“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.” – Nancy Kassebaum
When educational technology (EdTech) is mentioned most folks focus on the benefits that it accrues to students. They are right, learners certainly gain from these digital tools. The twist of this discussion is that teachers are potrayed as villains who resist technology, but the fact that EdTech is essentially a tool for teachers is neglected. The truth is that anything that enhances learning is a bonus that is welcomed eagerly by teachers in order to do their jobs more effectively.
The dilemma though is that most teachers haven’t fully embraced EdTech, especially in terms of assessment data. I discovered this when interacting with teachers, virtually or offline. Many are worried that the pressure on students to perform will become more intense as data can be accrued rapidly. They know the first hand impact that the high-stakes standardised assessment will have on students’ motivation and performance.
This has become an obstacle that often prevents teachers from embracing technologies that are created to eliminate a need for harmful standardised assessment, instead of increasing personalised or differentiated instruction.
In regular instruction, the teacher maintains a personalised or differentiated learning approach through face-to-face relationships. The learning objectives, concepts, and skills are intuitively broken down into pieces that can be easily digested by individual learners. Each piece is presented in a way that feels contextually relevant, using metaphors that make sense to the individual. When the pupil doesn’t “get it,” the teacher instantly adapts his or her approach. Teachers are constantly adjusting and forming on-the-spot assessments and adapting accordingly.
Awesome teachers adapt their teaching in this way continously for some of their students. It just isn’t feasible to do this for everyone. No matter how badly they desire to do so for everyone, it’s beyond their limitations to do so. Due to this, a percentage of students in a traditional classroom reap the benefits of the instructor’s personalisation skills and other students don’t.
This leads to a quandary for most classroom teachers, as the students who need the most personalised attention are also the hardest ones to reach. The reality is that the students we connect with are often the ones with whom we share the most similarities with. In the best case scenario, the one’s who get the most attention are the one’s who validate our efforts with frequent successes or in my case, who challenge us the most.
Computers, however, aren’t humans, and they have no such bias. If used well, gaming and adaptive learning technologies offer tools that can empower teachers to do their jobs more effectively, more precisely, and more equitably.
Critics of digital learning technologies focus on the fear that teachers will be replaced with robotic avatars. They envision classrooms with students staring at screens. Let’s focus upon a more optimistic future. Gamifying assessments and digital adaptive learning technologies will provide an opportunity for teachers to act as mentors more effectively – they would become knowledge facilitators. Let’s imagine a future where teachers can more easily and equitably adapt their own teaching style, curriculum and learning in ways that keep them closely connected to their students.
We should keep in mind that technology is a tool that teachers should leverage on because it delivers insights and analytics in very useful forms that allow them to focus their precious resources on helping students.
I am always open to sharing my personal stories on how the utilisation of digital technologies revolutionised my teaching and enhanced my connection with students in over 10 years of teaching.
Help us with our mission to bring about change for our students. Please contact me to see what we can do to bring about the desired transformation that we all desire for our children to be future ready!!!
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.