With the advent of quarantine due to coronavirus, there has been a lot of speculation about the potential for online education. This has sparked interest in digital technologies, both from classroom teachers and school leaders.
It’s an exciting prospect that is often quickly shot down: “schools aren’t ready”, “parent’s aren’t ready”, “not everyone has equal access” and so on. But I’m convinced that we are ready and education will be better, in the long run, because of this change.
First, let’s explore the issues. It goes without saying that there are still too many schools that don’t have enough and/or functional computers. Some rely on families to provide their own and then struggle with either motivating them to do so or helping them deal with the financial costs that they can’t afford. Then there are the schools that have equipment but it’s out of date, damaged or not maintained. Probably the saddest scenario is the school that has quality gear that isn’t being used or is under utilised, relics from years gone by when there was a spark of vision but no follow through or staff training. The point here though is that schools often have the required tech, it just isn’t being used to its full potential and those that don’t have equipment could probably get some secondhand stuff or share with a neighbouring school.
Then there’s the equity issue. Believe it or not, there are still some families that don’t have a computer at home or even the internet. Others have a device but it is only a phone which is obviously too small a screen for most class work to be done on. It all seems pretty hopeless until you hear some of the state’s announcements in recent times of schools providing laptops (that would otherwise be sitting in racks for weeks) and even sim cards for the internet to those in need. This is proof of what is possible and how quickly we can change situations if the decision is made to implement a solution.
So here’s the positives or why I think we need to embrace this change:
- Going digital saves time (things can be copied with a click and some tasks can be automated)
- It also saves money (eg: less printing)
- Devices make things easier to share, collaborate and of course communicate
- Digital means better records of communication and other work (which is vital in schools)
- Digital records and files means they are searchable (much faster)
- Most of all, it’s more efficient. Schools across the country tend to have a lot of work that is repeated by multiple people. There is real potential with computers to collaborate more and share resources. This happens already but recent working groups to help implement the new senior syllabus proved there is a desire to scale this up more.
This pandemic has left Education departments scrambling to catch up with modern times and schools are trying to strike a balance between waiting for guidance from their department and taking matters into their own hands. Teachers are in the same position, “do I wait for my admin team to act or do I be innovative and organised?”. I worry that sometimes the leadership or guidance required may not come and ultimately it’s the students who will suffer. As we explore this new frontier, we need to recognise the importance of a school wide approach. Some technologies can be utilised by individual teachers or classes whereas others really rely on various staff using the same system. We don’t want a situation where kids have 20 different logins and apps to download just to complete their homework.
From to do list apps to video conferencing software, there is a wealth of opportunity in the digital landscape. What you’re after probably depends on whether it’s for students or teachers and either way there are hurdles to overcome. There can at times be a paywall for these tools. Also, unfortunately, schools and education departments often block websites and other digital resources due to privacy and security concerns but you can sometimes get things unblocked by chatting to your IT technician or principal.
If you’re interested in bringing tech into your classroom more, my recommendation is to try to choose something from each of the following categories that would suit you and your school. I’ve listed some examples in brackets but this is by no means exhaustive. There are probably 50 or more examples of popular software for each category.
- Use a cloud service to store documents in a communal space and edit files together (eg: OneDrive, Google Drive)
- Use some kind of collaborative workspace tool to (eg: OneNote, Notion, Miro, Trello, BaseCamp, Monday, Airtable, ClickUp)
- Get away from a million emails back and forth by embracing team chat apps (eg: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, Discord, etc)
- Use project management software and to do list apps to delegate tasks and keep track of things (eg: Microsoft Planner, Basecamp, Trello, Microsoft To Do, Todoist, Any.do)
- Use screen capture software to talk over a PowerPoint or make tutorials (eg: Screencast-O-Matic, Camtasia)
- Use some kind of LMS (Learning Management System) to share learning materials with students, check work and give/receive feedback (eg: Blackboard, Google Classroom, OneNote Class Notebook, School Box, Moodle, Canvas)
- Make use of online quiz platforms to make learning more engaging (eg: Quizlet, Socrative, Nearpod, Kahoot, Quizizz, Sporcle, etc)
If you have any recommendations for technology that can help with teaching, please leave a comment below and include a link if you can.
It’s time to enter the 21st century. This is an opportunity. But will we take it?