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How Emerging Tech Tools Are Driving Education Forward

Just about anything with a digital screen is seen as a double-edged sword for Canadian students. Use of tablets, smartphones and computers can get addictive. When used without discipline or supervision, these devices and the Internet may put your student in harm’s way.

When children, teens, parents and their school’s faculty  use digital devices in moderation, technology effectively complements a teacher’s leadership.

In terms of adoption of classroom technology (or EdTech), schools can choose to:

  • Be pioneers or early adopters
  • Get on board at the same time as most of their peers once tech is proven
  • Do their best to eliminate tech at all costs, regardless of proven benefits

Resisting the adoption of new tech tools and techniques may not be futile, though it doesn’t help students who miss out. They’ll fall behind their peers in schools across Canada, and around the world.

Here are five leading EdTech trends which accelerate education.

1. Digital Whiteboards

If your school experiences involved old-fashioned blackboards and chalk, you are certainly in good company. You might remember your experiences in the classroom such as:

  • Learning cursive writing, or musical notes on ruled lines
  • Taking notes from your teacher’s lessons in English, History or Social Studies
  • Copying complex mathematical formulas or geometric shapes from the chalkboard
  • Colouring maps in your binder from fading rollup maps to indicate vegetation

Digital whiteboards or “Smart Boards” add dimension, context, depth and engagement that chalk boards, paper maps or flipcharts don’t. Seeing students use digital whiteboards is amazing.

Teachers and students can use special pens to write or draw on the Smart board. They interact with whiteboards from their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Instead of just copying notes down without much thought, a digital whiteboard is more interactive.

2. & 3. Assistive and Adaptive Technology

If your student has a learning disability or a physical/mental challenge of some kind, assistive or adaptive technology is very empowering. There are many kinds of adaptive tech tools. Some examples include:

  • Software applications which provide unique learning techniques for students with attention deficiencies
  • Seat cushions, audio devices or special clothing for helping students to control distractive noises, anxiety, or discomfort from taking their minds off classwork
  • Reading and writing aids, either for ease of comprehension, holding writing instruments, or predictive writing on computers for kids with challenges like dyslexia.

Assistive technology has been transformative for many students.  It has greatly alleviated the frustration which many students have experienced in the past, holding them back from excelling in the classroom.

The terms assistive and adaptive technology are often used interchangeably. Some suggest assistive tech are unique products or applications which are built to help youth with physical or mental challenges. Adaptive tech is a modified version of something that already exists.

Examples include:

  • Pens with special grip padding
  • Custom keyboards styled for those with difficulty using standard ones
  • Digital, or 3-D printed frogs, for those too squeamish to dissect real ones

4. Online Collaboration

Remember when the idea of seeing someone on the other end of a phone conversation as video seemed like a concept from a distant future? The future is now, with applications like  FaceTime, Skype and  Google Hangouts.

Video chatting is now widely available, and very affordable for schools and individuals with Internet access. Students from classrooms in different countries communicate with each other, and learn about other cultures in distant lands. Astronaut  Chris Hadfield connected with thousands of students from across Canada in an educational experience which was out of this world.

5. Gamification

Gamification has been part of the school experience for decades. Remember the word finds, crosswords, spelling bees and science fairs from when you were in school? Competition, a sense of achievement and imaginative stimulation, are all advantages of  gamifying the classroom experience.

With game-based learning, the teacher can become a Dungeon Master. Gaming apps are best used to complement – not replace – traditional learning. Game personalization tailors the experience for different skill levels.

Encouraging young people to put down Angry Birds or Call of Duty, to turn to educational simulations complementing their classwork increases participation, confidence and enthusiasm for education.

Gold stars and stickers saying “Great Job!” are often replaced by digital trophies and/or other simulated rewards. As  Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality tech advances with devices like Oculus Rift and  HoloLens they will certainly take a new role in the classroom for games and immersive experiences.

Students in schools today are digital natives to a greater extent than ever before in history. They take to new tools, programs and concepts as if they were learning a new language. Canada strives to improve its  Innovation ranking among peer countries, though our ranking has been lagging of late.

Empowering students to adopt technology as part of their day-to-day learning will help the young people of today become innovative, technology savvy leaders of tomorrow.


January 20th, 2017

Posted In: Uncategorised