Making sense of the digital education landscape
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Making sense of the digital education landscape

Andrew Smith

The consortium for school network has released its driving K-12 innovation report, Education Services Australia CEO, Andrew Smith discusses.

Technology is an essential element of learning, yet its use and application in the classroom and the home is inequitable. To help solve some of these barriers, a global panel of education and technology experts has been working together to identify ways to realise the benefits of technology in ways that promote greater equity.

The Consortium for School Network (CoSN) recently released its Driving K–12 Innovation report, drawing on the expertise of education and technology leaders from across 18 countries. The purpose of this annual report is to help us make sense of the digital education landscape and chart paths forward by identifying the most important topics in teaching, learning and education innovation around the globe.

The report outlines Hurdles, Accelerators and Tech Enablers that influence our ability to positively impact student achievement. This is a valuable framework for educators and school leaders to consider as we emerge from two years of severely disrupted education for many students across the globe.

Hurdles are the roadblocks that force schools to slow their application of digital technologies to support student learning. Accelerators are the real-world trends that drive the needs and skills expected of learners and teachers, while Tech Enablers are the tools that grease the wheels for schools as they work to overcome the Hurdles and leverage the Accelerators. The panel identified digital equity as a key Hurdle to digital innovation in the classroom. Along with equitable access to high-speed internet and contemporary devices, digital equity also means ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to use technology effectively to support their learning, with access to content that empowers them as learners. A second Hurdle is how to effectively scale innovation and overcome the natural drift back to pre-pandemic models of education.

Whether it be practices for effective teaching and learning, school administration processes or technology usage, schools and systems are challenged to engage in innovation, adapting what is working well and scaling it out across a school, system or sector. Accelerators highlighted by the panel included personalised learning, which is when the learner is empowered to direct aspects of their learning. This involves opportunities for teachers to shape the learning outcomes, and students direct their learning, in ways that recognise individual student strengths, interests and preferred learning styles. Building the capacity and confidence of teachers to seamlessly integrate technologies into their pedagogy will accelerate their impact. Strengthening the knowledge and skills of teachers will open the door to innovative practices that can enhance student experience and create a culture that recognises and fosters learning across the school community.

Tech Enablers that are key to overcoming Hurdles and leveraging Accelerators are the effective use of digital collaboration environments and the safe and secure use of data analytics and adaptive technologies. Digital collaboration technologies aligned to effective pedagogy enable high levels of collaboration and support for both online and in-person learning. Digital collaboration environments include both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools – platforms that allow multi-user, virtual communications, whether across the room or across the globe.

Another example of Tech Enablers are the digital technologies that collect and use data related to teaching and learning to inform instructional decision making. These include adaptive technologies that adapt to individual students, based on their interactions with the technology. This could be in the form of suggesting next steps, providing remediation, controlling pacing, or providing feedback based on analysis of the student’s performance. It is important to remember that any technologies that rely on student data to inform teaching and learning must also meet high standards for privacy and data security to ensure they can be used safely in and out of the classroom. Australia is well placed to make the most of these technology enablers and overcome hurdles to the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. We have a teaching workforce that reports high levels of confidence and capability in their ability to integrate technology with pedagogy, and schools with the ambition to scale and embed effective practice. We must use these assets to retain a focus on overcoming the challenge of digital equity if all students are to benefit from the impact of digital technologies in learning.

Andrew Smith is a regular contributor to Education Matters Primary and Secondary Magazine. This feature was first published in Education Matters Print magazine in April 2022.

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