Updated article originally published March 28, 2017.
For educators new to the world of EdTech, the concept alone may be daunting. The basic premise is “creating and using technology for education”, but beyond this, there is an entire industry and an assortment of complex pedagogical theories involved in fully understanding educational technology. Nonetheless, educators are consistently told of the benefits to integrating EdTech to enhance teaching and learning. While knowledge of benefits is helpful, it leaves educators wondering how to proceed.Where does one start when looking to integrate educational technology?
Just as there is no one-size fits all pedagogical approach for student learning, there is no single educational technology platform serving as a panacea for all educational environments across the world. To better think through appropriate educational technology solutions, it may be useful to revisit what EdTech actually is.
EdTech is a wide term, and includes both software and hardware. On the former, examples exist with learning management systems (or virtual learning environments) like Brightspace, Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle, and more targeted software like Kahoot for live and interactive quizzes. Similarly, grading and assessment platforms, such as Crowdmark, fit into the EdTech software category. New developments in AI can also fit alongside these software solutions.
EdTech hardware can very broadly include any form of technology that can help instructors (laptops, tablets, mobile devices, wearable technology, etc). Hardware can also include much more specific education-specific products like Smartboards, projectors, or classroom clickers. In light of these distinctions, it may be helpful to think of them all–software and hardware– under the umbrella of “EdTech tools.”
So why do we use EdTech tools? Quite simply, they yield an array of benefits. Primary among these benefits is the ability to enhance teaching and learning, with most researchers citing EdTech support of individual-based approaches as a key advantage. Consider the examples of predictive analytics and data-driven adaptive teaching. Each shows a capacity to target disengaged students and acknowledge problems with material comprehension before it is too late to improve a student’s performance and understanding. Many forms of EdTech, like these, are also capable of collecting useful data that can inform future pedagogical practices.
Every piece of EdTech is different, but a set of universal principles can be followed to support a successful integration. Below are three tips for a successful application of EdTech in both in-person and remote learning contexts. These have been developed for the institutional level, but can also be adapted to individual classrooms and everything in-between, depending on the scale of the intended integration.
- Vision and patience – Integration—both technologically and socially—does not occur immediately, and it will encounter a number of setbacks during the transition. Unfortunately, many institutions give up after experiencing setbacks within the first year, trying another platform with the same approach while expecting different results. Instead, stick to it, and consider how various “champions” or role model EdTech users can be studied and learned from. Use them as a guide for how to best find technological learning solutions.
- Two way symmetrical communication – Open and transparent communication between education technology providers, academic administrators, and educators is integral for successful implementation.Provide educators and staff who will be using the technology with dedicated on-site training delivered by either a representative of the education technology company or the institution champion. After the training, ensure there is an open channel for communication between academic staff and the educational technology company to ensure any integration and troubleshooting issues can be resolved quickly.
- Regular data analysis – Encourage educators to regularly analyze and act upon classroom data. A weekly analysis may help educators identify where students are struggling, allowing them to intervene more effectively through individual support or by dedicating more time in lecture to specific subject matter.
Before adopting a new educational technology, ensure your institution has these three factors in place. These three environmental factors may make implementation much smoother and potentially more cost-effective.
EdTech is not as complicated as it seems, due to the fact that the general focus of all companies in this sector is to enhance the learning process. Importantly, EdTech should always be seen as a support– not a replacement–for teachers. With this in mind, integrating any form of technology into a classroom provides teachers a new way to engage students and promote educational success. In today’s increasingly technologically driven world, ensuring students are well-versed in the most recent technological advancements also prepares them for the real world. By understanding the nature of EdTech and following a few simple strategies, this can be easily achieved.
Interested in more on EdTech? See our other blogs:
Navigating Learning Management Systems
Intelligent Tutoring Systems: Connecting AI and Education
VR in STEM Education