Education is undergoing something of a revolution. More children are learning in remote environments than ever before, and skills like penmanship and public speaking are being replaced with digital literacy lessons.
These changes can help more children gain access to high-quality education and ensure that students are competent with the tech they’ll need to succeed in life.
However, teachers shouldn’t throw out their lesson plans altogether to meet the requirements of the digital age. Instead, teachers must strive to incorporate ed tech in their existing pedagogy to support children’s creativity, communication, and collaboration.
Creativity plays an integral role in students’ development as learners and members of society. According to Youth.Gov — a federal organization designed to promote the wellbeing and success of young people — the students of today must be able to problem-solve in a “variety of ways and settings” and should be able to create unique solutions based on data, facts, and pre-existing knowledge.
Teachers can help students become creative, critical thinkers by incorporating ed-tech into their lesson plans. For example, teachers can encourage creativity by allowing students to present their research and insights on a platform like Canva, Prezi, or Google Slides instead of the traditional 5 paragraph essay format. This will encourage students to approach their research differently and will give them an opportunity to work creatively in a digital sphere.
Of course, some students will struggle to change their approach and may find the use of ed-tech overwhelming. Teachers can support these students by reminding them of what they know through the use of educational mind maps. Mind maps can be created digitally, and help students “see” what they’ve learned via visualization. By slowing down, and using simple mind-maps, teachers can help students build their confidence and communicate clearly.
Communication has always been a vital soft skill for teachers and learners alike. However, communication in the digital era looks a little different than it did 20 years ago. According to a Gallup Panel, 45% of US employees work remotely at least some of the time, and 67% of white-collar jobs are now completed remotely. As such, the students of today need to understand how to communicate effectively even if their teammates and coworkers are hundreds of miles away.
Facilitating a remote-communication environment in the classroom is tricky, but teachers can lean on the growth of eSports to help develop communication skills in students. ESports cultivate teamwork as games like Fortnite and Rocket League force players to communicate clearly and effectively to achieve success. These skills transfer into the real world, too, where students are required to complete complex tasks while remaining clear and consistent in their communication strategies.
Of course, teachers can’t just sit back and allow their students to play League of Legends for the entire class period. Instead, teachers can encourage students to talk about, and even research, their favorite games and how they help develop soft skills like communication. For example, a writing course might culminate in a project where students record their play session, then analyze their communication to illustrate their understanding of key rhetorical concepts.
Group projects are a staple of every student’s educational journey. That’s because, despite students’ general reluctance around group projects, collaboration is one of the most important skills for the 21st century. However, most group projects are infamous for unequal workloads and unfair recognition, as some students invariably do all the work while others sit back and take it easy.
However, ed-tech has the potential to change the narrative around group work. That’s because most ed-tech programs operate on cloud-like systems which track users’ work and allow teachers to see who, exactly, has done what. This means that it’s easy to distinguish star students from those who need a helping hand. It also shows students that collaboration can be equitable, and will motivate them to put more effort into group projects in the future.
Ed-Tech at Home
Teachers who use ed-tech in their classrooms can bolster the impact that their lessons have on students by encouraging parent buy-in at home. Students are far more receptive to learning if their parents are supportive of education, but creating enthusiasm for ed-tech at home might be a challenge. This is because ed-tech can appear to be a waste of time to parents who don’t yet understand its value.
Teachers can help parents understand the value of technology-based pedagogy by emphasizing the importance of digital parenting. Kids spend more time socializing and playing in digital realms than ever before, so parents need to know how to ensure that their children are staying safe. This means they need to be aware of emerging ed-tech and the best practices for digital learning and safety.
Teachers can introduce parents to some of the top ed-tech trends through syllabi, emails, and parent-teacher conferences. All of the top trends today are aimed at creating virtual or augmented realities through VR headsets, AR glasses, and 3D printing. Teachers can encourage parents to explore these trends at home and can foster digital literacy by providing need-to-know information about education, safety, and emerging ed-tech.
Ed-tech has the potential to help teachers deliver better lessons and support the development of students’ creativity, communication, and collaboration skills. Teachers who are interested in using ed-tech can start small, with classroom activities that use familiar programs like Google Docs or Canva. Teachers who want to take ed-tech a step further should encourage healthy digital literacy practices at home, where parents can help oversee students’ development.