Teachers’ take on technology in education: Should we be worried?

I remember at school waiting for that “one hour” precious computer class each week. We were taught basic programming and often given a chance to browse the ‘glorious’ world of the internet for information related to our subjects. Sometimes we would share one computer among two-three students.

That was our only access to tech in school in the mid 2000s’.

Fast forward twelve years or so and things have evolved dramatically. Now, the biggest challenge in EdTech is not about making the hardware available to every student. It’s about using the technology we now have in the most effective way.

As Barbara Kurshan points out in her article for Forbes, merely digitizing content and making it available on laptops and tablets isn’t considered an EdTech innovation anymore.

So what makes EdTech innovative?

“It’s all about impactful learning and teaching”.

EdTech solutions should boost teacher and student performance in ways which wouldn’t be achieved without technology. Entrepreneurs and schools must pay attention to the technological trends prevailing in the industry.

Perhaps the most important aspect in building an educational solution is to listen to the teachers. They are the ones who will use your app daily. They are the ones who can give you thorough feedback. They are the ones who understand the pains students face everyday.

No doubt, developing an EdTech solution is challenging. Having teachers guiding you through the development processes will for sure make your life much easier.

This unique stage in the history of education prompted me to ask teachers from around the world these three questions:

  1. Why should we use tech in education?
  2. Have you seen any progress/ tangible impact since you’ve been using tech in teaching?
  3. What technology/s do you use in your teaching and how?

First up Barbara Anna Zielonka from Nannestad High School in Norway

Why should you use tech in education?

First of all, technology is to be found everywhere. Students need to be exposed to it both at home and at school. Schools cannot widen the gap between these two, but bridge the gap between schools and homes.

We need to implement it in teaching in order to help students succeed in their future life. That is probably the most important reason why teachers should use it.

Secondly, using technology enables us to create digital citizens and leaders who are prepared for the unknown future.

Thirdly, technology opens the doors to other opportunities and lets teachers personalize and differentiate learning and content for all kind of students.

Have you seen any progress made since you’ve been using tech in your teaching?

I have been using technology on a regular basis for the past 6 years. I have noticed that students who would be otherwise bored and disengaged or even struggling in a traditional classroom setting display better concentration when working on collaborative technology projects or working with digital tools in general.

Barbara Anna Zielonka with her students

Technology has also helped students who have dyslexia. Their learning has been transformed and they have been able to overcome many challenges in their own learning process.

What technology/s do you use in your teaching and how?

I am a great fan of collaborative technology. Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Voice Thread are just a few examples of tools I use almost every week. My students have smartphones which makes it natural to use mobile technology as well. I also believe in the power of augmented reality.

One of the apps that my students really like is Aurasma. It is classroom-friendly and versatile. It allows teachers to bring any printed material to life.


Next in the line is Peter Jones, English language consultant at Setapp

Why should you use tech in education?

As a teacher and a parent I believe that we have a responsibility to embrace and to understand technology, not fear it and reject it. Instead of thinking that technology can be harmful to our children, we need to figure out ways to use it in a positive and meaningful way. Plus, both children and adult students are more likely to engage if you use tech for learning.

Have you seen any progress/tangible impact since you’ve been using tech in teaching?

Of course. As a language teacher with adults, I’ve seen how tech can be used to support the learning process, whether that’s having instant information at your fingertips or using tech like VR to immerse somebody in a different environment.

Using VR to learn English at Setapp

The best thing about using different types of tech is that it keeps things interesting and fun, which are unfortunately often overlooked elements in education.

What technology/s you use in your teaching and how?

Duolingo is very good for learning grammar and vocab but unfortunately it’s not that useful for actually practising to speak with somebody in the real world.

I’ve used the VR game “Keep talking and nobody explodes!” to help students improve their English. First I had to test it and then write a lesson plan for it and found it very useful for small groups to improve team communication and also team building.

One of my favorites is Kahoot which is a really good way to create quizzes and revision tests. It’s really good because people can’t cheat by using their smartphone in the quiz because they have to use their smartphones to actually play the quiz.


Next up Pirjo Suhonen, Teaching in preschools in Finland and the European school in Brussels.

Why should you use technology in education?

Technology expands access to knowledge and plays a big part in our living environment as well as work life. Thus, children need to learn to understand and use it effectively. A variety of tools, material and methods can also make learning fun, motivating and effective.

Have you seen any progress/tangible impact since you’ve been using technology in teaching?

There is more good EdTech available, but the best app out there is still the teacher. Coding was introduced to the Finnish curriculum in 2016 and I absolutely loved teaching the basics of coding to these kids.

Communication and collaboration skills are important 21st century competencies to learn at school. The little coding ambassadors took collaborative learning even further than expected and they have taught over 200 pupils and their teachers the secrets of coding. They are still excited about teaching others and improving their own coding skills.

What technology/s you use in your teaching and how?

I am hugely interested in global education and recently went to India with a video of the coding ambassadors teaching the basics of coding to another class. Pupils and teachers in India were happy to learn the magic of coding from Finnish pupils via video.

Pupils in India learning the basics of coding

PCs, a projector, a coding game and a Youtube-video were all that was needed for global collaboration between little learners and future coders.

A maths game based on AI was useful for pupils to practice the skills they had learned in previous lessons and in a video. AI modified the level of difficulty of these tasks according to players success in the game, thus supporting pupils individual learning. It also provided feedback for both the player and teacher in real-time.

I am also fascinated about MOOCs and have created a digital teacher training course on Finnish education 2.0. Hope you find it interesting.


Finally Rob Furman, Principal, South Park Elementary

Why should you use technology in education?

The biggest reason why we need to be incorporating technology into education is because it’s not going anywhere. A lot of times when teachers talk about education and technology, they are thinking it from their past experience. Yes 20–30 years ago we didn’t use technology like we do now.

Rob speaking at TEDxYouth@Shadyside
But now we are preparing to teach these students to prepare for their future and their future is going to be even more chock full of tech than we can even imagine now.

Have you seen any progress made since you’ve been using technology in teaching?

Absolutely!

Both from the teachers point of view and the students point of view.

Prior to our current technology we would teach based on what the text books gave us. Now we (as teachers) can go onto the internet and actually see live shots from the Hubble telescope. The ability to get “ better” and “ more detailed” content allows us to dive deeper into the topic we are teaching.

For students, entertainment and gamification have been fabulous for kids. For example, students at our school use the Prodigy platform, where they can do certain math problems and can earn character points, to play games or to upgrade their character.

What technology/s you use in your teaching and how?

Duolingo — we are teaching our students foreign language using Duolingo as we don’t have a foreign language teacher. But now our students are learning French, Spanish, and German using Duolingo.

Kaizena — is another app we use at our school. We get tonnes of essays that we need to grade and now with Kaizena you can do it all just by using audio. We can talk a lot faster than we can type. So from a teacher’s perspective it’s great!

Final thoughts!

I really hope you found these insights valuable. You simply can’t ignore teachers whilst developing an educational app. They can give you critical feedback, which could determine the success of your app.

You need to work with the teachers and have them try your app for free. In return you will receive insights that could not only save you time but money as well.

Go on then. Pick up the phone and call a teacher. Now!

P.S. If you didn’t yet read the first article on The EdTech World, here it is: Introducing the Top 8 EdTech Trends for 2018: Are You Ready.

Happy reading!