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Global Practices

When Technology Meets Education

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A version of this post initially appeared on EdelmanEditions.com

Over the past decade, technology has been pinpointed time and time again as the key to “revolutionising” the education system and improving learning in schools – but has this really happened? I recently attended the British Educational Training and Technology show (BETT) where this revolutionising push to integrate tech in UK schools and curriculums was embodied in the rows and rows of tech and education stands, learning conferences and showcase classrooms.

But technology in schools is nothing new, right? In many ways yes, the use of devices in classrooms has become fairly commonplace, however the success of these tech drives has not always measured up (in results or studies) to expectations. There was a lot of talk this year about how better tailored software, and apps that focused on individual needs of students and teachers was necessary to truly achieve this “revolution” in results based learning. As a visual learner, I struggled in school to absorb information that was given in the form of a lengthy talk or lecture, finding that my ability to understand a topic was not the problem, it was the method of delivery. I was therefore particularly interested to visit BETT this year and see what the tech world had to offer to make the learning experience easier and better tailored to the individual than it had been for me.

One area where this individualised approach to learning is already evident is in the products and applications that have been produced for children with learning disabilities and in special education, where a one size fits all approach just won’t work.

One application that I found particularly impressive called ‘Teacher Dashboard for Office 365’ has been designed to help teachers hold students’ attention, engage them visually and keep them interacting throughout the lesson. It allows the teacher to lock all screens at once or stream content to students directly and at any given moment. Teacher Dashboard is a case in point of effective class management –  additionally there are similar apps that offer this kind of functionality for younger students, whereby educators can monitor in real time, the work of a pupil and send an individual message to them (In the shape of a cartoon character or animal) to explain or highlight something privately.

This may seem like an overly involved method of teaching, but consider the kind of difficulties that a child with attention deficit disorder or autism might have in sustaining consistent focus. This cross platform learning allows the teacher to become aware of the area of the syllabus a student may be struggling with, and identify it much earlier.

Another example is of children affected by autism or dyslexia, who are arguably more likely to rely on one style of learning, whether it’s visual, text based or auditory. I spotted an application specifically created with dyslexia in mind called Claro software, which collects data around the level of accuracy and engagement with the material that the student has shown and feeds this back to teachers and parents, indicating what is and isn’t effective. In turn, the teacher can then tweak their teaching methods for this student – brighter images, less or more visual stimuli, larger fonts or more audio texts.

As technology becomes a bigger part of the UK education system – think coding in schools and hackathon days – it’s interesting to consider how it will be able to improve the lives of children in the classroom, through to the home. Mobility and individualised learning will certainly make life easier for parents and teachers as they track the most effective way for children to learn, receive grades and communicate, particularly for those that need that extra bit of attention and help.

Special education technology has clearly already captured the idea of a more adaptable and individualised approach to learning. Let’s hope that this can act as a good model for how well utilised applications, and technology, can create a more integrated classroom and education system of the future.

Antonia is an Assistant Account Executive with the technology team in London.

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