Perspective from a content developer on technology’s role in learning.
GUEST COLUMN | by Becca Hughes
As teachers and students embark on their first weeks and months of a new school year, they face new and persistent challenges. The excitement for beginning school with everyone together in-person has been tempered by the reality that schools will still need to be agile in how instruction is delivered. In addition to external factors such as Hurricane Ida, the ongoing impact of the pandemic has kept students and teachers from consistently being together within classroom walls.
This means it is more important than ever for educators to provide students with a consistent and supportive learning experience.
Education technology provides teachers with tools to meet students no matter where they are. Whether learning is taking place in-person, hybrid, or fully remote, teachers are integral in ensuring that edtech resources are leveraged to accelerate learning throughout the cycle of instruction. It will be important throughout this school year and beyond to support teachers in using edtech tools to apply best practices that engage students in accelerating learning and meeting grade-level learning goals.
‘Education technology provides teachers with tools to meet students no matter where they are.’
Meet Students Where They Are
First, teachers and students need easy access to instructional-focused edtech tools anywhere learning takes place. Given that efforts have increased to ensure all students have internet access and devices, teachers need tools to make it simple for students to find and log in to resources and assignments. Having a Learning Management System (LMS) is the first step. An LMS provides a single point of access when a school has multiple edtech tools for a student to use.
To reduce anxiety for students and to make students comfortable, teachers can model and practice how to access resources that will be used throughout the year. Family communication that explains how to access resources at home is essential. Many edtech tools provide ready-made letters and point-of-use information for families.
Engagement is Key
Once students know how to access resources, the next hurdle is ensuring students are engaged in using them. Edtech tools offer ways for teachers to boost student motivation and engagement anywhere learning takes place. Teachers can use built-in messaging tools to provide regular feedback to students. By sending short messages of encouragement and specific feedback on practice, teachers are showing students they are there to support them. This, in turn, builds students’ intrinsic motivation for learning.
Other resources that are built into edtech tools include forms of extrinsic motivation such as earning points or rewards, unlocking access to games or competitions, and even opportunities for making a community impact. Opportunities for student choice is another way to encourage student engagement. With many tools, student choice is built into the program, or teachers can enable choice — whether in books to read or problems to solve.
‘With many tools, student choice is built into the program, or teachers can enable choice — whether in books to read or problems to solve.’
Tools for engaging students facilitate keeping students present within their learning experience no matter their surrounding environment.
Enable Personalized Learning
Keeping individual students’ learning needs front and center is crucial more than even this school year. Teachers can leverage edtech tools to understand students’ gaps in learning and to differentiate instruction. Digital assessments provide results that often either direct students to a learning path or connect teachers to potential assignable instructional resources that will help address the identified learning needs.
Teachers can review results along with recommendations and use their expertise to assign digital reteaching or practice resources to students. While students are working on assigned digital resources, teachers have the ability to check in and work with other small groups or individual students, whether through in-class sessions or via a video conferencing platform such as Zoom or Google Classroom.
What’s key here is that with edtech tools, teachers now have the toolbox to continue the cycle of instruction. After small group instruction and practice, teachers can provide immediate feedback in person or via digital tools and then determine the next round of lessons to accelerate learning. Many edtech tools also include ways for teachers to easily communicate students’ learning progress with families.
When teachers are able to implement a solid plan for ensuring access, student engagement, and individualized student instruction no matter where students are, they are ensuring students have a consistent learning experience. Edtech tools give schools and teachers resources that are adaptable to anyplace students need to learn. In this way, education technology serves as a partner for schools as we apply lessons learned from the pandemic and renew our commitment to meeting the learning needs of all students.
Becca Hughes currently serves as Vice President of Content Development for Learning A-Z, ensuring instructional resources support teachers and in turn lead to student engagement and academic success. During her 20+ years of experience in public education and learning-focused organizations, Becca has been a teacher, instructional coach, academic school director, and curriculum director and editor.