As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, the role it plays in education has changed both within the curriculum and in how schools are managed. Tech evangelist Mark Martin aka Urban Teacher, shares his thoughts on the impact edtech can have on teachers but also why digital literacy is so important to today's students for their future.
The rise of technology in society and schools is happening at an increasingly fast rate. Technology is like a lighthouse on the hill and education is the titanic ship turning at a slow pace to capture the light for direction and support. Now, teachers have become speedboats, linking new educational tools to teaching and learning
The edtech tools that seem to be popular amongst teachers are the ones that can produce content in a short space of time and are easy to use. Over recent years, many edtech companies have provided teachers with dashboards and class logins which makes the process of using new tech seamless across the whole school.
However these aren’t without issues - schools may encounter troubles when introducing new technology due to a range of factors such as existing technology not being compatible with new software or lack of internet connectivity at students’ homes. Although, most of these situations can be avoided if proper research on the tech is carried out before implementation. When this is done successfully, schools can focus on reaping the benefits intended with as little disruption as possible.
In this dialogue, students are the constant, and as part of Gen Y embrace edtech fairly easily and are comfortable with learning new skills taught in a relevant and engaging way.
Returning to the lighthouse analogy - if you want to prepare and direct students to a brighter future it’s important that we show clearer pathways to the opportunities and skills required for a career in digital Britain.
This can simply not be achieved by throwing technology at a student or into a school - tech that is implemented needs to have a real purpose. Furthermore, we need to embrace a key stakeholder who is usually sidelined in this narrative - parents. Parents are the key figures for helping students choose their future career and preparing them for a world unknown - I’m always amazed when students come to my lessons and show me skills that they have learnt at home, we need to work harder at embracing parents and tapping into their skillset.
Despite the widening skills gaps emerging in many technical sectors, there is a big awareness gap that fails to showcase the technical careers that are available for students on their doorstep. My first thought is not to shut them down but to connect them to industry experts or career advisors in their chosen field of interest. Good career advice in schools is becoming an increasingly dying breed and this is seriously affecting student aspirations and access to opportunities. To truly prepare students for jobs that are unknown we need to ignite in them a passion for career paths that they can understand and navigate.
There is a massive opportunity for tech companies to relate some of the activities on their platform to the real world of work. Game companies do this well by having a range of different features where students need to use critical and entrepreneurial skills. An example of this is game customisation within the gameplay, teamwork, designing skins to modify characters/interface and digital coins to trade. These skills are highly valued in numerous industries because when students enter the world of work, it’s like taking a seat on the rocket ship where they will need these soft skills to propel and navigate within that space. To truly prepare students for jobs that are unknown we need to ensure the content and tools we teach them now is relatable, relevant and transferable.