With the explosion of technology in recent years, it would not be misleading to say the ways in which we communicate, work and socialise have been completely transformed. The same can be said for education. Educators are increasingly finding themselves trying to keep pace with their students and use the latest technology in their teaching efforts.
In order for schools to maintain a place at the top of the innovation tree, technology needs to be embraced and accepted in an education environment.
So, what can schools do to avoid being left behind?
It is a hot topic for education, but children across the nation are become increasingly social network savvy, spending hours conversing and interacting with their peers from the comfort of their own homes. Despite the stereotype, using social media in schools does not have to be scary. Teachers across the nation are increasingly taking advantage of students’ social media skills and have started to incorporate it in the classroom. A good example is the way teachers are engaging students who are shy about participating in traditional classroom discussions, but who enjoy communicating online. Using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allows students to mingle with each other in a fun and familiar way. Educators are recognising that social media is the primary way in which young people communicate. Young people rely on the internet for news, social interaction, entertainment and education. They want their information fast and at their fingertips.
Special Education Needs
One of the many challenges of mainstreaming those with special needs is accurately identifying how to make them feel comfortable in their environment, whilst also recognising the tools that will aid their learning. Technology is available today to assist students with cognitive, physical, psychological and learning issues on multiple levels. There really is no limit to what technology in special education classrooms can accomplish. A vast range of apps are available – some of which have been designed for use in the classroom environment; ‘Guided Access’ for instance, helps children with Autism. There is ‘Speak Selection’ for those with difficulties spelling and ‘Safari Reader’ from Apple which reduces the visual clutter on a website by removing distractions, helping the students with concentration worries to navigate the page more easily. Educators committed to raising academic standards and promoting equality have acknowledged that students with special needs face a stigma, particularly when segregated from their peers – something which technology has the potential to fight.
The ‘Flipped’ Classroom
The concept of a flipped classroom can cause apprehension amongst education providers but it really is very simple. Lessons are recorded; usually either with an accompanying slide show or demonstration and then made available online for students to listen to or watch at home. The lesson is assigned as homework and the traditional “homework” follow-up tasks are completed in class. This frees up classroom time and allows teachers to help their students, not just talk at them. It gives the student the responsibility of teaching themselves whilst the teacher uses their lesson time to solve the problems their students face – eliminating the need for them to face it alone at home.
Many schools are looking to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to give students and staff access to personal devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones in classrooms. As technology becomes more and more affordable, students will increasingly have access to internet enabled devices at home for learning. There are obvious benefits that come with implementing this in your schools – it is cheaper, modern and it makes things accessible – but perhaps the greatest advantage will be for the students themselves. They are familiar with the device that they will use and will feel comfortable in working with it on school projects, communication and homework. On the flip-side, there are of course, security and safety risks involved, as well as the possibility of alienating children with no access to the required resources – considerations which will need to be discussed with your senior management and governors.
Gamification, defined as the use of game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviours, has found its way into our schools. Any teacher can understand how hard engaging and satisfying a student’s needs actually is and so gamification seems to provide a perfect tool to grab and retain attention. The ‘gamers’ can recognise the value of extended practice, and develop personal qualities such as persistence, creativity, and resilience. It can allow strategy games and could harness the motivational power of games and apply it to real-world problems. Gaming does not have to be confined to the home – it can be utilised in schools too.
In short, technology does not have to threaten jobs or scare our teachers. When used correctly, it can aid them in providing the very best teaching methods.