As schools react to the ever-changing need for remote learning and hybrid classrooms, the need for effective – and efficient- education technology is critical to ensure that students receive the quality education that they received in a traditional interactive classroom. But with the rapid changes in classroom technology in 2020, it can be difficult for teachers to quickly adapt to these new tools. According to EdSurge, only 10% of K-12 teachers “feel confident incorporating higher-level technology into student learning.”
So what is the best way to measure whether technology will have an effective return on investment for your classrooms? Administrators should focus on new technologies that:
Teachers in today’s classroom are having to rapidly acquire new skills to adapt to new hybrid classroom technology. The new remote learning technology can also create problems that eat into teaching time. There are multiple devices that require logins, internet connections, and secure cloud access. According to Education Week, teachers are often faced with the challenge of fixing access problems on online video calls, which can consume precious classroom teaching time, impacting all their students.
With the education ecosystem focused on adapting to new teaching strategies, one way to improve is to look for technology that eliminates repetitive time-consuming tasks for teachers. For example, automated test scoring tools can free up time outside the lessons. Another way to optimize classroom time is the use of automated login technologies to enable teachers to faster access network and cloud-based files and classroom recordings. Logging into Google accounts, Zoom, and other infrastructure can be simplified and made faster and more secure with NFC-powered Tap 'N Teach technology, where a teacher can swipe a card in front of a display – and start teaching in less than 20 seconds. Automated video conferencing apps and other tools can be loaded on the board to enable a one-tap connection – freeing the teacher from complicated logins. The best part – it doesn’t take hours of CE training to master, and once set up, is easily managed by the IT department to ensure it works every time.
Administrators are now looking for non-proprietary solutions that can run their older platforms, such as Smart Notebook or Promethean ActiveInspire, while adapting to new curriculum ecosystems such as Microsoft Whiteboard or Google Classroom – on the same display. For school districts like Kankakee IL, this enables teachers to use whatever curriculum they are most comfortable with – and eliminates the need for large amounts of teachers' training to learn new technology.
One dramatic change we are observing that will have long term consequences is the need for remote learning and working. While the temptation is to look at the COVID-19 pandemic as a short term event, the reality is that once students eventually graduate and enter the workforce, they are going to be working and communicating remotely regularly. Educause “Information Ecology“ assessment is an excellent tool to look at how to prepare your students for the hybrid learning environment in universities – and their future careers. New interactive displays that operate similar to smartphones and integrated cloud connectivity offer ways to leverage existing learning and user interfaces from common consumer products – but can extend the reach of the hybrid classroom without major infrastructure investment.
While these technologies can certainly deliver content and information, engaging the students on a human level is still a critical part of student success. According to Scientific American, many students find the classroom to be a great place to escape from social media and often “craved more human interaction, and wanted to unplug more during class”. Teachers can look to these new technologies as tools to use to increase their impact on students rather than electronic distractions.
After Covid-19, hybrid classrooms will be present in every school. So while currently, most of the effort is on keeping students safe by removing them from the school building, how can schools improve the health and safety of students learning within the classroom? Health experts are looking at these areas to improve classroom health and safety for students and teachers:
In a high-density environment such as a classroom, reducing the spread of germs is an important part of keeping students and teachers healthy. Educators can follow the lead of medical professionals, and learn from them about ways to ensure a safe environment.
In addition to regular cleaning regimes, hospitals have used silver ion anti-microbial coatings for years as part of their pathogen control ecosystem. These coatings are used on nurse’s carts, instruments, and even surgical lighting to stem the growth of bacteria on various surfaces. Similar technologies are becoming available on other common tools such as interactive displays.
Compared to 10 years ago, the amount of time teachers and students spend in front of an LED display has grown exponentially. Between notebooks, smartphones, tablets, and now interactive displays, many teachers are concerned about how the higher blue light levels could impact their and their students' eyesight.
The two most common currently used solutions are having teachers wear blue light glasses (or having a blue light filter within their existing glasses), or choosing technology that can reduce blue light. Blue light reduction technology such as Apple’s “Night Shift” is now a standard feature of most smartphones, but not yet commonly available on larger displays used in classrooms. In Europe, where administrators are concerned about the amount of blue light coming from large 75” or 86” displays, regulatory agencies routinely test these products and certify them for low blue light. Some models also have proximity sensors to automatically reduce blue light whenever a teacher or student approaches the display.
The implementation and effective use of new education technology to facilitate learning is now a key part of how educational institutions measure success. To use technology in the best possible manner, the teacher should be willing to accept – and even embrace new technology. The payoff? According to a recent study published in the Journal of Higher Education, the choice of the right technology solutions can generate a significant positive impact of value beliefs, social influence, and perceived ease of use on the behavioral intention to use technology by the teachers.
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