Musings from the Plains
Mirror Mirror on the wall, show us what trends will impact the educational landscape, which ones will be the greatest of them all. Cognitive modification, metaverses, open-source assessment, personal learning ecologies are perhaps a bit too far out. Maybe a decade or two away. Let’s pinch to zoom a bit closer to 2020. What can schools and educators look forward to over this year? It is not a very easy question to answer as schools are complex beasts. You will have top tier schools which already have access to some of these technologies. The middle tier schools who will probably pick one or two of these trends and the majority of the schools which will still be struggling with trends that were supposed to be implemented over the last decade like effective student information management systems and learning management systems. For the purposes of this article, we will look at five tech trends which are still in their infancy and though the potential is great, they should be graduating this year into the mainstream.
Learning analytics is the process of identifying trends and patterns to reveal areas of improvement based on data about a student’s academic performance. The goal is timely action and relevant intervention strategies to improve attainment. Designing effective lessons and learning experiences using data generated allows the teacher to focus on helping students informatively.
Learning analytics software can be part of other software or collation of data from different systems. It allows teachers to track students who are academically weak or measure engagement with the content. Student learning patterns can be identified to create stimulating lesson plans and additional resources utilised as a result. Finding out how students learn is quite powerful and this helps in personalising the learning experience. The software can though go further than individual lessons and it allows a holistic overview of student performance over time.
Adaptive learning systems build on learning analytics and use data to adjust learning for students on an individual scale. The scope for personalisation of learning is immense. These systems often utilise machine learning/artificial intelligence or statistical analysis to inform content selection. The goal, as always, is to provide customised education to deliver the right content at the right time.
The software can create engaging, personalised learning experiences which the teacher can build upon leading to a more inclusive approach to education. More and more ed-tech software will be utilising both learning analytics and adaptive learning over the year. Here the software does a lot of the grunt work that teachers often do saving them time and that is a quick win and sell in schools.
Augmented Reality (AR) seems to be around for a while, overshadowed by its big brother Virtual Reality. AR has the potential to tap into education much more due to its ability to create shared experiences. All one needs is a phone and teachers and students can participate in an AR experience. Allow each student a device and you have a truly personalised experience. Invest in an AR headset and now you are talking cutting edge.
At its simplest, using a mobile device, AR superimposes photos, videos and animation onto the real world. How powerful is it to see a piece of literature come alive or hear music from a music sheet? It allows embedding experiential learning in the most rote of lessons and surely that is not a bad thing.
Like any other technological tool, it is the creation and curation of these learning experiences which is key. Teaching a whole lesson using AR probably is not the right way, yet. Short snappy experiences which make a well-planned lesson come alive to connect the student to the learning will be the way forward.
Data Protection and Cyber Security
As schools move down the road of ed-tech software solutions, student data is becoming more and more lucrative. There will be a dearth of companies looking to monetise this data and as such schools will start looking at policies and solutions related to data protection and cybersecurity. With the new IT act inbound and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations prevalent abroad, dealing with organisations like Cambridge International Examinations and International Baccurelate based in Europe will require compliance and schools will need to start formulating plans on how they deal with the security of student, staff and parent personal data. Even accreditation organisations like the Council of International Schools and others will require this as part of their accreditation processes. It can be tricky to walk the tightrope between an individual's rights to privacy and the lawful processing of personal data and schools will need to upskill their leadership to understand how this impacts all aspects of school life from vendors to in house data sharing.
To highlight some of the key requirements under GDPR:
Now, this one is not new however if you are paying attention to the 2019-nCoV situation in China, you can see how schools still aren’t prepared to deal with virtual learning. With school closures going into March there and even with virtual learning environments being a staple of most schools for over a decade, it is still becoming cumbersome for schools to teach students online. Distant learning is easily achievable by structured courses on platforms like Udemy and edx, but not in a school. Videoconferencing is extensively used in business however not in schools. Expect a renewed focus on this in the international school market with some ed-tech companies thriving as they build solutions to cater for this need. Teacher training is another area that virtual learning will focus upon as the costs of sending staff to face to face training sessions soars.
In addition to the above, gamification of learning will continue its march along with other technologies which perhaps are on the periphery. Blockchain, Internet Of Things, e-sports are going to slowly inch their way into schools especially as they migrate towards becoming Smart Campuses. Use of app-based learning and bespoke software solutions are a bit of a hit and miss however solutions focussed on creativity will definitely be leading the pack. Whatever K12 tech trend a school follows in 2020, the common mantra will be the personalisation of the learning experience and that surely is a good thing.
So you binged watched the first week and had your fill of gaming and still have a few months left before university or the new academic year. Below are some ideas on what you could do.
1) Learn an essential skill: Cooking or Baking
2) Learn to play an instrument or a game like Chess
3) Start a quarantine diary or write a book/article
4) Tidy up your phone/Organise you pictures/rooms
5) Plan a virtual event with your friends
1) Make an app (Targetted for my CS group - Learn to code would apply to others)
2) Investigate your chosen university/college course and pre-prep
3) Innovate solutions to the humanitarian crisis unfolding around you
4) Keep yourself fit - establish a daily routine
Free online course / sources of inspiration
MOOC short courses from top global universities
Future learn short courses from top universities and training organisations
Open University courses
Learn to play the guitar
Fitness – serious workouts with Chris Hemsworth
Computer Science and Coding
Intro to Computer Science with Harvard University
Learn about Artificial Intelligence
Cooking classes with Michelin star chef
Learn a Language with hellotalk
Learn a Language with Duolingo
MENSA – take the challenge! How high is your IQ?
Listen to books and poetry
Wildlife – watch webcams and videos
Art and Art History – Virtual Museum and Gallery tours
Art and Art History – more Museum virtual tours
Art - Getty Museum
English Year 12
English Year 13
Film, TV, VFX, Games Industries
Film, Theatre, Technical Industries
History Ideas, Information, Podcasts
Maths Year 12
Maths Year 13
Music Theory – free online learning
Philosophy Critical Reasoning for Beginners – Oxford University
Psychology – inspiring podcasts
Space – NASA summer school
Statistics and Data
Do something different
Enter competitions or get articles published.
Environment/Wildlife/Planet, earthshotprize.org, Deadline 24th April
Poetry, foyleyoungpoets.org Deadline 31st July
Politics Writing competition- The Financial Times www.ft.com/content Deadline 31st May
Science, Young Scientist Journal – get your articles published here ysjournal.com
Science, She Talks Science blog – Cambridge University. Contribute your articles here www.murrayedwards.cam.ac.uk/news/
Science, Unsung Heroes of Science – Oxford University. Submit your video here www.hertford.ox.ac.uk/unsungscience
The Oxford Scientist – Writing Competition oxsci.org/schools/, Deadline 1st May
Teaching in a lockdown isn't just about just maintaing relationships and engagement/well-being but also about tracking student development and progression within a curriculum framework.
Simplifying it into two strands allows us to review the tools we have at our disposal to support students much more effectively. Of course, we could break down this type of activity into multiple strands and create comprehensive lists, however, that is not the purpose of this post. Keep it simple so to speak. If you want a decent one - Start here.
Engagement, relationships and well-being
Video conferencing tools like the ones below are quite common and utilised to maintain a face to face connection with your students
Communication tools allow more immediate messaging to students and have a low footprint on that all essential bandwidth.
Ancilliary tools allow teachers to plan teaching and learning experiences akin to what they would have in the normal classroom.
These allow teachers to connect with students and support them with synchronous learnimg as well. Pace is set by the teacher and you can also emulate the normal classroom experience to a certain extent. It does take a lot of work to set these up and ancillary tools are often required. Teachers end up managing a lot of the planning, assessment and feedback.
Progression with the school curriculum
These are packages that schools buy and cover the curriculum offered in greater depth. More importantly they track student progression and in some cases offer bespoke pathways for students. These often support the asynchronous model of learning and allow progression at the students pace. A lot of the heavy lifting is taken care of by them, freeing the teacher to make use of the data they generate and in my view allows them to focus more on supporting students in this time of crisis.
Looking at your context (student and your access to devices/Internet/training) you might want to employ a combination of both approaches. The key is to not reinvent the wheel but look at what the immediate needs of your students are and address those.
As always, start small, keep it simple and then build upon your tech offering, layer by layer.
Online learning is a new experience for parents. Schools need to issue guidance that speaks to them. Below are some tips to help them support children at home.
Feel free to adapt and use as you see fit.
If you are looking for some simple rules to support virtual learning, hopefully these will help.
A corona extends from the Sun, millions of kilometres from the source, to spread light. Kind of similar to a teacher teaching virtually, to students all over the world, as the case might be.
Three months down the road from when the novel coronavirus first emerged in China, one of the biggest impact on society, apart from public health, has been on education. The kickstarting of digital pedagogy on such a scale has never been possible before. All the tech gurus and specialists put together could not possibly had such an impact in a mere 8 weeks after schools started closing across the world. Let's start by giving credit where credit is due.
The Chinese Government’s decision to offer virtual classes on a national scale was the single most important decision that set the ball rolling. Previously, schools were often shut and terms extended or holidays reduced to make up the difference. By almost dictating that the school day run as normal, virtually, they single-handedly pushed a lot of schools into the digital age. By enforcing self isolation, they removed the option of choice and travel which meant most ended participating in virtual learning.
The second is school leadership. This crisis truly highlights the massive power which resides within our school leaders. When they are truly behind an initiative the results are always spectacular. Which also makes me wonder why some school leaders were hesitant in using virtual learning before the crisis. I can never understand why certain schools spend such huge amounts on tech infrastructure, training and still not have much to show for it. I chalk this one, in those schools, to personal disinterest in tech-based pedagogy. If you lead by example, others follow.
The third is the ed-tech world at large, coming together to offer free solutions and training has helped a lot of colleagues take their first step into true virtual learning. From Microsoft Teams to Google Hangouts to Century to Mangahigh to Byju, everyone is on board to support the learning. Of course, there is always an underlying business strategy but this makes me wonder, what if post this crisis, they continue to offer their services for free? How will that help the continuation of the progress made?
Fourth, the teachers, they have been on the frontline and a lot of them struggled, often silently. Of course, we forgot to add the virtual staff room or the proverbial water cooler. They upped their game and learnt some solid skills. On Twitter, the bizz has been super positive. They identified where tech worked for them and where it didn’t. They curated learning experiences which worked for their students and these will shape the conversation on the development of education technology for years to come.
Finally, the parents, the unsung heroes, who had to look after kids at home or make arrangements. They became students themselves at times. Ensuring a child is occupied full time is a job in its own right, ensuring their education and managing your day to day, is a challenge indeed. Getting to set up a positive learning environment at home can be a challenge especially if you have dogs, cats, siblings, the odd inappropriate picture/statue in the background which can easily disrupt a virtual lesson. Not easy being a virtual teacher's assistant. Kudos to you all.
So thanks to the above teaching and learning has progressed into the virtual world but what have we learnt so far over the last three months?
Well, where it worked really well, clear structures were formed using some of the following:
Where it didn’t work:
Key problems encountered
With any digital learning experience there are always aspects of e-safety to consider so make sure that you are:
Tips for parents
Research studies have shown that positive parent engagement contributes to a successful online learning experience for children so identify how you can support the online learning process.
Hopefully, some of the above will give you an insight into some of the initial learning from the global online learning experience so far and you might be able to plan effective digital experiences both as a teacher and as a parent.
I am Sunny Thakral. If you are here on the site then you know a bit about me. If not then I am a teacher and these are my musings. Hope you enjoy them.