The role of technology in collaborative learning

Abhi Arya, President of FEN Learning & TeacherVision, looks at what technology in the classroom means for teachers

Technology has made great inroads in the classroom over the past few years. Hardware ranging from smart whiteboards to tablets is a common sight in schools and software like Google Classroom, Google Drive and Khan Academy continue to perforate everyday learning. And that’s great – especially as teachers are drawn to using technology more regularly and in more collaborative ways. However, technology has a long way to go before being used to its full effect and teachers continue to dictate the nature of learning. The real use case for technology in the classroom is still evolving, and as such, improvements in learning outcome for students are yet to be proven.

Alongside this technological transformation, we’re witnessing the changing role of the teacher in the classroom. Accelerating technology and its impact on the education industry, has forced educators to adapt and the nature of skills required for this career have become unpredictable. So, what does this mean for teacher, technology and classroom?

Perhaps it requires a change of roles and part they play in students’ learning. Teachers need to harness the power of technology by letting students learn at their own pace, in a project based, collaborative approach. Technology has the potential to further enable personalised progression and ensure strong foundations for the core subjects like literacy and numeracy. It also plays a large role in assessing students and analysing development, to ensure these learnings are fully embedded in the business end of education.

By mixing computer aided learning with more traditional forms, this hybrid approach can inspire students and empower teachers with the freedom to embrace their changing roles in the industry

From a recent visit to an independent day school in Hampton, England, I observed first-hand how teachers themselves are improving learning outcomes – harnessing technology to create engaging, collaborative and creative learning experiences. Research skills, effective communication, interaction and collaboration, and creativity are all vital development tools that can be enhanced through a digital learning environment. For example, encouraging students to use technology to ‘create’ can be as simple as completing traditionally manual projects like surveys and guides through a computer program – pulling together multiple facets of technology, seeing how they interact and can be used together to reach an end goal.

Effective communication is another great example where technology can enhance collaborative and problem based learning. Students are already embracing digital communication and social media in their everyday lives, and this technology can be used in understanding a vast array of subjects in a concise and succinct manner. If you can summarise complex problems in 140 characters, you’ve captured a vital skill for life beyond school.

So, what is stopping this from happening on a wider scale today? One of the critical factors here is the true enablement of the teacher-technology relationship. Teachers need to be equipped with the right technology so that their role can evolve and harness the power these developments can bring, and they need the right resources to enable them to do this with ease.

Use of new technology needs to be made clearer, such that teachers can focus on impact and learning outcome rather than the physical operational aspects. IT helpdesks can play the role of technology partner here. For example, helping teachers to install and understand virtual reality equipment in the classroom so they can focus on engaging the technology to help students learn more collaboratively.

Today’s students are much more clued up about technology than their parents’ generation and use it on a constant basis. Everything from Facebook and Twitter through to computer games, mobile phones and apps, form a large part of their lifestyle – and teachers can use this reliance to encourage collaborative learning. By mixing computer aided learning with more traditional forms, this hybrid approach can inspire students and empower teachers with the freedom to embrace their changing roles in the industry.

For more information, visit TeacherVision.



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