In the past, we have done a number of articles on how technology is impacting the field of education.

It is one of the most progressive fields in the world today. Since the introduction of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and even before that, teaching was always going to be influenced by technology.

The debate around the benefits of this have always been a for better or worse scenario. Some say that they are fully behind the benefits that technology can offer their children, others are dead against it.

Reasons for the struggle

I recently read an article on theconversation.com which gave 10 reasons why technology can be a struggle when used in the classroom.

  • Introduced technology is not always preferred. Technology isn’t always the answer. Pre-service teachers have reflected on having preferences for manual writing (compared to typing) and incidences of doubling up on time writing notes. Students can also prefer reading print and teachers can disengage from introducing new technology when they don’t feel it adds anything extra;
  • The article adds that differing device capabilities and instructions is also a problem. When students are required to bring their own device to school, there can be large differences in device capability, for example between what a cheap android phone can do compared with an iPad. Students may have difficulty writing on small devices over long periods. Teachers may need to give multiple instructions for many different devices;
  • It’s easy for students to be distracted. Students regularly use devices for social media, playing games, instant messaging, text messaging and emailing rather than for class work. Students have been described as “digital rebels” (accessing social media and texting), “cyber wanderers” (succumbing to virtual games) and “eLearning pioneers” (undertaking online studies during classtime);
  • The article points out that technology can affect lesson time and flow. Lessons are interrupted by regular negotiations that reduce lesson time. This is related to students not putting screens down (during instructions), concealing screens from teachers’ view, pretending devices don’t work and devices being insufficiently charged. Digital technology training and preparing lessons to include new technologies can also be time consuming.
  • The article adds that teachers need more professional development. There are nearly 300,000 teachers across Australia. They need access to ICT improvements for classroom implementation and to keep up with continuous technological advances. This needs to be regular, scaffolded and sustainable. Yet, allocation of professional learning resources has been reported as sporadic in scope and quality;
  • Not everyone has technology at home. Not all students or teachers use a computer at home, are frequent users, have sufficient data or internet access. There is a digital divide of reduced computer literacy in students from Indigenous, lower socioeconomic or regional/rural backgrounds. This creates challenges for teachers if they have to set different tasks for different students, or if they avoid setting homework with a digital component;
  • The article points out that teachers need to protect students. Immersion of students in digital technologies has created additional demands for teachers to protect students’ behaviours online (safety, legal risks and privacy) and in the classroom (theft and locking of devices);
  • The article adds that not all teachers believe in using technology. A wide range of research has established that if teachers don’t believe in using digital technologies they will fail to transform classes, align with learning goals and integrate technology into curricular content;
  • Lack of adequate ICT support, infrastructure, or time. Appropriate access to technical support (classroom, informally), availability of infrastructure (computer labs, software), policies (whether to administer digital homework) and time allocated to incorporate new technologies are major challenges for teachers; and
  • There are tensions between students and teachers. There have been tensions from teachers confiscating “personally owned” devices, difficulties accessing power sockets and when students find information online that conflicts with what the teacher is teaching.

What can we do to overcome?

The article points out that there is no single technological solution that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching. Integrating technology in the classroom is a complex and varied process for many teachers.

Meaningful technology integration depends on more than device use. There are important steps to make sure integrating technology aligns with how you teach and what you are teaching.

The article adds that professional development has tried to address teachers’ technology struggles. But much of it has been limited to one-shot or one solution for all strategies.

We need an approach to ICT professional development with different layers to handle the many various situations teachers find themselves in and to handle varied levels of teaching experience and confidence.

Developing a common vision about the role of ICT in education with stakeholders and creating a shared community of practice is important.

The article points out that without holistic improvements to teacher support and training that address the many issues teachers face, there’s the risk of creating a generation of ill-prepared students for a digital future.

The other side of the coin

The guardian.com makes a strong case for the benefits of technology in the education system.

Tech companies in the UK and abroad, including Apple and Microsoft, have been urged to help foster an education revolution by putting technology at the heart of the classroom.

The article points out that the education secretary, Damian Hinds, said only a minority of schools and colleges were taking advantage of opportunities to bring education to life by, for instance, enabling children to take virtual trips through the Amazon or to control robots.

Slashing costs

The article adds that technology can also slash the time teachers spend on burdensome administrative tasks, he said on Tuesday, but Hinds implored the UK’s burgeoning tech industry, along with the Silicon Valley giants, to provide support.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways. Students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or program robots from their classroom, while teachers are able to access training, share best practice with colleagues and update parents on a pupil’s progress without being taken away from their main focus – teaching,” Hinds told The Guardian.

“Schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets. But they cannot do this alone. It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.”

Five key areas

The article points out that Hinds identified five key areas where the sector can provide innovative solutions: teaching practices, assessment processes, teacher training and development, administration processes and lifelong learning (helping those who have left formal education to get the best from online courses).

Hinds said he wanted the technology sector to demonstrate how innovations already successfully employed at some schools, colleges and universities can be rolled out more widely.

A positive example cited by the Department for Education is Shireland Collegiate academy in Smethwick, where the school uses apps and software packages to facilitate its day-to-day running, saving teachers “hours and hours of time”.

The DfE said it would be working closely with industry leaders as they developed online training packages and would establish an online portal providing free software trials for schools.

Across the Aegean

Universities across Cyprus are also seeing the benefits of technology in teaching.

I recently read an article that points out that technologies have updated our perception of the learning process; it gradually becomes much more interactive and multidimensional. Fancy digital gadgets are a good thing to implement in classes, but actually, you also need a new teaching strategy that goes along with it.

The article adds that online learning is not enough within itself; the next step is to create virtual studying room that can provide space for meetings with professionals in related fields of studies and for sharing practical aspects of the job with students. Some universities have already put this idea into practice and widened the use of technology in education, for instance, Duke University. It shows a much greater level of interest in the process of learning and brings new opportunities that seem to be impossible just 10-15 years earlier.

AI Technologies

The article points out that AI is not only about robotic androids and futuristic sci-fi scenarios. It is also about the unique learning opportunities and numerous benefits of technology in education.

AI is already used to customize studying program adapting materials to the needs of the specific group or even a person. Impact of technology on learning does not stop there; think about virtual assistants to the human professors, smart educational apps of the next generation and, of course, a huge amount of multimedia content.

Interactive Interfaces Based on Physical Gestures

The article adds that movement, touch, facial expression, and many other actions are implemented into the virtual studying programs and continue the impact of technology on education in different spheres.

It will widely increase the rate of inclusion of people with various disabilities as well as the general possibilities of the traditional lesson structures. The reimagining of the move technologies that could teach people numerous practical skills, as well as make learning, in general, a much more concrete and tangible.

Computer Games as Teaching Tools

While the gaming industry is perceived to serve a solely entertaining purpose, its possibilities in the learning are almost infinite. First steps have been already taken, with such products as Assassin’s Creed Origins releasing discovery mode which is dedicated to the exploration of the game’s Ancient Egypt setting.

The article points out that games can create numerous possibilities of exploring, history, nature, the universe, our own bodies in a most engaging first-person experience. It can make a process of learning much more vivid and exciting, as well as much more knowledgeable. It does it already! Architects, doctors, historians and many other specialists soon will be advised to play a game for their home assignment.