Since the arrival and subsequent growth in the widespread use of digital tools in classrooms all over the world, the education industry has gone through changes that many would deem revolutionary.
Devices such as whiteboards, tablets, and smartphones, coupled with learning management platforms and digital resource availability may, at first glance, just be additional educational tools teachers can use to further students’ learning experiences and promote greater knowledge acquisition. First and foremost it is still the teacher who remains the key to the development of the learning process, and, ultimately, determines its success or failure. Yet, it is also undeniable that technological resources in schools have opened up a myriad of new possibilities for educators, is greatly impacting the current generation of students and will keep playing a central role in the future of education.
A New Model
Since the turn of the millennium, the implementation of a digital project using new Information and Communication Technologies applied to education have allowed teachers to build a new working model for every learning environment, from primary and secondary schools to universities, vocational training centres to language institutes, homeschooling and workplace skills update programs, among others.
This new model is primarily characterised by the gradual transition from a one-way communication approach to increasingly flexible learning settings where student interaction and collaboration, self-learning and a diversification of information formats take precedence.
The paradigm shift has also benefitted greatly from the development of innovative teaching methodologies which have evolved substantially or were entirely only made possible using technological resources. When correctly applied by motivated educators, several of these classroom techniques, such as Flipped Classroom, Project-based Learning or Gamification have become over time teacher favourites, bringing about a particular learning dynamic and generally boosting student performance.
The Importance of Increased Resource Availability
Starting a digital project from scratch in any learning environment can be a challenging endeavour. It is at once, time-consuming, budget-demanding and often slow to produce the desired results. However, teachers and administrators agree that it is beneficial in the long run, as BlinkLearning’s latest Survey on the use of technology in the Classroom shows. The survey, which collected replies from over 2,000 teachers, found that 94.1% of respondents would recommend to a colleague starting a digital project at their school.
Beyond being a useful tool for teachers and students alike, in the sense that educational content is displayed in a much more user-friendly way than yesteryear’s formats as well as highly interactive and with immediate feedback – which is particularly important when dealing with younger students with short attention spans – technological resources are a means to better engage the “anywhere, anytime, anyhow” mindset of today’s millennials and Generation Z individuals. Accessing content directly from the cloud at school, at home or on the move anywhere in between using a slew of different devices is an extraordinary advantage that goes a long way to strengthen communication and information sharing. And, at its core, that is the foundational pillar of learning.
Furthermore, a strong case can be made that technological resources especially designed for education purposes and customized to address each student’s unique learning pace and individual strengths and weaknesses is, so far, the greatest tool that can be used to achieve the most democratized education possible. Not only do these digital formats help open up students’ minds to an unparalleled trove of information and possibilities to use it, it also cheapens the access to it. This is especially true in more remote regions of the globe where, for one reason or another, access to traditional education resources is scarce or restricted, as India’s Sugata Mitra, winner of 2013’s TED Prize, showed to great effect with his SOLE and School in the Cloud model of education.
But other advantages await schools who decide to start a digital project. These range from administration efficiency, to student health and security, parent engagement and ecological gains, to name but a few.
The advent of the Internet of Things – a term coined in 1999 but only recently starting to live up to its original promise – is turning schools into highly integrated digital infrastructures, where access cards monitor employee and student attendance, grade management is automated to a great extent, risky student behaviour is detected early and parents receive real-time information regarding their children.
Inside the classroom, this management efficiency also helps teachers considerably with their workloads, allowing them to focus on what matters most: the student. As an ever-evolving tool, technological resources can present challenges but they also offer enormous possibilities, and it is difficult to see how a modern forward-thinking educational institution would cope without them.
About the Author
Gonzalo Baranda is, since 2010, the co-founder and CEO of BlinkLearning, an educational technology company present in more than 40 countries. He is a Business Administration graduate of CUNEF in Madrid and holds an MBA from Columbia University in New York