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Edtech – 6 ways to use it that will actually boost learning

We’ve all had to embrace technology this year, but what deserves to endure even now children are back in the classroom, asks Daisy Christodoulou...

  • Edtech – 6 ways to use it that will actually boost learning

1 | Flashcards

Flashcards are an old idea that’s been given a new lease of life by technology. It’s now much easier to create or download sets of flashcards that you can share with all of your students, and reuse with different classes.

There are also plenty of platforms that let you copy and adapt flashcards created by other teachers. It’s obvious how flashcards can work for subjects like modern foreign languages and history, but they can really help in other subjects too.

You can download art decks that have beautiful examples of different techniques, or summary decks of popular class readers.

2 | Spaced repetition

Online flashcards also make it easier to use one of the most powerful of all learning techniques: spaced repetition.

Research shows that the best time to revise material is when you are just about to forget it, and that the effort of recalling something from memory actually helps to improve the memory. Hence the term ‘spaced repetition’, because it is best to space out your repetitions of the material, rather than cram it all into one revision session.

Flashcard platforms like Quizlet do this automatically, serving up particular flashcards on an ideal, spaced-out schedule.

3 | Dumber devices

We are accustomed to always wanting more powerful and smarter computers, laptops and phones. But there are increasing suggestions that we should try to limit some of the functionality of our devices. That’s because a lot of modern websites and apps are designed to be distracting, and to steal our attention.

Attention is the currency of learning, and anything that makes it harder to focus makes it harder to learn. There are a number of app-blockers and timers that block certain websites or set time limits for them. And we should also think carefully about the role of mobile phones, which research shows are particularly distracting.

4 | Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning platforms personalise the content a student sees based on their understanding of previous content. For example, language learning apps like Duolingo and Memrise give students more practise on the items they find difficult.

Some of the insights from these apps are useful for teachers, too, as they can tell you the types of questions that all pupils find particularly difficult.

5 | Multimedia learning

Technology makes it easier for us to create resources that use words, images and videos. Combining media like this helps us to learn better – but only when it is done in the right way. The go-to research on this is by Richard Mayer, a psychology professor who’s written entire books about it.

But if that’s too overwhelming, you can download resources that already employ these principles. One of the best examples is the online course ‘Learning how to learn: powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects’.

The adult course is one of the world’s most popular online courses, and there’s a newer children’s version too. As well as teaching the principles of how we learn, it’s also designed to embody the principles of good multimedia learning.

6 | Comparative judgement

Traditionally, when we assess extended writing, we mark each piece against a mark scheme. Comparative judgement is different: you look at two pieces of writing, and decide which is better. You make a series of decisions like this, as do your colleagues.

All the decisions are then combined together to provide a measurement scale for every piece of writing. Comparative judgement is quicker and more reliable than traditional marking. It allows for more holistic judgements too, which can improve the way that writing is taught.

Daisy Christodoulou is director of education at No More Marking and author of three books about education: Teachers Vs Tech; Making Good Progress and Seven Myths about Education. Follow her on Twitter at @daisychristo and visit her website at daisychristodoulou.com.

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