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Enhancing learning through digital technology

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Learning is not a passive activity. To learn requires interaction with external stimuli in order to either construct new knowledge or acquire new skills, or to build upon prior knowledge and improve existing skills. The external stimuli can be the explanation of a teacher, a discussion with a peer, the observation of an expert or a myriad of other possible conveyers. Technology extends the range and variety of possible stimuli, allowing interaction to occur between the learner and applications, software and other people.

Technology therefore provides schools with a great learning opportunity; as external stimuli are crucial for learning, so schools, teachers, parents and learners themselves are seeking to extend those stimuli beyond the classroom walls, the front door and the school day.

We are seeing increasing numbers of schools enhancing learning through initiatives such as:

  • “Flipped learning” where classroom teaching builds on previously acquired knowledge, typically from resources such as Youtube and the Khan Academy
  • “Bring your own device” models where learners use their own technologies for learning in school
  • School provision of interactive technologies, such as the iPad
  • Learning blogs inviting peer comments
  • Augmented reality placing video and 3D ‘VR’ content on to static visual content

The challenge for teachers wanting to enhance learning using technology is twofold – they need to build planning and resource creation around high-quality and effective apps, software and learning strategies, and also instil in their learners the skills and dispositions required to learn more independently.

Furthermore, both teachers and learners must be incredibly discerning in order to locate and recognise high-quality resources and stimuli in such a crowded market. The App Store and Google Play contain a combined total of 1.5million apps but only some will really enrich the learning process.

There is a huge opportunity for business to develop apps which generate powerful learning opportunities. They can attract a lot of interest, and therefore revenue and media exposure. This is not limited to apps designed specifically for education; creative teachers routinely use apps in powerful ways to enhance learning in ways the designers never imagined. Likewise, creative businesses will deepen pupil, and crucially parental, engagement by facilitating the extension of learning beyond the school building and school day.

The key for businesses in this field is to create a ‘buzz’ around the product, making people see their products as exciting, innovative and effective. National Schools Partnership has extensive and successful experience in this arena, promoting a huge range of products from ‘live’ learning platforms to ‘edutainment’ games, often incorporating social media and other innovations such as virtual and augmented reality to enhance the education experience.

By Matt Buxton, Digital Education Consultant