Are you a teacher looking for new ways to bring learning to life in the classroom? Perhaps you’re exploring alternative approaches to engaging a challenging cohort. Or maybe you just want to know more about the technological trends in teaching and learning?
Today’s pupils are digital natives, having grown up around interactive screens, cloud technologies, and gaming — so using these platforms in the classroom is the logical progression of teaching and learning.
But how do you stop screen time from becoming lean time? And how do you monitor a pupil’s progress while confidently guiding them through a flexible teaching and learning program?
This article explores the technological trends in teaching and learning that deliver excellent results, both for the teacher and the pupil. We’ll explore how tech is used in the classroom at the elementary level and all the way to college and university.
Ready? Let’s explore!
What is education technology?
Education technology (aka EdTech) in the 2020s is the integration of computer hardware and software that enhances learning while boosting a teacher’s ability to deliver content in new and inspiring ways.
EdTech incorporates various digital tools and software to bolster the learning experience, including:
- Online classes/asynchronous learning
- Digital textbooks
- Assistive Music Technology (AMT)
- Cloud tech platforms, like Google Docs
- Learning Management Systems, offering analytics through big tech
- Interactive whiteboards
Most importantly, EdTech needn’t glue pupils to their seats. Indeed, a wide range of compatible, affordable portable devices and desktop computers make the learning experience more engaging.
How has technology affected the teaching and learning process?
EdTech has been used in schools, colleges, and universities for decades, informing and assisting the teaching and learning process in a range of ways:
Learning with technology is more than just using a computer at a desk — partly because this approach excludes some pupils with physical barriers to learning.
Assistive technologies, such as Braille displays, screen readers, and text-to-speech applications, allow students with visual impairments to access the same content as their peers. And voice recognition platforms and alternative input options, such as eye-movement scanners, allow students with physical disabilities to learn at a faster pace.
However, with the wider availability of affordable video conferencing apps, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams , technology can help pupils with geographical or mental health barriers access quality learning.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), offered by various institutions, such as Harvard and Stanford, provide e-learning platforms developed to help learners with physical or geographical barriers engage in learning where they can’t attend face-to-face classes.
And while MOOCs offer broad access to curated learning content, each learner leaves a data trail that helps the platform assess a learner’s progress.
Indeed, back in 2015, 49% of students around the world had taken an online course during their school careers. And when Statista surveyed college students the following year, 81% claimed that engaging in digital learning technologies had helped boost their grades.
Virtual and Augmented Reality, gamification, and multimedia presentations, help make learning more interactive and engaging, bringing complex concepts to life in fun and accessible ways.
For example, a study at Japan’s Saga University identified that students learning with a VR headset showed over five times more brain activity through EEG than those learning in traditional classroom environments. The researchers concluded that VR alleviated boredom and distractions, permitting a greater focus on learning.
It can be challenging for one teacher to monitor the learning of a large group of students. It can be more difficult still to differentiate teaching to accommodate every student’s individual learning style.
However, adaptive learning technologies facilitate personalized learning experiences, accommodating the pace of individual progress. This permits teaching staff to effectively control course content to cater to individual student’s needs.
Adaptive learning allows for greater personalization in teaching to accommodate the broad range of learning styles in an individual classroom.
Examples of adaptive learning strategies include:
- Online quizzes that pupils complete at their own rate while reporting outcomes to teachers through a central database.
- Blackboard/Moodle platforms for storing and accessing learning content. Set tasks and assess them (with TurnItIn integration), and deliver grades – all in-platform. The perfect solution to cross-campus integration.
Cloud platforms, such as Google Docs, make student collaboration more straightforward, allowing groups to work together on projects, peer review, and share ideas — in real time.
Google Docs works through a basic web browser, offering free access to powerful word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software that’s simultaneously accessible by multiple users, enhancing the experience of distance learning and collaboration.
Additionally, in Chromium browsers, such as Chrome and Microsoft Edge, students can use the integrated Google Meet facility for real-time video conferencing as they work.
Video-assisted- and asynchronous learning
Asynchronous learning permits the learner and teacher to engage with course content from different locations at different times. And while this is typically suited to Higher Education, interactive video content helps students of all ages and levels gain greater control over their learning.
Platforms such as Stornaway allow teachers to create interactive video content controlled by the learner without any coding or prior experience.
And while there’s no true substitute for face-to-face delivery, video-assisted learning helps pupils and students with barriers to learning engage more fully in their education.
Potential problems with asynchronous learning
Of course, classroom teaching is so satisfying for many of us because we’re in the room with our students, allowing us to monitor progress and development through social interaction. And — for many — delivering classes over Zoom or Teams offers a whole new world of challenge in terms of engagement.
So, while asynchronous learning isn’t for every teacher or pupil, it’s essential for engaging hard-to-reach or at-risk pupils.
The digital divide
Of course, this all relies on learners having access to the appropriate equipment and internet access — and children of families on the wrong side of the digital divide are more likely to miss out on the benefits of EdTech.
Indeed, Stone Group/Sec Ed identified that the digital divide is a principal barrier to the effective integration of EdTech in schools. And while Ofcom in the UK identified that 99% of school-age children are able to access the internet at home, just under half had a personal tablet or laptop.
So, while embracing EdTech is a step forward in classroom learning, there are some issues to consider:
- All online resources should be compatible with a range of devices, like smartphones and tablet browsers
- Some schools may need to divert funding to loan appropriate tech to most-in-need learners
- Using creative approaches, such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), helps free up essential school tech resources for students who need them most.
The printed word goes out of date, giving hardcopy textbooks in-built obsolescence. Indeed, facts evolve as scientists and experts continue to research and discover, making old texts redundant.
Digital libraries are innately updatable because these platforms often bake updates into their lending license, meaning that your digital library receives the latest version as soon as a new edition is released.
And, of course, using Kindles, eReader apps, and electronic desktop content means students no longer need to cart heavy textbooks around the school in their bags.
Digital textbooks for learning difficulties
One of the principal benefits of digital content is the ability to change the font and display settings to accommodate conditions such as scotopic sensitivity (an optical problem causing visual disturbance and discomfort).
Font types like OpenDyslexic help overcome the visual disturbances people with scotopic sensitivity suffer. Indeed, the versatility of digital textbooks makes books and reading more accessible for all.
Gamification in Education
Incorporating gaming dynamics into the learning environment is an excellent way to encourage pupils to develop crucial cognitive skills, such as creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.
However, educational gamification also boosts something often lacking in some classroom environments: fun.
What is educational gamification?
Gamification is a learning strategy that aims to make typically dry learning content more engaging by incorporating the addictive features of video games, such as competition, the thrill of winning, and the challenge of exploring and orienting oneself around a new game environment.
From basic quizzes to flashcards, goal-setting challenges, and virtual treasure hunts, gamifying learning content provides deeper engagement for learners of all ages.
Educational gamification incorporates:
- Attractive, colorful cartoon-like graphics for young audiences
- Challenging puzzles that rely on logic, step-learning, problem-solving, and reward
- Attainment levels, allowing pupils to progress while recognizing achievement
How to create gamified content
One of the most fun ways to gamify learning content is with coding — allowing pupils to learn the principles of and manipulate code that builds personalized games and interactive content.
Kids love to code because the results are immediate — they can see the outcome of their efforts with a tangible game or program they can share with their friends.
For example, CodeMonkey uses curated programming games to teach children a structured approach to developing coding skills. With fun and discovery at the heart of the experience, CodeMonkey’s award-winning platform helps children learn real coding languages, such as Python and CoffeeScript.
Additionally, Kahoot! is a learning game platform with ready-made and customizable content that gets learners actively engaging in games. The wide range of available activities helps develop a pupil’s key skills and knowledge base, with a back-end that allows teachers to monitor progress.
Assistive Music Technologies
Music education has long revolved around traditional acoustic instruments, such as pianos, violins, flutes, guitars, drums, and — god forbid! — recorders and xylophones.
As a medium of learning, these instruments are exclusive, expensive, and alienating, requiring a high level of physical dexterity that excludes most students, especially those with physical- or learning difficulties.
And, let’s face it, traditional instruments are loud and potentially painful to listen to!
Thankfully, music technology has changed all of that: it’s now possible for students to explore their creative musicality through:
- Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), such as GarageBand, Logic, or Cubase — are accessible through desktop computers, tablets, and even smartphones.
- Digital instruments, such as soft synths on touchscreens
- Assistive music devices like the Makey Makey, SoundBeam, Theremini, and Skoog.
Now, every student can make music without the skills typically required to play an instrument. Using synths, DAWs, and software, any learner can interact with music in a way never before possible.
Drake Music’s Assistive Music Technology (AMT) programs
Based in the UK, Drake Music is recognized as a leader in accessible music education, facilitating learning and creative expression for disabled students who have previously been excluded from traditional music-making.
They send trained project facilitators to SEN schools around the UK, working with the individual needs of each student cohort to create a musical performance that the group shares with the rest of the school.
Drake uses a range of AMT instruments designed to make playing, composition, and performance possible, including:
- Makey Makey — a controller that transforms everyday materials (like bananas and PlayDough) into a musical instrument, computer controller, or coding tool.
- SoundBeam — a touch-free musical device designed to transform bodily movements into sounds and music, using a sonic beam that allows learners to interact with the virtual instrument in three dimensions.
- Theremini — we’re all familiar with that famous Theremin sound (as famously featured on the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations). The Theremini is the portable version, allowing players to interact in space around an electrically charged aerial.
Drake Music has pioneered or championed many of these experimental instruments, developing a reputation as innovators who have opened up creative learning possibilities for all students.
Learning Management Systems
All teachers have a finite timetable, but that doesn’t stop institutions from expecting greater output. And this is where learning technology platforms and management systems help teachers win back time and manage their workload more efficiently.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard and Moodle allow teachers to automate admin tasks, such as automated grading and marking, while tracking student progress and delivering timely feedback.
LMSs facilitate the fast design and delivery of learning programs while building course libraries that reinforce content differentiation. Additionally, content management systems offer real-time monitoring of student progress.
Of course, this will never replace the need for teachers in classrooms, but it helps reinforce self-study and student project work.
Examples of LMSs
Here are some of the most popular Learning Management Systems currently available:
- Schoology — A Facebook-like platform focusing on K-12 schools
- ItsLearning — with an extensive content library to help quickly create new course content.
- Kadenze — a video platform for lectures and scheduled conferencing aimed at Higher Education.
The humble chalkboard has been an enduring piece of classroom equipment. However, interactive whiteboards have brought the medium into the 21st century, with touchscreens that deliver a traditional chalk-n-talk palette capable of:
- Displaying video content directly from the web, a computer, or a USB drive.
- Mirroring the teacher’s laptop/tablet/smartphone/desktop computer for controlling presentations, demonstrating software, and sharing educational content.
- Displaying and interacting with web content
For example, in a lecture about screenplay writing, a teacher could use a presentation to guide their session, share examples of screenplays for the class to see, and display the associated video content — seamlessly on the same whiteboard.
Interactive whiteboards offer teachers a way to bring their content to life, using a range of mediums to engage their class.
Technological trends in teaching and learning
Technology and education are inevitable bedfellows because contemporary pupils are digital natives. Bring your lessons to life with interactive whiteboards, digital textbooks, and gamification platforms that make learning intuitive, fun, and memorable.
And manage your workload better with Learning Management Systems that help alleviate some of the most common pressures of the job.
Thanks for reading!