Principals should be rethinking ed-tech in 2021 – expert

Principals should be rethinking ed-tech in 2021 – expert

A growing body of research shows that the use of mobile phones in classrooms is having a detrimental impact on students’ learning outcomes, leading to calls for a greater focus on the resources and evidence-based practices that were helping kids learn perfectly well before the proliferation of digital devices in classrooms.

However, the remote learning period demonstrated that when digital devices are used in tandem with effective teaching practice, ed-tech can be a wonderful enabler of improved teaching and learning outcomes, whether in a metropolitan suburb or a rural and remote area.  

For some schools, achieving spectacular results through technology remains elusive. In many cases, this is because schools opt for ‘quick fix’ solutions being spruced in the ed-tech market rather than methodically developing a robust technology program that might take longer to establish, but is more likely to work in the long-run.

Tony Maguire, Regional Director Australia and New Zealand at D2L, said principals need to think about the more substantive problems that point solutions don’t resolve and look at partnering with ed-tech providers which have had lived experiences that match the school’s objectives and targets.

“For many schools, COVID-19 responses fixed point problems. However, it often added new layers of complexity within school technology ecosystems without actually addressing the more thorny, persistent problems – those pertaining to pedagogy and outcomes,” Maguire told The Educator.

“For instance, continuous reporting and parental communication is a higher order problem for most schools – and it will be once again this year”.

Maguire said there is also room for a simpler view into learning data.

“The complexity I alluded to previously also means schools often have duplicated data [or more than one ‘source of truth’] and subsequently struggle to effectively report progress against state and national standards and outcomes”.

Hybrid learning: challenges and opportunities

As the dust continues to settle from the mad scramble that was the remote learning period of 2020, there are persistent concerns that hybrid learning may add to stress and anxiety issues being experienced by educators and students.

However, Maguire said John Hattie’s research has given the education sector confidence that remote learning has not led to a lost year.

“My concern is more driven by questions of equitable access for every learner and practical support for teachers, students and families across 2021.

“Despite the mammoth challenge, I am optimistic, largely due to the work of leading local schools which have pragmatically invested in modernising education for its students”.

D2L is currently involved in a continuous reporting project with Wodonga Middle Years College (WMYC) where the aim is to leverage the school’s tech ecosystem to reduce the workload of teachers, encourage more constructive conversations in the school community and support parents in more collaborative engagement with targeted, useful information and updates on learning activities and successes.

“The early signs are promising with the unexpected outcome of generating organic interest within the school community,” Maguire said.

“Change is often hard, but this kind of community-focussed project teaches us how to achieve it effectively”.

Maguire said that while education jurisdictions are making technology more accessible, this kind of hardware support is only part of the solution.

“We have to ensure that the experience is equitable in the students’ day-to-day experience. When we think about mobile-first and demand a fully responsive approach to learning design we can effectively meet learners on their own terms, on their devices like smartphones,” he said.

“This use of the familiar is especially effective in delivering student wellness and resilience programs”.