What is educational technology or EdTech?
Educational technology comprises of technological resources and processes that enable access to education and improvement in learners’ performance.
Schools of the future are enabled with Edtech.
What technology is required to make future-ready schools, or what comprises an edtech-enabled classroom?
Future schools adopt three important components to enable ubiquitous access to learning and improved performance:
- E-learning curriculum and content
- Software or platforms: To run content, manage learning and enable collaboration
- Information and communication hardware
E-learning curriculum and content
Identify your EdTech curriculum goals
Firstly, identifying the curriculum that your school wants to pursue with the help of educational technology or edtech.
EdTech Schools with focus on K-12 are adopting STEM or STEAM-integrated curriculums. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEAM adds the creative element of the Arts to STEM.
Over time, schools have started adopting STEAM over STEM, as they are realising how important it’s to incorporate creative and intuitive thinking for a problem-solving learning environment, including its bearing on the effectiveness of the rest of the STEM subjects.
Similarly, higher education schools and colleges in many countries, especially developing countries, are adopting TVET curriculums.
How you can incorporate STEAM and TVET:
- STEAM or TVET-based projects and processes can be incorporated in the regular curriculum of your classes, or
- After-school clubs or programmes can be set up for the same, e.g. many schools have Makerspaces where students can experiment, create, collaborate, and share knowledge
Upon identifying the curriculum, find the right content source and educational technology to deliver the same.
E.g. BrainPop offers K-12 content for the UK, US and Chinese curriculums, and Sterling Pixels offers K1 to K12 3D animated videos for Australian, IGCSE and CBSE curriculums.
Choose an ed-technology content source
Once you know your curriculum goals, you can look out in the EdTech market to find suitable educational resources. Some of the websites and platforms that are popular among K-12 and Higher-ed teachers and students are:
- Science: Khan Academy, IXL learning, Sterling Pixels, Click View, BrainPop
- Technology and Engineering
- Freecodecamp (secondary)
- Code.org (secondary)
- Scratch and ScratchJr by MIT
- Code Monkey (primary)
- Tynker (primary and secondary)
- Khan Academy (primary and secondary)
- Swift Playgrounds
- Arts and Language: Eye-level
- Mathematics: Khan Academy, IXL learning, Sterling Pixels
Some of the above content sources work online, and some let you download the content to a local storage device to study anytime, anywhere.
Check out our list of Top Educational Websites for Kids to choose a suitable K-12 and Higher Education platform to use free or paid content for your classrooms.
A school in the future will be supplied with myriad options of educational technology resources, which may be confusing. Therefore, define a clear objective, so that apt content can be selected.
Software or platforms
One way to select an educational technology platform is based on the type of learning process you want to adopt, and how much control of the learning process do you want to give to the students.
This decision can depend on various factors like the size of a class, learning flexibility allowed by the curriculum designers, and budget.
Following are the options you can choose from:
Blended learning combines traditional or old-school classroom learning with digital learning. It gives some control to the students over the place, pace, path and time of study.
Websites like BrainPop and Sterling Pixels are examples of blended-learning tools used by teachers in classrooms to explain concepts to students through videos. Students can undertake assignments and activities at home, at their own pace, with student accounts on the websites.
This method requires access to technology by both students and teachers, whether at home or in the classroom.
Teacher-led learning platforms give maximum control of the education technology to the teachers, with limited say of the students in the pace, place, path or time of study. EdTech companies like Extramarks have classroom software that are used by teachers to enable classroom teaching.
This type of learning requires access to technology primarily by teachers and sometimes students in the classroom.
Google Expeditions is a great example of teacher-led learning, e.g. teachers can teach about the World War II, while taking the students on a virtual trip to the war with the help of VR technology, smartphones and Google Cardboards.
This allows students to learn the traditional instructional content outside the classroom, mostly online, at their own pace, before they explore that content in the classroom through activities.
Flipped learning allows all the students to be at par with the knowledge of a certain subject when they start learning something in the classroom environment, and gives them the opportunity to collaborate in the classroom, while learning things hands-on, when there is more scope of inquiry.
Self-paced platforms give the maximum control of the learning environment to students. They can control the time, place and time of study.
These types of platforms are more popular for Higher education courses and vocational programmes.
Self-paced learning websites may seem to undermine the future of brick and mortar schools that teach such courses and subjects, but the truth is that physical schools and colleges will soon be scant to accommodate the increasing number of students, and hence incoming of such platforms is certainly a boon to enable access to education to whoever is willing to take it.
Another parameter to choose a content platform is by differentiating between them as per the content they offer.
Following are the three types of Edtech learning resources available:
Some websites have delivery-based learning content like educational videos on Sterling Pixels, BrainPop, TedEd, Byju’s and Coursera. These platforms have content that learner can consume without having to interact with. Content in delivery-based format also comprises of infographics, text and images.
There are platforms that let you explore the learning tools to come to a solution of a problem. They let you explore concepts and subjects, come up with new questions and challenges, and find solutions.
Scratch and Swift Playgrounds are wonderful K-12 focused, inquiry-based tools, where students can plan a game they want to build, and then code their way to the final product.
Platforms and devices like Freecodecamp, Lego Coding Kits, and UBTECH Jimu Robotics kits are hand-on learning tools that come with guided lessons or instructions, but let students play around with the learning tools to experiment and come to intuitive solutions.
Learning management systems and Classroom management systems
Once you have chosen the type of e-learning content you want, you have to also choose a Learning management system or LMS with the features you would like to use.
Learning management system or LMS’ are software that help manage, track, report and deliver online educational learning content.
View the list of features an LMS can have, and choose the ones you would like to use in your learning environment.
A Classroom management system or CMS is a subcategory of an LMS. It helps manage classes’ learning resources, student data, collaboration activities, admin tasks, calendar, etc.
Google Classroom is a great CMS. Other Google for education products like Google Docs, Google calendar, Gmail and Google slides work in sync with Google Classroom to help manage a classroom smoothly.
You can check out our step-by-step guide to integrating Google for Education in your classroom environment. It’s a free educational technology tool, and it adds value to your learning process.
Information and communication hardware
To run higher education and K12 technology, classrooms or learners need to be equipped with devices such as follows:
- Computers: Desktops or laptops with configurations suitable for the chosen content.
- Tablets: Whether you want to make them available in the class or opt for BYOD, tablets make a lot of content software applications accessible.
- Mobile phones: Mobile learning is on the rise. Various platforms like ClickView are becoming mobile-friendly or are launching corresponding Android and iOS apps to enable learners to learn anywhere, anytime.
- VR devices: VR devices are still expanding in its use in education. Applications like Google Expeditions let student use VR devices to take virtual trips to interesting places and events.
- Communication hardware: This includes Wifi connectivity, LAN, telephones, class chat apps, etc. that help learners, educators, parents and other stakeholders communicate and collborate.
- Robots and drones: These are used to learn programming. They can be a part of a school’s Makerspace.
- Educational toys: There are interesting K-12 technology-based toys available in the market for education, including LEGO kits, and other science experiment kits that give ample opportunities to create projects and learn.
How to finance educational technology to make future-ready schools?
The hardware and other information technology incorporated in the learning process can be funded by any stakeholder–school, state, district, companies doing CSR activities, parents, and communities.
Following are a few ways you can get the software and hardware required to incorporate the future technology in schools.
- School finance: Your school can set aside a budget for EdTech implementation. They can create a common EdTech space for all the students or make the devices available in any ratio up to, ideally, 1:1, i.e. devices for all.
- State or district finance: Your district or state might have some EdTech or STEM related funds or subsidies available. Tap into them, wherever possible.
- Corporate funding: Many companies have CSR budgets, and many EdTech companies are ready to donate software and devices to help out the cause of education. Make a panel of teachers and students who can approach companies and bring in funding or other relevant contributions.
- Community support: Carry out fundraisers or campaigns to enlist support and donations from the community.
- Repurpose or refurbish material: You can repurpose old material and refurbish extra devices that parents or other community members are willing to give away.
- Crowdfunding: You can raise funds from interested donors for the material you require, through websites like Indiegogo, GoFundMe, PledgeCents, Kickstarter and DonorsChoose.org
- BYOD: This helps you share the cost of implementing with the parents. You can keep some spare devices in the classroom, in case some students are unable to bring devices from home.
Whether it’s about K-12 schools or Higher education colleges, being future-ready is about enabling students worldwide to access education and improve performance.
We need to emphasise on the inquiry-based approach of learning, so that our students grow up to be creative problem solvers.
The following points should be the clear objective to make your school Edtech or educational technology enabled:
- Firstly, aim for a curriculum that prepares your students for the future. Incorporate STEM, STEAM, or any other curriculum, as per the work environment’s requirement in the region and abroad.
- Select e-learning or other content tools that will enable students to learn, inquire, explore and solve.
- Choose content platforms as per the flexibility you can allow the students, depending upon their age, the curriculum, data security, and edtech budget.
- Choose a Learning and class management system to organise learning delivery and minimise administrative efforts. This helps make the teaching process efficient, and created the scope to study and improve learning and teaching methods.
- Raise funds and resources from various possible sources.
- Procure suitable hardware required to run the information and communication technology you choose.
- Ensure students and teachers’ data security; spread aware about e-safety.
There is nothing more important than to make schools and other learning environments future-ready. Now that we have the opportunity to use vast technological resources to make education ubiquitous and effective, let’s roll up our sleeves and make it happen.
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