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Welcome back to the EdTechist! Today we are going to look at the very heart of educational technology – what is it, what does it include and how can I use it?

When we talk about educational technology, we might immediately think of Zoom (and shudder a little). We might also think of an iPad-something you might be reading this blog on.

While these are correct answers, they only tell a small part of the story.

Educational technology is not just the hardware we use, but also the way in which we use them. Their intent must be “to assist in the communication of knowledge, its development and exchange” (Wikipedia, 2021).

Educational technology is also the way we teach.

When we use educational technology in our classroom, our pedagogy changes. We move into a realm where the possibilities of technology allow us to access new methods of teaching and learning. These new methods provide new opportunities for pupils to learn – often in new ways that can allow them to access learning material in a way (or time) that suits them. It could be a YouTube video on their bus journey home, a podcast where you discuss your lesson material during a revision period, or online access to solutions to problems via a learning platform like Google Classroom, Moodle or Canvas.

 

Educational technology exists to make effective teachers more effective in achieving their goals.

The EdTechist

Educational technology is not here to end the career of teachers. Research clearly shows that AI cannot replace teachers because it cannot care for students the way teachers care for their pupils and are interested in their wellbeing and success. Teachers do not define success as narrow as simple grade boundaries. Educational technology exists to make effective teachers more effective in their job and their lives a little easier.

Educational technology, should also make your job a little bit easier. I know you’d like a whole lot easier, but if you make notes on OneNote, those notes will be available across every device. Content made available online will always be available to students.

Educational technology should also make your subject a lot more interesting. When I was at school, I had to contend with printed teacher notes and acetate (who remembers acetate!?) as the pinnacle of educational technology. But whow does acetate compare to a fully animated and visual telling of how the Battle of Verdun was won, or how the Roman Empire expanded to have a border of 1 million miles?

We’re going to take a look at some of the big areas in Educational Technology and how they can help us in the classroom.

 

Gamification in Educational Technology

 

An image to show a gamer with headphones playing a video game in a darkened room.

Gamification is the process of using gaming as an educational tool. By incorporating gaming technology into the classroom, we can make the process of learning difficult subject matter more accessible, exciting and interactive for the learner. Gamification will typically drip feed information to the player/learner to help them solve problems.

A great example of this is Duolingo. It takes learning a new language – a task that is very complex and can take many months/years to reach a level of competence. By associating difficult tasks with game-like functions, it helps learners to retain the information thy learn.

By gamifying the entire experience, using points, badges, learning streaks and social functions, Duolingo has created an environment that motivates people to learn.

 

Artificial Intelligence in Educational Technology

 

An image to show a robotic hand reaching out to touch a neaural network.

There are a number of applications currently in which AI can perform as well as leading experts, but in education, one application (focusing on the aspect of quick response) is the creation of a student advisory service that was always available to students (24/7/365). This service, based in Australia, answered more than 30,000 questions in the first three months, allowing human staff to handle more complex issues that could not be resolved by AI.

Other areas that could utilise the power of AI is with the personalisation of learning. Students can now have a personalised approach to learning programmes that is based on their own unique experiences and learning preferences.

AI is capable of adapting to each student’s level of knowledge, speed of learning and desired goals so they’re getting the most out of their education. Despite a teacher’s best efforts, we simply don’t ahve the ability to tailor a lesson to (potentially) 30 pupils in a classroom – that wouldn’t stop some of us trying though

Furthermore, AI-powered solutions can analyse a students’ previous learning history, identify individual areas of lowe ability or competence and offer courses best suited for their improvement, providing many opportunities for a personalised learning experience.

 

Augmented and Virtual Reality in Educational Technology

 

An image showing an augmented reality screen on a tablet.

The possibility in these fields for education is that it can enhance teacher instruction while simultaneously building creative and immersive lessons that are engaging for the learner. The applications of AR & VR are endless: walking through Ancient Rome; visiting the Amazon; or deconstructing the Heydron Collider to understand what the scientists there are researching.

 

Putting the ‘Technology’ in Educational Technology

There are very few teachers who would be able to say they have everything together and don’t struggle with time management. Quite simply, we have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

So how can we fix this?

Unfortunately I don’t have a conclusive solution, but I do believe the tools of educational technology can make our lives that bit easier and help us get through our task list that bit quicker. Tools within AI can help to automate tasks and free up some precious time.

Whether we look at online textbooks or fully remote lectures, the advancements in edtech are there to be utilised and taken advatage of. Today, AI can play a role in helping students and teachers optimise and automate both learning and teaching tasks.

Tools like Google Classroom, Moodle or Canvas (online learning platforms) help teachers to publish their classes online and make lesson material available to students when they need it most – outside of the classroom. There is a body of evidence (not that it should be needed) that shows learning happens without the teacher present. I have witnessed this year, my daughter grappling with her learning content in IT and how her class interact with eachother to help learning be achieved. As I am also their teacher, it is doubly satisfying to see this happening. Peer-to-peer learning is a powerful tool when used correctly and usually the best scenario for it to happen is when the teacher is not present.

 

Putting the ‘Education’ in Educational Technology

The teacher is at the very heart of how these tools are used. The teacher must possess the skills, confidence and vision to implement these tools successfully in the classroom. Each teacher knows their students, their needs and what has or has not worked in the past (due to trial and error).

Your pedagogy and subject knowledge should help you to judge not only how, but when these tools can be best used in your classroom. The key here is (to borrow another title for EdTech) is to use technology to enhance learning – not replace it or be just to be seen to be using the latest tools.

Self-guided learning is a lifelong skill that can help learners today to build a lifellong attitude towards learning. New jobs have new requirements and it may be that education hasn’t fully caught up with developing students with these skills and so when a pupil has the motivation and resilience to learn at their own pace, it creates a future employee who will drive the company they work for in innovative development.

 

How can I implement EdTech in my Classroom?

There are two pieces of advice that I would want to give here:

1. Keep it simple.

With keeping it simple, the explanation is hopefully quite obvious – do the simple things well and don’t try too much too soon. Select and use a tool that you can master and use it to enhance what you do in the classroom.

To give an example of this, when I studied A-Level History, my teacher used typewritten notes that had not changed in many years (to the point, that the fade was being photocopied). A practical outcome of this was that I could never get my head around any of the battles we studied in the life of the Duke of Marlborough – Blenheim, Ramilies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet. I simply couldn’t visualise it. Fast forward many years and after visiting Blenheim Palace, I looked up some of the story of the Duke again – YouTube was my friend on this day, as I saw visual representations of the Battle and I could see what was going on immediately, to the point that what I had learned over a decade before suddenly re-activated in the memory!

I know it’s unfair to compare my A-Level teacher in 1998-2000 to the visual behemoth of YouTube, but a simple but hastily drawn map on the whiteboard would have helped to explain how the battle was won. Keeping it simple (even with a hastily drawn battle map) can help every pupil in the room understand what you are trying to teach.

2. Be selective

Look at what is available; what you can realistically learn and what will make the largest impact with minimal input (this is called the 80/20 rule where 80% of the work is achieved by 20% of the work). You don’t need to drown your classes in EdTech. To avoid ‘Death by PowerPoint’, assess and review the areas of your curriculum that could benefit the most from well placed use of technology.

The changes you make might not even be visible in the classroom. I love to use OneNote. It is available across all my devices and is my go to note taker app. Even on a Saturday afternoon, when I’m out with my family, if I have a moment of inspiration, I can make a note of it in OneNote and then forget it until Monday. The thought is stored, the inspiration captured and no fear of forgetting it. This app doesn’t feature in my classroom teaching, but it does impact what I do in the classroom very much.

The key here is to make a change to how you work, that allows you to work better/faster/smarter.

Other apps can be classroom based and again my advice is to keep it simple – be confident in what you can use and don’t worry about the things you can’t – that list is long enough!

You also don’t need to make use of the app in every lesson. Death by PowerPoint can quickly become death by Kahoot!, Wakelet, Explain Everything and so on!

There are quite simply hundreds of applications (that might be a series worth exploring!). These may existed before Covid, but have increased in their relevance and importance since Covid, as a number of school plans have been affected and have required teachers to think on their feet very quickly. Of course for some, geography and finance may also play a role in making it difficult to visit certain places.

Virtual Field Trips

Famous locations are no longer too far away or rely on teacher holidays being carefully chosen! The Empire State Building, Great Barrier Reef can all be explored and visited virtually.

Field trips that are closer to home can be pre-empted with a virtual visit to the location beforehand using tools like Google Maps or Google Earth.

 

 

Participating in a WebQuest

These educational adventures can encourage pupils to locate and reflect on information by adding an element of adventure to the research process. A simple but cross-curricular application would be to make pupils detectives who have to solve the case. This can require them to collect clues about a particular topic by investigating specific sources, web pages and identify clues to help them solve the case.

Podcasting

Playing relevant podcasts, directing students to subject related content or helping them to create their own can be a very useful way to help students develop a real interest in the subject you teach, as well as learn more about it in ways that would not have previously been open to them. Podcasting can introduce pupils to new skills as well as act as a gateway to further skills in IT content creation.

This type of learning can also benefit students with additional needs (sight-based needs, dyslexia or hearing impaired as the content can be played repeatedly) as the content is not page or word-based.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The area of Educational Technology can be all encompassing – particularly when we consider that there are tools that were not initially planned as educational tools, but have been amended and repurposed to help teachers achieve educational goals, on top of those that have a clear educational purpose. Thre are losts of avensues. toexplore and it can benefit you to explore different tools and how these can be used as this will allow you to make a strong decision on what can benefit your classes the most.

The best advice I believe that can be given is to keep it simple and be selective. It’s better to do the simple things well, than the fancy things badly. This was advice that made me an effective but unspectacular defender playing hockey and can has served me well in the classroom.

Let me know in the comments what apps are your go to apps or which ones have you had issues with? And also – if you remember acetate being used in school, what is your best/worst memory of it?

Thanks for stopping by!

The EdTechist

 

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