EdTech beyond Covid-19

I believe things will never quite be the same again following Covid-19.    These unprecedented events have the potential to act as the catalyst for a number of EdTech changes in particular.   For example, I have read a few comments over the last week where EdTech initiatives which have been slow to progress, often being discussed in schools over a number of years with little movement, have suddenly been quickly progressed due to Covid-19 and the immediate need for online remote learning.   Due to this I thought I would share some thoughts as to what might change beyond the current crisis:

Flipped / Blended Learning

ipad-1721500_640 (1)Over the last week or so since schools closed teachers who previously hadn’t had much experience of creating video learning content have suddenly found themselves creating content.   Some of this video has been live through Zoom, Hangouts or Teams, or has been posted for on demand access through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, FlipGrid and even TikTok or through school Virtual Learning Environments.    Although discussions of flipped or blended learning have been ongoing for some time, Covid-19 has led to a peak in interest plus to a rapid upskilling of teachers driven by a specific and immediate need.    With this greater interest and skill level I would predict that we will see greater use of video, and in particular pre-prepared video which can be used or accessed on demand within schools and learning, similar to the lecture capture concept which has become more common in Higher Education.

Digital Skills

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The current situation has required the rapid upskilling of teachers to facilitate online remote learning.   Lots of resources have been quickly pulled together and curated by various groups of individuals and organisations.    The importance of a teachers digital skillset has become never more apparent and with this it is likely to see increasing levels of importance beyond the current crisis.  Schools will need to asses what their strengths and areas for development are in relation to the use of EdTech by staff, and how they might address the identified needs.    I should also mention that infrastructure and IT support are also likely to need to be considered as these are cornerstones of successful EdTech usage.

Remote / Distance Learning

The benefits in the use of video to engage remote learners, allow for remote teachers and also provide on-demand learning materials has become clear to a significantly greater number of educators during this period of lockdown.    It may even be that parents and our students are now more aware of what is possible, and therefore are likely to have greater expectations as to what schools should provide once we progress beyond the current crisis..    As such I believe the student absent from school may no longer be excluded from the days learning in the way they have been in the past, and we may see students accessing learning remotely becoming more common.

Personalisation rather than differentiation

Remote learning has shown us how students can actually access learning in their own time, space and also personal way.    In addition, some of the tools such as Microsoft’s Accessibility tools, for example, also allow for the language to be changed or the font size or background colour, all customizable to meet the end users, the students, needs.   This customization at the point of consumption, as opposed to differentiation at the point of delivery, is likely to significantly increase.   As such teachers are likely to need to think about how the learning they design, deliver and facilitate will offer sufficient flexibility to allow for students to personalise.

Work from home

When we talk about schools we immediate think of the physical buildings, same as when we talk about work, there is a physicality about it.   I saw a great tweet referring to school being the students as opposed to the physical building.   What covid-19 has taught us is that this physicality is in our heads, an illusion, and that in reality our school or place of work isn’t as reliant on the physical space as we thought.    Our school or work can, to a greater or lesser extent, exist virtually and online.    This is likely to be a significant challenge as we are, as humans, creatures of habit and therefore not travelling to a physical place of work, or to a physical school, may be a difficult change for us to adjust to however I think we will see increasing consideration around flexibility.    Workers may be allowed work from home days and some schools may adopt timetables or schedules including virtual school time or virtual school days.  We may also see a growth around online only schools.

Online socialising

twitter-292994_1920For me our students online social media habits have to date been seen in a very negative light, being thought of as being anti-social or changing in their behaviour or attention spans.   The last week has however shown how the online world can provide opportunities for socialising as much as the real world can, albeit in different ways.    We have seen virtual pubs, lots of online Karaoke, community groups and much more form quickly online to overcome the challenges of social distancing and the potential harm of individual isolation.   Thinking about children, and how parents may be overprotective and concerned of the dangers in the real world, therefore leading our students to be more isolated than they would have been in the past;  For me I remember parental comments about returning home “before the street lights come on”.   This kind of freedom to socialise in real life isn’t afforded in anyway to the same extent for the current generation of children.  Is it therefore any wonder they would look to use the online world?    I think going forward there will be a greater acceptance of the benefits of the hyper connectedness which our students already experience through the many apps they use.

The Bigger Players

We have seen over the last week a number of school services overwhelmed by increasing demand and traffic as schools and workplaces across the globe shifted to remote learning and remote working.   Even the big players like Microsoft and Google have had some issues in this period of unprecedented demand.     In looking at these issues, although the bigger services were negatively impacted by demand they also tend to have greater capacity to upscale and recover quickly, greater resiliency, where need arises hence I think we will see a number of small EdTech companies disappear as they loose out on business to the big players.   This shift will have both positive and negative implications.  We may lose some interested and useful solutions to a difficult financial climate while homogenising on common functionality which will be seen across all schools.

Data Protection/Cyber

legislation-3231548_640Although most of the above is positive I do have some concerns.  I am worried that as people rushed to find solutions to overcome isolation, maintain social connection, etc, that they didn’t show due care for the protection of their personal data and for the resultant cyber risk.   Great communities may have formed overnight using free services but what data did we give away regarding these groups and the individuals within them.    It worries me that when things do settle down, we may realise that some decisions made have negative consequences.   I suspect the pendulum which swings between individual privacy and public good, and which previously tended towards individual privacy may have shifted somewhat and may now tend more towards the public good.   In some ways this may be a good thing, but what may be a good thing in a crisis may not be a good thing when everything returns to normality or near normality.

Conclusion

It may be possible that I am wrong about the above and that the world simply acts like an elastic band and springs back towards the normal which existed prior to Covid-19.  It may equally be that Covid-19 acts as a catalyst for wide ranging change and a new normal, distinctly different from what existed before, is established.   The likelihood is that the world will find a position somewhere between these two possibilities, with some schools embracing change and others not.    It is also worth noting that the world education sector is likely to see some significant change especially around fee paying schools operating internationally.  I know from my own experience working in the Middle East that some of these schools rely fully on fee income and that this period where parents may be unable to afford fees due to job losses will result in significant uncertainty and some difficult decisions.   For ex-Pat teachers this will be a period of great concern.   My thoughts go out to these schools and their staff, and in particular to the schools and staff I personally worked with.  My thoughts are also with those who have lost loved ones, and to those who will likely lose loved ones on the weeks and months to come.

The above represent my thoughts on what might change following this crisis.   Only time will now tell how close or far I am from the truth.

 

 

 

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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