How EdTech is enhancing a ‘traditional’ approach to learning

SOURCE: Alain Jocard/AFP
As students demand more personalized approaches to learning— the answer lies in technology.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

Technology is everywhere in our lives today— the workplace, in our homes, on our person and, now, in our schools.

It figures that given the digital transformation of workplaces across industries— and the increasing automation of our businesses— the next generation of workers are early immersed in a culture of experimentation and innovation with emerging technologies and software.

But that’s not the sole aim of technology for education— a growing market more commonly referred to as EdTech. It also offers an alternative to ‘traditional’ classroom learning methods, engaging students which new, innovative formats, and the ability to tailor approaches to fit the individual student.

According to a forecast laid out by Boclips’ (formerly Knowledgemotion) CEO David Bainbridge in Forbes, the EdTech industry will reach a global value of US$252 billion by 2020. In the UK, there are more than 1,000 startups focused on providing EdTech technology.

The EdTech landscape

Covering any digital technology that augments or facilitates learning, the landscape of this market is vast. EdTech can comprise custom learning experiences, using gadgets and interfaces to provide learning based on need, preference, and availability. It could be the use of cloud computing, allowing students to access course files and collaborate with one another wherever they are. It could be the use of voice assistants or VR to provide more novel, immerse, or practical methods of learning.

“Technology is spreading throughout education primarily because schools are driven by what works– and technology works,” Kevin Schmidt, CTO of Century Tech told TechHQ.

While tight budgets, nationwide curricula requirements— and, of course, a student’s education at stake— means schools have been more “careful and diligent” with tech purchases than any other type of institution, the booming EdTech market is a testament to the impact of technology now broadly accessible to schools willing to take a leap of faith.

“Schools have historically been let down by poor IT, but we are seeing that change as the excellent tech enjoyed in other sectors starts to reach education,” said Schmidt.

“Headteachers are increasingly being granted autonomy and freedom over how they approach education, rewarding those who take bold steps with areas like the use of technology.”

A personalized path

Century Tech uses AI to learn how a student best learns most effectively, providing tailored lessons and tests with a “personalized path to mastering each subject”, by playing off individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.

But it also seeks to alleviate the burden of admin tasks from teachers themselves— like marking and planning— that swallows up teaching staff’s time in and outside of school hours. Teachers can also use the program to view detailed insights on each student’s performance, providing them rich information to perform better ad educators.

As a result, they can spend more time on more valuable activities, such as one-to-one feedback sessions with students.

Basingstoke College of Technology (BCOT) in the UK is one such institution that has taken the EdTech plunge, and that’s in no small part thanks to Charlie James, one of the further education college’s Learning Technologists— a role which has seen her shortlisted as a ‘Rising Star’ in the Women in IT Awards.

An advocate of AI in education, James’s interest in EdTech stems from it as a solution for personalized learning, where traditional, molded teaching methods can be perfect for students of certain mindsets or backgrounds, and inappropriate for others, something James has first-hand experience of.

On the need to break the mold with new approaches to learning at BCOT, James said: “It wasn’t going to happen unless someone stepped in and said, yes this is a big problem.

“When I started my apprenticeship at the college, I’d already tried my math exam three times – you can’t teach to different backgrounds. You need to be able to personalize the approach, whether it’s the first time of exam sitting, or the fifth time.”

Experimental and open

BCOT uses Century Tech which, James claims, has helped improve the math exam pass rate. But the college utilizes a range of technologies across its courses, with an experimental, almost playful mindset.

“Our first meet with AI is definitely our use of Google Forms, almost every course across the college uses it.

“Our main aim here is to save teachers time and support students in their way of learning. We have created a Dashboard that just makes it easier for both staff and students to see grades, what they need to do, their calendars— it’s all in one place,” said James.

While adoption of technology is experimental, it’s not to say James and her team just ‘see what sticks’. Created by BCOT’s MIS (Management Information Systems) team, the Dashboard was “student-designed”, based on surveys and conversations. Meanwhile, frequent catch-ups ensure solutions are still working for all users, and are tweaked accordingly.

Ultimately, James said, “if it doesn’t help students, there’s no point in doing it.”