Digital tools are transforming education. In my last article, I discussed how they’re changing not just what we learn, but how. Our centuries-old system of transmitting knowledge has been upended by the tools innovators and educators have developed only recently. With all this power, though, comes choices for the educator.
Before investing in technology, educators must consider several factors. It’s especially important in education that stakeholders find new technology easy-to-use and time-saving. It should ultimately speed up processes instead of slowing them down, though there may be a learning curve. Educational budgets are usually stretched pretty thin, making it even more important to invest in future-proof technology. You should analyse not just your current situation, but also your organisation’s future plans. The most important factors are the needs of the key groups of users.
Students are key players in education. It’s important that they can learn at their own level and enjoy a personalised experience. There have been previous movements, such as Montessori, that focussed on activating student engagement. Digital tools now offer a way to make learning more accessible and engrossing within the traditional educational structure. Learning apps can help students to learn at their own level but can also make the material more interesting and exciting. Instead of just reading a book or listening to a lecture, students can be active participants. They can even work in small groups on specific tasks, then present their input to the whole group. With technology as an adjunct to help keep students of all levels engaged, education can be an active process across the school.
The student is not the only person who will benefit from the use of technology. The role of the teacher has changed and it’s important that schools take this into account. Teachers can be more than a one-way transmitter of information. They can facilitate learning and mentor the student through the learning process. The use of technology makes it easier for teachers to keep track of the student’s learning status, down to specific topics within the lesson. Apps that adjust themselves to the student’s comprehension levels can also report their results to the teacher. This gives teachers a much clearer overview of how their students are responding to the material. They can then give more support to students who are having difficulties with a certain topic. That alone would make any teacher’s task easier. To best integrate technology, however, teachers need more than just a technical training on how to use the tools. Teachers need to be able to work with a pedagogical expert who can help them adapt their teaching philosophies and practices with the tools now available to them.
In an ideal world, IT managers would spend most of their time on providing good tools for everyone in the organisation. They want to spend their time on developing and sourcing, not on managing and patching the existing system. Today’s technology makes it easier for IT managers operate from anywhere, so they’re less likely to have to fix problems on location. They can spend more time planning strategy and less time solving problems in different classrooms. Sometimes, it can be helpful when the IT department provides trainings for system users. This prevents many questions in the implementation phase and can be helpful for the less tech-savvy people. In this way, the IT manager can be the most powerful stakeholder. The time they spend training people during implementation will echo through the life of the system.
Most of the time, the decision maker is the board of the school or the director. These are the people thinking about the bigger picture. Investing in technology can improve the quality of the education offered, which improves the image of the school. The decision makers are the ones that should consider the future aspects: what are our plans for the future and what kind of technology would be helpful for that? In our modern environment, freedom and personalisation are becoming more and more important. Schools should provide students with the possibilities to learn in a way that is specific to them. The school should strive to be future-proof.
Each stakeholder has different needs and hopes from the evolving technology. All should be considered as the education sector embraces new digital tools.
Niina Halonen (Master degrees in Education and in International Entrepreneurship) is a Business Development Manager at LG Electronics, focusing on education customers’ needs in Europe. Researching Technology-mediated collaborative knowledge building processes and ability to renewal as a part of her phD studies at the University of Helsinki.