What will normal look like in education in the future?
There are still over 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures and experts predict it will be some time before we get back to normal. But what will normal actually look like in education in the future? It’s a question well worth asking because education is one of our most important tools in the fight against pandemics, climate change and a whole host of other, crucial challenges that we face. It’s the kids in school today that will need to help come up with solutions in the years to come. So what is the future of education?
No-one can know for sure what the future holds but what we are living though right now has the potential to change teaching and learning for years to come. We’re experiencing what “the largest worldwide experiment for online learning” (as Rory Henson from Ibis and EdTechX’s put it in our recent forum) and there are some very different views of what this means for the future of education. Will we see more schools adopt technologies that help them continue to teach students even if lockdowns occur again in future? It seems a safe bet, but some camps believe that many teachers will be tired of online learning – this hasn’t been the smoothest transition after all and there will no doubt have been many frustrations with dropped connections and lack of feedback and engagement from pupils.
A flaw in the debate
The problem with this is that it makes everything sound like a binary choice, but that isn’t really so surprising – even in research studies, it’s often one group taught with tech and one without, but this misses the point. Technology doesn’t and can’t replace the teacher and children shouldn’t spend all day on screens, I don’t think anyone could disagree with that, but to leave technology out of education would be doing students a real disservice. For the learners now, technology is everywhere and, at a subject-agnostic level, they need to become familiar with using tech to create, collaborate, problem-solve and plan if we want them to have skills that will help in future. Add to this the fact that young learners have a natural interest in app-based games that can be capitalized on and it makes a good case for the use of edtech.
We saw this when we were teaching – get kids to play games, sing, complete puzzles and take quizzes in and out of the classroom and information sticks. Do this in a scaffolded way using really good content, make sure they can play games and learn at home and you can give kids a solid foundation for a new language. As Jake, our head of academic experience (and the man behind our webinars and forums) put it in his recent LinkedIn article, “when young kids learn while playing, it’s one of the best hacks in education”.
The role of blended learning
We did this back before the app store existed because it works, apps then made it easier for us to help kids learn anywhere. Fast forward from our launch in the app store in 2010 and technology now helps us to connect schools to their teachers, teachers to their students and the students to their families. Kids can play games, pick up grammar and vocabulary, build their motor skills and their critical thinking skills all at the same time. Teachers can see how each child is learning and have data to help them decide who might need additional support in the classroom and schools have key management information across different classes and even campuses. But even with technology enabling these things, we never for one second thought that worksheets and activity books didn’t have a role to play. It’s the mix of traditional and modern that has the most impact, otherwise known as blended learning.
So this is our hope for what we take from this crisis – that the edtech debate stops being so polarized and instead we look at ways to mix tech and tradition (and home and classroom) so that any time schools have to close, or kids can’t attend, they can carry on learning. And having fun.