First things first, let’s just say it: we think that digital learning and teaching are here to stay. The use of digital technology in education might only be a recent phenomenon, but it’s one that’s already having profound effects on how we teach, how we learn and how students succeed.
So, rather than yet another piece on whether we should digitise our classrooms at all, let’s take a look at whether the change is likely to stick.
Digital and mobile learning is a reflection of a huge societal shift
Digital and mobile learning are, rightly or wrongly, taking over the classroom. Growing numbers of school boards and individual teachers are moving with the times and using digital sources to teach, and digital environments to work in. But this isn’t simply a change within education; it’s anything but. It’s a reflection of the way that society is heading more generally.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs are a part of every home in a way that was unimaginable even just twenty years ago. They offer convenience and flexibility that was completely unheard of not just in education, but in nearly every aspect of life. As humans, we’re never ones to give up something convenient unless something more convenient comes along. We gave up fax in the 1990s, not because we didn’t want to communicate any more, but because email came along. So societal change isn’t going anywhere, its only likely to accelerate as it always has done.
Digital learning in the classroom is backed up by some big names
Since the digitisation of classrooms reflects not just a niche change, but a whole societal restructuring, it’s no surprise that some big names in business are sitting up and taking note. Hundreds of businesses just like Quickclass are moving with the times, and making VLEs and apps that can both help push this digital revolution forward, and help you to benefit from it.
And, naturally, it’s not just us. Probably the biggest name to have stepped into the market is Google, who are famous for trying to get their finger into almost every pie going. Google have created Google Classroom; while we don’t think it’s the best VLE out there, it’s a sign that the big guys are very interested for their own variety of reasons.
Digital learning and teaching benefit everybody
Allowing your students greater flexibility to do their work is only of benefit. It allows them to study and work wherever they choose, alter the pace of their learning to suit their needs, and even completely change how they learn. This sort of student led learning isn’t a new idea, but digital learning and teaching allows it to blossom like never before.
And the use of a virtual learning environment doesn’t just benefit students, it benefits teachers too. VLEs allow teachers to better organise their work load, share marks more easily with both students and parents, and find and share a wide variety of learning and support tools all through one interface. As we’ve said elsewhere, we believe that teachers and the digital classroom are the perfect match, and that this change is here to stay.
Teachers give emotional support and encourage emotional development
Watch any sci-fi movie and there’s a theme you’ll see time and time again: faceless, nameless robots who don’t know how to feel, emboldened by their lack of empathy to take over the Earth and shape it in their image (or some such storyline). Now, we’re not saying that this is definitely going to happen if we keep losing teachers at the rate which we already are; but like most fiction, there’s a grain of truth in there that we could (and should) learn from.
Learning, especially learning something new, is a struggle. It’s tough to encounter some new information or some new rule, internalise it and to apply it in a novel situation. That’s why children don’t always want to learn: because it’s hard, and it takes effort and perseverance. When they can, teachers do their best to help their students develop those all-important skills, and to teach them that it’s natural to feel frustrated and even angry at a tricky problem.
And on top of that, teachers play an absolutely vital role in helping their students to tackle bullies and the emotional fallout they cause. As much as we love them, VLEs can’t do that.
Teachers teach values and ideals, not just facts and figures
And while classrooms aren’t just about learning facts and figures, they aren’t just about emotional development either. They’re also for learning about culture and society, and the values that we’ve adopted as a civilisation. In conjunction with our tools for teaching online, we as teachers are tasked with teaching the values that we’ve fought for: things like free speech, the importance of standing up to bullies and ‘bad people’, and hard work and effort.
If teachers are taken from the equation, all we have left is the cold online world where, frankly, these ideals are less important. On top of that, it’s difficult to really understand why something like, say, the ideal of free speech is so important from a YouTube video or from social media. These things are a product of our society- of the people- so really, they can only be taught to others by people.
The inclusion of digital technology shouldn’t mean the exclusion of teachers: the two work best together.
Taken on their own, online teaching software and virtual learning environments are excellent for giving students a structure for their learning. We aren’t going to argue that point today. But what we do say is that if students were, excuse the pun, left to their own devices and told to learn on their own with no input from a teacher- nothing would get done.
Students need somebody to guide them through online environments, because let’s face it, especially older systems can be tricky beasts to understand, although newer services are becoming ever more intuitive and easy to mould to the way you already teach. When used properly, virtual learning environments are an amazing tool for getting your job done, and they help you to enhance your students learning.
When you look into a classroom today, it can often seem like traditional learning methods are nowhere to be found. New technologies and educational services allow students to turn away from encyclopedias and experience an immersive, interactive and accessible education. From tablets to 3D-printers, here are some of the ways the digital age is reshaping education.
1 – Paper is a thing of the past
According to Professor Neil Selwyn of Montash University, textbooks will disappear from the classroom within a decade. A growing number of teachers are opting to expand learning into a digital atmosphere by providing students with tablets and computers in the place of traditional reading materials. Students today use tablets, computers, digital blackboards and even their phones to educate themselves. Not only does the transfer to digital education benefit the environment, but it expands educational boundaries so students can continue to learn outside the classroom.
2 – ‘Flipped education’ is the learning of the future
Besides allowing students to access educational sources at home, incorporating digital technology in the classroom also helps revolutionise ways of learning. By allowing students to interact with their learning materials, you teach them to actively seek knowledge instead of just passively consume information from a teacher. This turns students into independent learners who can use their internet at home to continue learning.
3 – Digital education benefits parents too
It’s almost certain that with evolving education policies, parents sometimes struggle with helping their children at home, whether it’s with homework or class projects. Introducing digital learning in your classroom will help parents and guardians of your students have access to their children’s courses as well, which will allow them to provide full support at home.
4 – Digital learning does not limit itself to Wikipedia
Turning to digital education doesn’t mean surrendering strong academia for sources like Wikipedia. There is a world of digital platforms available via the internet that allow your students to have a well-rounded and expansive education. Students can use the web and a growing number of social networks not only to converse with other students across the globe but also to access information that might not be readily available to them through and other academic platforms, which will only add to the education they are receiving in a classroom.
As far as digital learning has come, it is sure to expand in the next few years. With advances in 3D and virtual reality technology, it’s possible to see a future where students can experience and see what they’re learning within the comfort of their school or home. By adopting digital learning and embracing the wonders the internet brings to education, the sense of ‘classroom’ is at the students’ fingertips.