A friend of mine is an educational administrator for STEM in my district. While an avid tech user himself, he has often questioned technology use in education. He emphasizes teacher development and using research-based high-impact strategies with an eye toward equity. Hard to argue with that. But now, given the move to remote learning, his views about technology are beginning to change.
But let’s step back for a moment. COVID has brought such difficult challenges that we all feel every day but we can also look at the opportunities that arise from crisis. For example, we are seeing districts across the country supplying devices and internet to many households that could otherwise not afford it. While this is a small step toward equity, it is a step. Second, teachers all over the country are learning new tools. I suspect that when COVID subsides, and the long-awaited day comes when students and teachers can safely come together again, these tools will still have a role.
Back to my friend. Since the move to remote learning, the district quickly adopted an online learning program over the summer. Now my friend talks about the engagement students have with technology, the consistency of the content, and the advantage for a teacher seeing real-time data on student progress. Certainly, he knows the limitations of tech, but he sees the power, too.
A digital platform, powered by a dedicated teacher, can open pathways of learning for students. One of our online learning platforms here at National Geographic Learning, MindTap, is a good example as I look at online educational technologies through the lens of distance learning.
Using MindTap as a teacher, you know your students have one place to go for their content and can independently study when you cannot be there. You can track their usage to see which students have engaged with the program and for how long. Students take on manageable segments of learning and then take formative assessments. In real-time, you can see where they are progressing, and where they are struggling. The platform contains powerful visual images with associated lessons so you can teach live and have an exploratory discussion about the images. You can make the course personalized by inserting your own web link activities right in the students’ learning path.
Some of these features are not unique to MindTap, but they provide a good example of how online learning can be made more effective with the right tools. And while screen time is a concern, many recent studies show that any concern should be more about the quality of the screen time and not the quantity.
We may not know for a while if these tools become more prevalent after schools return to normalcy. I suspect they will be, though time will tell.
To learn more about MindTap, I have provided several videos below.
Quick MindTap Introduction
MindTap for Distance Learning
Full MindTap Overview
Google Classroom Integration
The Study Hub for Students