Improved classroom technology can lead to better outcomes, says Craig Scott – but only if it’s developed with real understanding of the pedagogical process…
As the edtech industry grows, so too has the adoption of new and innovative forms of classroom resources. Whilst this is a necessary and positive step in contemporary education, care must be taken to ensure that the adoption of tech in the classroom is in fact improving the teaching process for both students and teachers. Our teachers are already under extreme pressure, edtech should not be another burden for teachers it should in fact be a solution to the pressures they face.
You often see calls for teachers to be upskilled appropriately so they can effectively incorporate this tech into their classroom. This is the wrong perspective; edtech is meant to free up teacher’s time, and as such, any tech adopted into classrooms should be enabling the teacher, not adding to their workload.
It is critical that edtech is designed with pedagogical methods in mind. Teachers and students should be at the forefront of the design process. You may create a highly intelligent digital infrastructure that in theory has the potential to revolutionise the classroom, but if in practice it is so complicated that time in class is taken up mostly with trying to understand it, then it is not serving its purpose.
Therefore, the main focus of edtech providers should be on how to enable the teacher to teach in the way that they believe is most effective for their class – meaning that the technology must be adaptive and not prescriptive.
A matter of time
Edtech cannot be developed in isolation from the needs of the educator. A large obstacle in the way of implementation is the apprehension teachers feel about the role of technology in the classroom. The best method of overcoming this is to work with the teachers who will have to use this technology, to ensure that it is user friendly and serving its designated purpose. The aim of the technology must be to serve as an easy-to-use-tool for teachers.
Teaching involves a great deal of work outside of the classroom, which piles up avoidable strain onto teachers. This is where edtech providers should be working with educators to find out how they can create products that will alleviate these unnecessary strains. The needs of the teachers must be taken into account at every stage during the research and development of edtech, to ensure that the end user is being catered for.
The actions taken can be as simple as building in an AI writing function into the tablets the students work from, which allows for messy handwriting to be transformed into easily legible text, or creating a holistic edtech ecosystem that prioritises compatibility and knowledge-sharing for ease of use. This means that when teachers are looking over a student’s work, they won’t have to spend a large portion of their time deciphering what it says before they can assess the content. Small functions like these lighten the burden on teachers, and edtech providers should be striving to incorporate these into products, not creating products that add to teachers’ already cumbersome workload.
Teachers spend a large amount of time just preparing for lessons – from finding videos that appropriately demonstrate certain topics in class to gathering the information and class materials that they need for each lesson. Edtech has the ability to radically reduce the time spent on these activities, from providing access to a wide range of educational videos to saving the class activity from the previous lesson so that it is immediately accessible next lesson.
Edtech can even mark students’ progress, and therefore cut back on the time teachers are having to spend marking work at home. There are many ways in which technology in the classroom can help reduce the burden on teachers’ time, which is an important step towards safeguarding the wellbeing of our educators and facilitating their ability to meet the needs of their students.
Edtech should also aim to help create a more fluid and adaptive classroom structure. Teachers can then utilise this to test out different dynamics to assess which is the most effective for their classroom. Each class will have different needs, which is why the technology itself must be highly adaptive and easy to use. This is at the heart of the more socially responsible technological developments; a personalised experience that really addresses the different needs of the user.
The adoption of technology into the classroom is increasingly enabling teachers to step away from the traditional lecture style structure. It is no longer about simply dispensing information; edtech allows for information to be provided prior to the lesson, enabling classroom time to focus on the expansion and exploration of that knowledge. If a teacher is not having to use their time to recite information, they can shift their focus instead to ensuring that their students are engaging with it, and are developing a real understanding of the learning materials.
Having students come into class already prepped with an understanding of what they are learning that day allows the teacher to focus on what each individual student is struggling with; which not only allows for more effective classroom time but it also means homework tasks can be targeted so that the learner is going home to work on the topics that they actually need to improve on, rather than a general task set for the whole class.
Ultimately, allowing for a more personalised experience for each student is going to allow for far greater student progression. It is widely acknowledged that students learn at different paces and, as such, need individualised support in order to optimise their learning. Enabling teachers to provide this 1:1 support should therefore be at the heart of edtech product development.
Knowing its place
Whilst technology should free up the time of the teacher, it must not attempt to take over their role.
To reduce the teacher’s role to simply being a facilitator of the technology would be deeply irresponsible and would not serve the interests of the students. Education technology should only be developed to assist the teacher in providing the very best educational experience they can to their students.
As such, rather than getting over excited about what this technology can do, edtech should be concerned with what it ought to be doing. Only by working and consulting with educators and students themselves can edtech providers understand what functions their products should be fulfilling. The development of this technology is incredibly exciting and has the scope to dramatically improve the experience of both the teachers and the students if developed sensitively and responsibly.
Only once we can demonstrate that we really are working towards tailoring our technology to the needs of the teacher and their class will we be likely to see the full adoption of edtech in classrooms. Therefore, first and foremost, we must ensure products are being created that are intuitive enough to be adopted into learning environments immediately, not products that require educators to take up even more of their time on learning how to use them.
Craig Scott is VP of technology at ViewSonic.