Albert Einstein once wrote “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Which is incredibly appropriate for the outdated teaching methods still being used today. No two students learn the same, or at the same pace and we all have different interests or aspirations, so why do we still treat students exactly the same in the classroom? The future of digital education is coming and it allows teachers to seamlessly adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of students individually.
It’s Not Replacing Teachers
Digital education in schools is changing the way we think and how students are taught, meaning that key skills are replaced with independent learning and information empowerment. Sceptics believe that a virtual learning environment will replace or undermine the teacher but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, this modern digital classroom will allow teachers the freedom of adaptive teaching, letting them tailor their process and free up time for struggling students. This also presents an opportunity for those excelling in the classroom who can work at a faster pace and be challenged to improve rather than waiting for classmates.
Technology enables real-time analytics for teachers to make accurate assessments of how students are really coping, as well as automated tracking and marking in some areas to reduce the workload in the classroom and take pressure off teachers. This level of monitoring can reveal the activities that are popular and enjoyable as well as the ones that were difficult or students spent more time on which improves teaching standards and makes classrooms enjoyable again.
Confident and responsible students are better able to think for themselves and be motivated to succeed. Digital components give them extra control, by being able to select the tasks they prefer, the order and even the time that they do them which generates a better understanding of their learning environments and what they are capable of. This responsibility makes for better adults and builds the capacity for problem solving and key life skills, so with adaptive technology such as VLEs becoming the norm, so is independent learning.
Sophisitcated technology is already being used in many classrooms, such as virtual learning environments, laptops and tablets that provide educational software for students to choose from. Programs that allow teachers to effortlessly create quizzes to test students and immediately mark them means progress can be monitored frequently. This gives clear and quick indicators of those who are struggling so they can get immediate help and extra time rather than spotting the difficulties too late and setting them up for failure.
It’s Not The Only Solution
It’s important to note that technology is not a magic wand that makes all students pass, but it does facilitate an environment where everyone stands a better chance because they are working for themselves. The digital classroom of the future will see teachers and students be further supported in education but if it isn’t used to its full potential, it could be more of a hindrance than a help. This means it’s important for teachers to get up to date and train on this technology to take advantage of it thoroughly.
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.