Australia saw the greatest surge in the use of ed-tech tools globally during COVID-19 with a staggering 190% increase, according to a new global report.
However, while edtech adoption has skyrocketed, the move to remote learning has been inconsistent, presenting key learnings for schools across all three sectors.
The ‘Lockdown and beyond: Learning in a changing landscape’ report by Texthelp examined how schools in Australia, the US and UK approached the challenges posed by the pandemic, and the role that technology played during this time.
The study also revealed how lockdowns in each country have deepened existing long-term problems and inequalities in education systems.
According to new data by UNESC, by the end of April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the shut-down of educational institutions in 181 countries affecting 73.5% of enrolled learners.
Additionally, international evidence suggests that engagement with remote and online learning has been inconsistent at best.
A report by the Grattan Institute found that just 35% of Australian teachers were confident their students were learning well in remote learning. And in the UK, on average children spent only 2.5 hours each day doing either offline or online schoolwork, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Below, The Educator speaks to Greg O'Connor, Asia-Pacific Ed-Tech Manager at Texthelp, to find out more about the report and its implications for Australian schools moving forward.
TE: What do you believe facilitated Australia’s massive ed-tech adoption compared to other countries?
Australia has traditionally been slower to adopt ed-tech tools than the UK and USA but amid the pandemic, education institutions were forced to adapt and find new ways to address this loss in learning. It became a choice to adopt new methods or stall student education further. While ed-tech adoption may have traditionally been slower here, it’s positive to see that much of the education sector is now recognising the value of such tools as we continue to rethink the way we structure the classroom – be it online, physically, or a mix of both.
TE: Drawing from the work you’ve done in Australian schools, what have you learned about what elements of edtech are most important in teaching and learning?
One of the key learnings focuses on the teacher workload which has skyrocketed amid the pandemic. So much of a teacher’s time is eaten up by marking but often, with so many children operating at different levels within a classroom, it can be challenging to have one means of marking work. Ed-tech tools that remove marking subjectivity for key elements, such as sentence structure and fluency, allow English teachers to measure progress and provide tailored feedback as well as freeing up their time to improve the actual teaching. The other key revelation is on student motivation and the vital role this plays, especially when it comes to writing. There’s currently much discussion in New South Wales surrounding why we’ve seen the decline of writing and literacy skills. But what I’ve learned is that empowering students to take charge of their own learning can play a key role in boosting learning outcomes because of the link to motivation. We’re currently witnessing a shift in the education sphere, from teaching-led learning to a more student-centric approach, which helps to improve wellbeing and ultimately, prepare students for their future career.
TE: The report found that 80% of teachers believe students will need additional support when returning back to the physical classroom. In your view, what role can technology play in providing this support?
Over the past six months, we’ve witnessed the vital role that technology can play in connecting students to the virtual classroom but the next step is about choosing the right tools for the right reasons. Adopting ed-tech is not a tickbox scenario: it’s a case of continual adjustment, training and improvement, with upskilling teachers being an integral part of this. With this in mind, educators should focus on three key elements to support their choice of digital tools going forward - student motivation, student wellbeing and teacher workload. Ultimately, data-driven and technology-based education solutions can play a key role in providing the vital support needed, but it’s a case of choosing tools that hone in on the elements that make a real difference.