02 Dec 2019

Rethink digitisation – Realising the school of tomorrow today

Rethink digitisation – Realising the school of tomorrow today

Digitalisation must not be an end in and of itself.

The net benefits digitalisation brings must outweigh any potential increases in workload digital devices create.

Digitalisation in ICT & education

Adapting to a new era

Currently, teaching is still basically adapted to available equipment and ICT rooms in schools. Instead, new EdTech should be adapting to lessons.

It is the same with ICT classrooms. Many come from a time when mobile computing was out of the question and wireless networks didn’t exist. A cable for network connections dropped out of the wall, and rooms with stationary devices and units were placed around it.

Nowadays, this is no longer necessary, yet many still have a mindset grounded in practices from previous decades.

The typical school or university computer room is transforming into an “everywhere” space by using tablets. Media of any kind can be used quickly and easily in these spaces.

Dedicated computer rooms with tedious booting of stationary units is eliminated.

Using the above mobile solutions has many benefits. This includes individualisation and student orientation, aiding with inclusion, as well as collaboration and social skills.

The device steps into the background; the student into the foreground.

Similarly, the school workflow for teachers can be changed by use of AI and tablets. Corrections to teaching and learning materials, keeping of class books, or grade management, can be done directly in the classroom regardless of location.

The interface between the study and the classroom merge. Significant time savings is the result.

Augmented reality in the classroom

Augmented reality (AR) can also have a huge impact on the classroom.

It is built into the latest tablets and can be integrated into teaching in a completely organic way.

For instance, the fading in of organs directly onto a student’s body in a biology class, or the analysis of movement patterns in physical education, allows for a whole dimension in learning.

Other ways EdTech & tablets can stimulate interest

Even the smallest changes can make lessons charming and engaging, such as:

  • Doing quick research
  • Basic knowledge tests with educational games
  • Quickly looking up information or terms
  • Creating small presentations

These little fun tasks cannot be easily done in traditional, stationary computer rooms due to logistical reasons. Not everyone’s classroom is equipped with computers.

However, with tablets, these are all possible in every school room. Students and teachers benefit by a) saving time and b) creating more engaging lessons.

Reinventing school computer rooms

Advances in mobile technology makes it easy to revolutionise computer and ICT spaces in schools around the world.

For instance, it would be possible to create a nearly empty room, furnished with dividing and partition walls with a projection screen and projector. As such, project work in a space like this would be easier to do, as it would not be hampered by spatial conditions.

The result is a room that can flexibly adapt to a wide variety of teaching scenarios – and is also the perfect place to experiment with AR.

Within this room, tablets and students can be organised into individual groups or teams together. On their devices, learners can be given special materials they can edit and share amongst themselves.

Collaborative digital work is just as possible as interactions between educators and pupils.

All work comes back to the teacher. They can assess, rearrange, and hand back the materials to their pupils. Seamless individualised student orientation, learning, and support is entirely possible with this approach.

Unique challenges in modern schools

A big problem facing many institutes is lack of internet access.

Often, this is mentioned as a reason why digitalisation in schools cannot be pursued, or entire new teaching concepts cannot be implemented.

Yesterday’s technology currently determines the lessons of tomorrow.

However, there are many creative ways to get around this problem.

The starting point here is internal school networks. Tablet bundles, i.e. groups of mobile devices, can be singly administered by mobile management systems.

If such a network does not exist, then tablet bundles can be used as completely separate units that work independently from classroom to classroom. Together, these individual units can be seamlessly integrated into a larger whole.

Haphazardly purchasing modern technology is just as ineffective as ignoring technical progress.

The new breaks through the old. The usual becomes the unusual. This creates fear and insecurity.

Still, the framework in which technology exists has fundamentally changed in the 21st century. As of 2019, studying specific computer science will no longer be necessary to enrich teaching with digital tools.

Of course, this requires careful weighing of the opportunities and the risks. However, when it comes to innovation, it can be seen that people often focus too much on what could theoretically go wrong, instead of what could go right.

The energy used in thinking up all the hazards and bad scenarios could be used to enable new thinking or setting up guardrails so any potential pitfalls are avoided.

If teachers do not do that, yet grudgingly allow advancements simply because they are new, any previously theoretical dangers will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Have the courage to rethink digitalisation. First it happens in your mind, then it will happen in the classroom.

Manuel Pittner has been a Google Certified Educator and Digital Education Expert since February 2018. He teaches computer science as well as economics and law at the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium Marktredwitz.

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