Education has changed beyond recognition in recent years. This is a necessity, and is directly related to the needs of governments (in the form of education standards) and the students themselves (in the shape of more strenuous job market demands). This has meant that educators have had to work hard to keep up with these changes. Their main tool has been technology. The best technology facilitates learning beyond even that which the best teachers can do. It pushes students beyond their limits, builds new skills and allows for truly individualized learning scenarios. This is something that even the best teacher in the world cannot do when he or she has thirty young people to manage. However, there are still challenges facing schools that wish to embrace this technology. This article looks at two of these issues.
Teacher professional development
Whether it is a tablet, an e pen or a digital table, schools will always have some barriers to the effective take-up of new learning technology. If the school wants to provide truly interactive learning, they have to overcome these barriers. The key barrier that still faces a good number of educators is professional development. It is not that teachers are unwilling to learn how to use an e pen effectively; it is more that they don’t feel able. One key challenge for educators and local government over the next year or so is to ensure that the very best professional development opportunities are delivered to teachers. Only by having the best instruction and support will teachers be able to confidently utilize new educational technology to their fullest potential.
Embedding informal learning
Another challenge is informal learning, or rather how to embed it. There are many teachers now who are comfortable with the idea of allowing learners to find many of the answers themselves in an informal learning environment where teachers effectively take a back seat. In this back seat they will guide, monitor and facilitate the learning that takes place. The opposite of this is the old way of doing things, where teachers stand at the front of the room and tell students what to do and what to learn, with little individualised discovery. This new model is effective and proven to work, but some teachers still feel uncomfortable with leaving children to their learning. Educators and the authorities that govern them need to trust new technology, and help teachers to learn to trust it, so that more facilitation is in place. Once informal learning is fully accepted in a classroom, better learning will take place. It is just a question of how to make more teachers open to the concept.
Schools will change alongside the rate of change that education is showing. Teachers are generally showing more willing to embrace technology and use it as part of their overall pedagogy, which is a good thing. Take a look inside a truly interactive learning environment today and you will see little teacher talk, and a lot more student engagement, with technology very visible. It won’t be too long now before that is the picture everywhere, as long as the above two challenges are met with confidence and commitment.