COVID-19 has undeniably changed the way we’ve had to educate students over the past few months but what part will edtech tools have to play in the classroom when students return for the new academic year?
For many schools, the pandemic forced them into an edtech revolution, upon hearing the news of closures they had to find tools that would enable them to continue the school day remotely. Others were fortunate enough to have tools implemented that supported remote learning to some extent, making the transition from face to face to remote schooling that little bit easier.
But regardless of where schools were at the start of closures, they’re now caught up to some extent when it comes to edtech literacy, a feat that suppliers and the government have been chipping away at for the past couple of decades. In fact, Director of BESA, Caroline Wright, proclaimed that the coronavirus pandemic achieved more for edtech in a couple of months than the government strategy has achieved in the past 20 years.
As a result of closures, we’ve seen schools embrace tools that facilitate distance learning, some going as far as live streaming lessons and recording podcasts. But how do these new skills and edtech tools translate into the ‘regular’ classroom setting?
Well, the good news is that this level of exposure to technology will support teachers in being more explorative in their teaching techniques. They may find that the creation of podcasts is a great way to engage their pupils and continue this method of teaching and learning.
But also, it’s important to realise that the skills and literacy teachers have developed with reference to edtech tools will not be rendered useless as, it is anticipated, despite the government’s desire to have 100% of schools open and students returning come September in England, that blended learning, at least in some capacity, is here to stay until a vaccination for the virus is found.
The need for blended schools could present itself in a number of different ways, upon reflection it may be deemed too risky to have 100% of students in at all time, or, as we’ve seen in Leicester, local lockdowns may have to be enforced due to localised outbreaks, or schools may have to shut for a short period of time if members of the community become infected for deep clearing. Additionally, just small pockets of people may need to self isolate, either teachers or students, who would need the ability to continue learning from their homes.
It’s unfortunate that these are plausible scenarios but they are things we should consider and as such should not rush to ditch our distance learning tools. Instead, schools should be looking to invest in software that prepares them for the eventualities laid out above but also complements their usual school day.
Fortunately, given the exposure teachers, parents and students now have to technology, there's a chance they’d be more willing to explore different tools that can support the teaching and learning process in such a way.
With this in mind, there are now a number of priorities schools have to take into consideration when exploring software services. Not only does edtech have to support a blended school and distance learning, but it should also enhance the teaching and learning experience whilst ensuring the safety of stakeholders.
It is also important to remember that edtech does serve a purpose outside of distance learning - yes, it has done wonders for the education landscape during this extremely difficult time, but it can also have huge benefits for teacher wellbeing, workload, reporting, classroom management and more.
When looking at investments in the future, bear in mind that your school does exist outside of COVID and what was in your school improvement plan prior to all of this, should still be a focus and can be enhanced with technology. Just try to find solutions to propel your school and students forward whilst ensuring the safety of stakeholders but also being a viable tool that will support you should you have to regress at any point.
Hopefully, this experience will have changed the way we view edtech for the better, and we will continue to see high adoption rates through school communities, but also, schools reap the outstanding benefits these solutions have to offer.