Education, the learning experience, and the achievement of learning is a complex ecosystem that includes learning materials, pedagogy, teacher training and engagement, learner participation, focus, determination, and many other factors.
The question of technology enhanced learning involves using technology as an effective tool to not only support but improve the experience and outcome. Technology driven or online learning should not be viewed as a complete solution. Rather, it is a modern tool that has a lot to offer by way of optimising efforts in education. Online education is not a new concept, and it is underpinned by substantial academic research and the accompanying rigorous development that ensures students are positioned to benefit. Importantly, educators recognise that to be effective online education goes way beyond delivering content in a digital format. Pedagogy, which refers to the theories, effective instructional design, methods, and practices and processes used to facilitate learning are specific to the online environment and therefore they must be understood and embraced. Teachers continue to play a core role in the facilitation of learning and are not set to be replaced by some misguided idea of a digital solution that removes the human element of knowledge and skills transfer.
Therefore, schools that are considering stepping into the space of technology, particularly online education solutions need to consider the objectives of doing so. It must be more about achieving improved and continuous learning than about ticking the box of entering the digital world. With a clear understanding of how technology can support learning, a school can assess if it will support the school’s specific objectives. From there the school needs to consider technology readiness and teacher training requirements.
Critical question 1: How can technology support the objectives of my school?
Critical question 2: How “ready” is my school to embrace technology and what training will my teaching staff require?
So, how can technology support learning?
- Technology by way of an AI online learning platform, supported by the correct research and development, offers enormous potential to improve efficiencies and achieve deep learning.
- Technology can be used to provide learners with a customised package of learning materials, resources, activities, revision, and assessments.
- Individual progress can be monitored in real time enabling teachers to provide assistance and intervention on a personalised basis, as and when necessary.
- Technology enables teachers to clearly identify learning gaps and implement a remedial plan that is tailored to address the specific requirements of the individual learner.
- Students can work at a pace that suits them and enables them to dedicate enough time on task to achieve mastery.
- Technology creates a learning environment that is relevant to the modern child and the future that they are preparing for. Learning becomes meaningful and even fun as learners are kept engaged and challenged.
- Increasingly, learners can discover new information and even participate in knowledge creation. A process that is not easily achieved outside of technology.
The goal of education should be to equip learners to actively participate and contribute to a fast-changing world where continuous learning is essential. The inter-connected world raises the concept of Global citizenry where everyone can achieve their potential and take accountability for their own learning and contribution.
Critical question 2 requires that schools reflect on their own readiness in context of understanding the technological and HR requirements of an online learning environment.
Simply having access to technology is not enough. Teachers must be trained to effectively integrate technology into their teaching practices. This requires that they are updated with online learning pedagogies, equipped with a proven online learning platform, and trained in the effective use of these new classroom tools. Ongoing professional development is essential and support in the process will alleviate concerns harboured by teachers who are required to lead us through a transition in education.
A holistic approach to technology enhanced learning must also consider the social and emotional needs of learners. Schools embracing technology must see it as only one element of the ecosystem. The role of parents, families, teachers, and communities becomes increasingly important in providing the relational foundation and social learning environment that we as relational beings will continue to need in order to thrive. It is in community that young learners will witness and emulate the social behaviour of role models. Inspiring the development of positive characteristics and an ethical value system must continue to be at the heart of any education programme. Collaboration, teamwork, teacher engagement, relationship building, and community are critical and can be achieved in an environment where technology is used to enhance education. Finally, schools must establish clear guidelines for the responsible and ethical use of technology, and to provide teachers and learners with support and resources to help them develop healthy digital habits.
In conclusion, a holistic approach to technology enhanced learning at the school level involves considering all aspects of the educational experience and using technology as a tool, among others, to support and enhance that experience. This approach requires the collaboration of educators, students, families, and communities, and it requires a commitment to ongoing professional development and support for teachers. Effective education is learner centred. By taking a holistic approach that places the learner at the centre, schools can create learning environments that are engaging, supportive, and designed to help learners succeed in a digital age.
By Bridget Ward – Accelerated Education Enterprises (Group Product Development and Marketing Officer)