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What role will technology play in the post-pandemic classroom?

2nd June 2021

This article is written by Julie Adams, Senior Communication and Content Specialist at DisplayNote.

Few industries have seen as dramatic a shift in day-to-day operations as the education sector. As countries across the world went into mandatory lockdowns last March, teaching was forced to rapidly move from the brick-and-mortar surroundings of the classroom to the virtual conference rooms of the internet.

This sudden transition was difficult to process for many reasons; Firstly, there had been no time to prepare. Secondly, a mild sort of technophobia seems to haunt a lot of schools.

It is no secret that the education sector has been accused of running behind when it comes to technology; there is sometimes an air of trepidation when it comes to adopting new teaching tools. Many teachers profess to rely on the tried-and-tested old-fashioned methods for lessons; chalk, pen, and photocopies. For those accustomed to standing in front of a room of physical learners, the pandemic transformed students into little squares in a virtual patchwork quilt. So, how did teachers cope with these unprecedented challenges?

Contrary to what some cynics might have predicted, the education sector has emerged from the whole ordeal more robust and adaptive than before. The past year has been a fizzling catalyst for digital transformation in the classroom. Given, it hasn’t always been easy.

According to a poll by Gallup in June 2020, 30% of students were struggling emotionally or mentally due to pandemic response measures, including moving to remote learning. In particular, for those students dealing with interparental conflict at home, school often provides a period of rest bite and stability.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to suggest remote learning will replace face-to-face teaching long-term. Still, the real triumph from the pandemic will be the mass roll-out of updated technologies and teaching methods that would otherwise have taken years to implement.

School boards and governments have realized the massive potential new technology holds both inside and outside of the classroom; greater capacity for content mastery, better accessibility, more inclusivity, and active two-way learning. These are just some of the benefits better technology leverage will bring to the classroom, and as a result, Edtech is firmly on the curriculum.

We take a look at how technology will continue to transform teaching in the coming year.

Daily technology use will increase.

  • Pre-Covid: classrooms were using technology 30-35 minutes a day on average.
  • Covid: usage has surged to 4-5 hours per day.
  • Post-Covid: this figure is likely to be multiple hours a day as teachers have become more confident and proficient with technology.

EdTech training will become essential.

According to the recent findings from 48 countries in the OECD’s Teacher and Learning International Survey, only 60% of teachers have received professional development in the use of internet and communication technology. 20% of teachers reported a high need for development in this area. These results suggest that many teachers are ill-equipped to manage the sudden shift in educational delivery due to COVID-19.

There is a pressing need for initiatives that support teachers to better use technology in the classroom, particularly for incorporated blending learning practices. By building the capacity of educators right now, schools can create a more sustained practice that supports differentiated approaches to learning long-term.

Who is using the technology in the classroom also appears to matter; a 2018 global study found that technology in the hands of teachers is associated with better student performance than technology in the hands of students.

To get the most out of new technology and practices in the classroom, training and professional development should aim to create:

  • Teachers who feel comfortable interacting with hardware and software inside and outside of the classroom
  • Teachers who feel able to support students use of devices inside and outside of the classroom
  • Teachers who feel confident creating, distributing, and presenting content.
    • Create content that is engaging, valuable, and accessible.
    • Regularly update online resources.
    • Able to review and feedback on students’ work digitally.

Classrooms will have a digital twin.

The digital twin model has risen to fame in recent years. A digital twin model is defined as “a virtual representation of a physical product or process, used to understand and predict the physical counterpart’s performance characteristics.”

Put simply; a digital twin acts as a bridge between the physical classroom and the online learning portal. The digital twin will contain the same resources and content that have been covered in the classroom. As virtual classrooms became essential to learning this year, it provided many schools with a test-run of creating digital twins.

Students are awake for 6,000 hours a year; however, they spend just 15% of this time in school. The question arises of how educators can leverage digital infrastructure to increase content mastery in the remaining 85% of students’ time. Digital twin models naturally lend themselves to facilitating learning outside of the classroom. Students can access learning materials and lessons outside of school times, giving them more time to get familiar and confident with the concepts.

Online content also creates more accessible classrooms for students who may have difficulties accessing the physical classroom. Students will be able to follow the content from home in their own time, should they not attend class.

Is online learning as effective?

Some research shows that students retain 25-60% more material on average when learning online, compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is partly due to the students being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.

However, this comes with a caveat (as do most useful statistics); children tend to respond better to online learning when it occurs in a structured environment. To avoid the daily barrage of distractions, e-learning is most successful when implemented within this type of environment. What does a structured environment look like? In short, a classroom. Somewhere where there’s a physical presence from an instructor, where students are engaged, prompted, and rewarded. Somewhere where a games console isn’t with arms distance…

Research has also suggested that e-learning will not be as effective for students who do not have access to the latest technology or who lack conducive environments at home. School districts need to include provisions and policies that ensure parity between students when leveraging technology for learning.

It’s also worth considering the pastoral care role of the educator in the classroom. Students often rely on the contextual elements of face-to-face communication to build connections with the teacher and reinforce learning; hand gestures, posture, tone of voice. When it comes to forming and maintaining teacher-student relationships, online exchanges can only go so far.

One-to-one teaching is here to stay.

During the pandemic, BYOD use has surged as many schools relied on students accessing lessons and content from their own devices. In the hybrid classroom, smart screen-sharing solutions are essential to give both on-site and remote learners the same access to content. Speaking to our customers, it became apparent that our screen-sharing solutions - Montage and Broadcast, solved this problem for many teachers dealing with blended learning.

With Broadcast, you can share your screen to students’ devices with classes of any size, in any location. Students can join your broadcast with minimal fuss. All they need to do is go to the Broadcast webpage, enter a 6 digit ID, and they're live with you.

For Rachel Prince, an Advanced Program Literature and Composition Teacher at Horizon High School Arizona, Broadcast ensured lessons were inclusive of students inside and outside the classroom.
“With Broadcast, I don’t have to worry if everyone is seeing the same content - I know that whatever is on the board is being viewed by the kids in the room and out of the room; there's no need to keep asking if everyone can see what I see. There are no more questions from students asking me to show something again.”

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Rachel Prince uses Broadcast to keep her students connected during the pandemic.

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