creating and optimising learning experiences that truly add value. This is especially important for remote students, as the content needs to be engaging enough to pull young children away from home distractions such as toys.
Giancarlo adds that further support is needed for our educators to leverage the incredible technologies available. Chris raises an important point, noting that this generation of young students have grown up using technology like iPhones and iPads, thus the transition to a hybrid environment with cameras and touchpads will be fluid for them. Chris argues that this transition is more about teachers learning to use the technology, rather than students learning to use the technology.
However, Giancarlo believes that although students may be familiar with technology, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the classroom. Teachers and students alike need to engage with the technology to add value to the lesson, not just know how to use it. This process involves constant learning and adapting.
Technology plays a role in helping students catch up with the content they have missed but according to Giancarlo:
“A learner’s journey is as valuable as the community that they surround themselves with”
Therefore, everybody in the ecosystem must play a role too, starting with the home and what parents can do to support their learner. SMART can give this support to parents through an organisation called Fonterra which has crowdsourced activities and gamified lessons online. It’s student-centred and designed to help children play, engage and develop their own skills which complement what is happening in the classroom.
At the school level, however, it involves strategic planning. Educators are faced with the task of figuring out what different students in the same school year need. Some learners will have had more learning at home than others, and so educators will have to gauge where their learners are at and create mechanisms to differentiate and support them.
Lastly, the technology industry has a part to play too. Chris believes that the traditional days of teachers standing up at the front of the class and presenting are long gone. Instead, teaching requires engaging and interactive conversation and cameras must be switched on if students are joining remotely.
SMART has been heavily involved in this role as their technology solutions enables teachers to analyse their students and create customisable learning experiences. SMART believes that connections are the most important part of child development and technology can be instigators for this. Covid especially has highlighted that although we have the technology and infrastructure in place, educators and administrators must consider the entire ecosystem to make a true impact.
Jenny questions why education cannot involve personal devices in the classroom going forward. Considering the algorithms of social media such as Tik Tok, if educators can deliver content on the personal device, then those platforms will begin presenting students with learning content outside of the classroom.
To find out more about how SMART education solutions can engage students and empower teachers, click here.
Similarly to retail, the rise of online learning has created competition for physical spaces. Higher education has demonstrated that students can attend university from home. Joe Wray agrees that learning and engaging can be effective in a virtual world however, the 18 to 21-year-old demographic want the physical college and university experience such as building relationships and attending class on campus.
Educators and administrators of higher education are facing the task of leveraging aspects of both physical and digital learning to create a blended learning model.
For more information on blending learning, read here.
Before the pandemic, a lecturer would stand at the front of the room and present a class. Now, educators have realised that not only is this not always possible, but it’s not effective either. Giving content in advance, pre-recording the lecture and posting it on a learning management system allows students to consume the content at a convenient time and it leverages class time for in-depth discussion.
It’s no secret that international students bring in a huge amount of revenue for higher education. Many international students will not be able to return to campus physically and therefore, educators and administrators have had to offer alternatives such as online courses. Recognising the time difference for some students is vital and universities and colleges must cater to these needs.
Joe believes that this presents an opportunity to personalise the learning experience. He suggests taking sections of the class and creating multiple versions of it to facilitate different kinds of students.
Blending learning also brings further possibilities. For example, an archaeologist can do research on the field and teach students digitally at the same time, rather than taking time off for research and coming back to explain it in class.
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