What can EdTech really do for my students and me?
Using digital tools to effectively support well-being and learning in PYP and other inquiry-based programs
It is my strong belief that, as school leaders, we must ensure that educators’ workloads are manageable and that clearly defined success criteria are shared, understood, and consistently used. The consequences of not doing so will be well-known to many: high stress levels, negative work cultures, lack of buy-in for new and important initiatives, higher turnover and related additional costs, and inevitably, student learning loss.
In previous articles, I have discussed the positive impact of reducing content overload. Here, I would like to focus on one of the strategies mentioned in Genius Not Required when addressing overload: Explore and implement sophisticated digital tools to support both teaching and learning.
Studies suggest that educational technologies can improve learning by scaling up quality instruction through videos, expanding opportunities to practice, or increasing learner engagement through games. In an inquiry-based learning environment such as in an International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP), I would suggest we also use digital tools to share exemplary practice and facilitate timely differentiated instruction and authentic learning conversations. For this, we need live learning data created by both students and teachers. In addition, technology should not only allow us to expand opportunities to practice learning but also to choose when and where to engage in learning. We have moved from homework to home learning – digital technology allows us to focus simply on learning!
Increasing learner engagement through videos and games has been proven to be effective, and, where appropriate and relevant, can be recommended. I would suggest that our focus may be better placed on understanding and capitalizing on learners’ intrinsic motivation to learn. Many students already have the digital games and social communication tools they enjoy using. However, they also need sophisticated tools at hand to monitor their progress and attainment, collaborate meaningfully about learning with peers and adults, and have clear opportunities to go above and beyond the stated curriculum to inquire in areas of interest and growth.
As an author of the original PYP and a school leader working to support increased well-being and learning in my school, I set out to take the steps mentioned here by exploring many of the EdTech options that will be familiar to educators in CEESA schools. It became clear to me that, even using a combination of tools that were then available, there wasn’t yet a learning platform that met the needs stated above. Nor was there one that would enable educators to use digital tools to view their shared students’ learning on a regular basis and in a similar way. For me, it was also essential to find ways to ensure the articulated development of ‘peripheral’ content such as skills, dispositions, education for sustainable development, IDE-A, and more. I believed such a tool would increase teachers’ and students’ well-being and agency, so I have set out to create this.
Once you have a clear idea of how education technology can help accelerate student learning in your context, it is important to define clear objectives and goals and establish ways to regularly assess progress and make course corrections in a timely manner. It is also vital to analyze how the technology will complement or amplify what educators and learners already do and to involve teachers and families to consider how it will be used. A useful list of questions for decision-makers to consider before investing in educational technology is provided in Appendix C of the Brookings report referenced below. Good luck, and feel free to get in touch if you’d like support!
Ganimian, A. J., Vegas, E., & Hess, F. (2021, January 6). Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all? Brookings. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/essay/realizing-the-promise-how-can-education-technology-improve-learning-for-all/