This is an edited version of an article originally published on Education Today Australia
The question of how to help students get ‘back on track’ academically after extensive school closures and disruption throughout the pandemic has understandably been a major concern for schools, teachers and parents; and formed a central part of global government education policy as countries around the world tentatively navigate a path back to normality.
Unfortunately, despite the incredibly hard work and stellar efforts of teachers and parents alike, extended periods of school closures have inevitably led to varying levels of learning loss for children working at all attainment levels. At its peak, the pandemic led to school closures in 190 countries, impacting 90 per cent of the total enrolled students – almost 1.6 billion children and young adults across the world.
Whilst concerns about knowledge gaps are absolutely valid, many are concerned that the ‘catch-up’ narrative, which has pervaded recently, has only served to mount unnecessary pressure and stress on students, at a time when communities should be doing all they can to alleviate student mental health issues, not add to them. Additionally, the British Psychological Society issued a warning back in February that notions of children being ‘behind’ at school reinforces the notion that students only receive ‘one shot’ at their education, putting them under pressure to perform academically after an immensely challenging time.
Following a turbulent period of uncertainty and disruption, data published by the OECD reveals that young people’s mental health has worsened significantly, with most countries reporting that mental health issues amongst 15–24 years olds have doubled.
It is clear that solutions to these issues must take a two-part approach. One strand must boost student development and reignite engagement whilst the other celebrates the progress children have made, to ensure they feel proud of their achievements and equipped to tackle future challenges.
Throughout each stage of the pandemic, EdTech has been pivotal in ensuring the continuation of learning globally, and taught many schools an important lesson on the positive impact technology can have. But, what role might it play going forward in confronting the challenges posed by the pandemic, without adding to the harmful ‘catch up’ narrative?
Pinpoint areas for development and keep track of progress
One of the most significant benefits of EdTech is that it enables teachers to pinpoint areas where students may need to bolster their knowledge, and provide targeted intervention. Many classroom management platforms have inbuilt tools which ‘take the temperature’ of the pupil intake, allowing teachers to quickly check in with learners through polls and quizzes, providing them with a clear picture of the varying levels of attainment in their class. Following this, EdTech enables teachers to more easily mix up their approach to teaching.
EdTech affords teachers greater flexibility in utilising different methods which can help them find a style and pace that works best for each student’s individual needs. It is likely that subject knowledge and understanding will be at different levels within a classroom and therefore, individually tailored lesson plans would be extremely effective for students’ progression. By harnessing the power of EdTech, teachers can assign specific tasks to individuals based on their ability in an easy and efficient way that doesn’t add to their already burdensome workloads. Additionally, by supporting teacher workloads, staff can spend more time where they want to – in providing hands-on support to students who need it most.
Having pinpointed knowledge gaps, it is imperative for teachers to be able to keep track of the progress that a student is making to ensure they are continuously developing and improving their knowledge. Many EdTech platforms allow for a digital record of progression to be kept and regularly updated for each student, helping to make it easier to set individual goals and make sure a student is on track to meet them. Furthermore, EdTech allows parents to be regularly updated on their child’s progression, as opposed to waiting for annual parent-teacher meetings. Having access to digital records of their child’s progression allows them to raise concerns at a much earlier date instead of waiting for them to potentially fall behind.
Additionally, tracking progress can be beneficial for students who are looking to revise for upcoming assessments and exams. Students can easily identify areas that they need to improve upon or revisit, encouraging them to self-manage their own revision.
Offers variation in teaching methods
A crucial step for improving attainment is to help students become more engaged and excited by different subjects. EdTech offers teachers a range of different opportunities to set revision tasks and homework that combine games and other interests with learning. Technology enables teachers to diversify their teaching methods by offering variations of traditional learning techniques such as quizzes and competitions to challenge their students when they are at home. This includes introducing games that require students to build on their maths skills or encouraging online communication, that is safeguarded, to help refine language ability and increase collaboration among classmates.
Furthermore, EdTech also enables teachers to include a range of modern teaching techniques such as video learning, AI and algorithms and even immersive VR experiences. These new and unique learning methods will be an exciting way for students to jump into a new subject and help teachers bring their learning to life.
Facilitates discreet feedback
Finally, introducing EdTech into a classroom can allow teachers to facilitate discreet feedback. Offering students the option to approach a teacher with a question online will encourage those who may feel uncomfortable physically raising their hand in class to seek out help and support. This also enables teachers to sensitively approach students they may believe are struggling, in a way that doesn’t highlight an issue to the whole class. Many programmes have inbuilt tools which allow students to provide immediate feedback and share their level of confidence on a particular learning topic.
While the use of EdTech was slowly starting to be introduced into schools pre-pandemic, the switch to remote learning has given educators the push they need to try to realise its full potential. With most countries now having more than a year and a half of experience with technology-based learning, now is the perfect time to fully cement EdTech’s long-term role in education.
However, educators must heed the warning that EdTech’s integration must be done with the intent of enhancing attainment for students and not to be used to pressure students into pushing themselves further than is needed, to ‘catch-up’. EdTech tools should only ever enhance school life and work to make teacher’s and student’s lives easier – there’s no point in buying tech for tech’s sake. Otherwise, we place students at risk of burnout and subsequently an even worse impact on their mental health.