Technologies are changing our everyday lives, including children’s classrooms. Swiping a tablet and googling for answers do not feel new to students of any age. While some teachers accept these changes and benefit from them, others are still on the way to embracing an advanced learning experience.
EdTech (Educational Technology) is here to transform modern classrooms and change the traditional approach to education. This trend is already evolving: as of 2018, 48% of students globally used desktop computers in the classroom and 33% – smartboards.
In this article, we will illustrate how both educators and learners can benefit from digitization and will explain how to start the transformation from scratch.
The first and foremost task of EdTech solutions is to make lessons interesting, fun, and, more importantly, understandable for students. This is how technologies help achieve it.
1. Visual information
How can one easily understand abstract concepts? By trying to imagine them or actually seeing them on the screen. Objects come to life; children can manipulate them in different ways and, subsequently, understand lessons better.
Such apps as RelationShapes are created just for that. This solution demonstrates how objects relate to one another, and users can drag, rotate, and scale any object they see. There are eight levels of activities that eventually give a student a complete understanding of a certain concept.
Read also: Augmented Reality in Education
AR is another innovation that will transform education as we know it. Amazing Space Journey will take students far from home and help them explore planets, stars, and satellites. With the help of the AR feature, space objects can appear on the palm of your hand.
Providing detailed, personalized feedback from a teacher is impossible in a crowded classroom. However, it is a piece of cake for educational technologies. Learning applications support learners, guide them through the lesson, and keep children attentive.
Zapzapmath School is another app geared toward playing and learning. While children are playing, teachers are tracking their progress via a dashboard. The app includes math games for learners from Kindergarten up to Grade 6.
3. Creativity & communication
Learning together and understanding each other – this is an image of a perfect classroom. EdTech makes it easier with whiteboard solutions: students or teachers express themselves in several ways (making presentations, drawing, writing stories), while all others instantly see it on their devices.
For example, Explain Everything is the kind of app where students can sketch, add images, create videos and then share it with classmates. Such solutions are a great tool in offices as well.
Any type of information is at your fingertips when you search the web – the same goes for any type of knowledge. Thanks to educational technologies, learning materials and help from the teacher is always on the laptop screen.
Distance education is a booming trend because students get knowledge and schedule their time easier. Such online learning platforms as Coursera or Udemy are now widely known all over the world and gather thousands of learners under one “roof”.
There are always shier students in the classroom that want to be heard, and EdTech tools make it possible. Common social media websites seem to be the easiest solution, but this is not the safest environment for learners, especially for younger ones. How does EdTech help? It provides platforms that enhance “teacher-student” collaboration.
One of these platforms is Twiducate where teachers create a separate community for the class only. The membership on this website is free and safe for students – teachers control posted materials and allow everyone to get involved in the learning process.
The best thing about educational technologies is that they can be applied to any aspect of the teacher’s work. It is already there and it is marvelous: here are some advantages that teachers can obtain from specific tech solutions.
1. Collaborative education
Teachers need to communicate just like their students to improve and discuss lesson plans. It can be done at school or in any other place with collaborative tools at hand. Improved communication gives way to new ideas and resources to create an exciting learning experience.
Common Curriculum is one of the tools that makes you forget about paperwork. Lesson planning becomes a task for the whole teaching team which improves the educational process and gives valuable insights to every team member.
2. Improved communication with parents
How do teachers communicate with parents? In the traditional education model, parents get grade updates on a sheet of paper or at school meetings; but is it enough? An individual approach should be on the top of the list, but contacting every parent is a challenging and often impossible task. But luckily, we have modern EdTech tools for that.
ParentSquare allows gathering all messaging tools used in the classroom, organizing online conferences, sending urgent alerts and attendance notices, etc.
3. Quicker knowledge assessment
Traditional grading in school requires dozens of papers to be checked by the teacher, and students receive their grades several days thereafter. EdTech in the classroom changes this approach forever: teachers send tests to the students’ devices, and an EdTech app checks the answers and provides analytics within minutes.
With Poll Everywhere, you can add questions to each of your presentations and see if there are any gaps in understanding a lesson.
4. Enhanced management
Now it is time to gather all these innovations in one place – a learning management system (LMS) is exactly what you need. Whether you have decided to create lesson plans online or track the achievements of your students, LMSs are here to help.
NEO is one of the systems which allows uploading learning materials for students (including texts, videos, and audios), creating gradebooks, forums for students, and even tests and quizzes.
5. Paperless classroom
EdTech solutions do not require using paper materials. Copying and printing countless documents plus storing books – all of it means a heavier load for knowledge (a pile of papers weighs more than one tablet) and more harm to the environment.
This is a win-win situation for both students and teachers: students do not have to buy and carry books and docs, while teachers save their time with no need to keep, structure, and look for necessary materials in the paper storage.
Teachers and educators use analytics to move even further and improve the learning experience. Trends and patterns help see the big picture and make certain conclusions about what is happening in the classroom and beyond it.
What are the common components of a traditional classroom education? Sharing information according to the lesson plan, grading, and marking student attendance might be the first things coming to mind. With technologies, all of it changes and appears in another form.
Three types of metrics measured by teachers in the classroom are:
- Summative metrics which include grades and performance trends.
- Formative metrics are more informal and include all types of short tests and quizzes. Teachers need this information to improve lesson plans.
- Individual metrics are about the trends that concern every student in the classroom individually.
We have already covered the software that makes grading quicker. Individual metrics, however, are always a stumbling point for most teachers. For example, Georgia Tech researches used video equipment to see where students look during the lesson. But that is not all.
The researchers also developed software that measures the student’s head position – it helped identify which students are more and less engaged during the lesson, allowing the professor to cater the learning process accordingly.
There is also the Microsoft Education platform that provides any classroom with predictive analytics. Knowing which students are at risk and will prevent them from falling through the cracks, and educators can take immediate measures and focus on strengthening the weak spots.
Online learning analytics
When learning takes place online, gathering insights is simpler because every action is tracked by a software tool. Plus, apps are made to be impartial, which makes grading more objective.
If a student learns a language online, for example, there are usually three types of tests: to set the baseline, track the progress, and then figure out whether a goal was reached. But the most important thing is that apps can tailor to a more specific pace and knowledge level of a student. Compare it to standard tests that take more time and leave no space for fostering an individual approach – the difference is in plain view.
Modern EdTech solutions not only test students but provide teachers with meaningful insights about every learner, and that is why the teacher’s dashboard within the app is key to furthering student progress.
Constant feedback about their progress is crucial to helping students understand where and how they can improve their knowledge. Technologies allow providing feedback instantly to every student in the classroom.
Not only do teachers receive immediate feedback after digital tests – students receive them too. There are many tools available on the market to make new-age quizzes a regular practice: JotForm, EasyTestMaker, ClassMaker, etc.
Comments and suggestions in Google documents allow providing feedback online no matter what type of document is being checked: a sheet, presentation, or text doc. This seems to be an obvious solution, but still, not many schools have taken it into account.
But how will students interpret the feedback? Teachers can help with that: Building graphs and charts to visualize trends, checklists of learning standards to demonstrate where students lag behind, focused reflections to develop the student’s critical thinking – all these activities prevent any remark or grade from being left unnoticed by the students’ attention.
So many options, but where to start? The answer depends on many factors. This is a list of questions and actions to create a paperless classroom.
First, you should start by answering these three questions:
- What budget does the school have for EdTech innovations?
- Who will support technologies at school once they are installed?
- Will teachers need any additional training to fully get used to new tools and devices?
That is all for the questions – let’s now move on to some actions.
- Decide what you want to include. Before moving any further, decide what aspects of your work should appear online. Then, gather the data you need and start exploring the market of EdTech tools. If there are several goals you want to achieve at once, you should opt for learning management systems.
- Choose a learning management system (LMS). These are complex tools that include everything you need to manage a classroom: grade books, student forums, calendars, polls, and much more. Examples of LMSs: Schoology, Moodle, Blackboard, and Edmodo.
But no other system would match your business goals as much as custom software. With professional developers, you will get a carefully crafted list of features, and each of them will work strongly to your benefit.
- Pick a device for the classroom. Depending on the budget you have already considered, decide on the exact devices you need for transitioning: it can be smartboards, tablets, or smartphones.
- Upgrade existing paper materials. This means you should create new files based on the old ones, but more engaging and entertaining for learners. BookWidgets has several apps inside that help you create a unique interactive workflow in the classroom.
Creating a paperless classroom is not a vague fantasy – the future of education is already here. If you have a limited budget, you can start small using Google documents to check the students’ work. If you have more plans in mind, opt for a learning management system.
Engaging classes, an individual approach, instant feedback and grading, eco-friendly environment – all of it are paperless classroom benefits. EdTech transforms the quality of education for future generations, and numerous startups all over the globe want to be a part of it. How about you?
Software engineers from Eastern Peak share your excitement about innovative educational technologies. Let’s start our conversation and see how we can change the learning experience together.