Teachers and leaders quickly had to make a hybrid-flexible scenario work when the country first entered lockdown and have excelled at its provision over these past 18 months. Yet, despite the explosion of goodwill and free resources, many in my network have felt bombarded with the vast array of options. Ways of teaching and learning have been turned on their head, and deciding which technology to use moving forwards – and, more importantly, what will have a lasting impact – can feel like a minefield.
Ty Goddard, chair of Edtech UK, says: “Teachers know that products that work consistently really matter in a busy day. The Edtech50, which shines a spotlight on those pioneering a new future in education through technology, reminds us, too, that thoughtful and purposeful technology is an investment that counts in the classroom and beyond.”
Equipment built to last
Teachers are now video editors, graphic designers and content creators. They need tools to support them in their creativity but it’s easy to forget the basics of a quality keyboard, mouse, webcam, headset, visualisers and other peripherals used to supercharge hybrid delivery.
While ordering a budget brand of whiteboard pen might save a few pounds in the short term, inevitably the pens get binned after a few lessons and the real deal gets delivered two weeks later, meaning you pay twice in terms of price and disruption.
For students to immerse themselves in hybrid learning, they need equipment, too. While £1.30 headsets are an option, even with utmost teacher care and attention, they will be broken in weeks, so it’s worth looking into more quality hardware where budgets allow.
For example, Logitech for Education’s solutions are fully compatible with Apple’s ecosystem, so schools can protect and extend their tech investments. The Logitech Rugged Folio iPad keyboard case, for example, comes with a durable design and shock-absorbing technology that exceeds military standards of drop protection, which are often needed in a busy home/classroom environment.
All products are also easy to clean, with surfaces that can be wiped down – an important consideration for schools during Covid-19 times.
To help you identify which edtech tools truly enhance the hybrid environment for students and teachers, I’ve put together some tips on selecting technology for impact, purpose, usability and cost to ensure we capitalise on the gains made in technological approaches to delivering the curriculum.
1. Clever collaboration
It’s understandable that you might miss standing up in front of your whiteboard without having to consider students’ access to tech, but there is a huge gain for students and teachers. Loss of learning owing to absence can be minimised in ways we didn’t utilise pre-Covid and, given that we’re now living in a world where greater numbers of students are joining a lesson remotely, it’s vital we support their learning needs, and ensure they get front row seats to any content delivered by the teacher, as seamlessly as possible.
Digital whiteboard cameras, such as Logitech Scribe, can help with this by projecting what’s physically on the board into a video call. It’s got built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and a custom lens that means remote lesson participants feel as though they’re sitting at the front of the classroom. The AI capabilities deliver a transparency effect, meaning that digital attendees can see “through” the presenter for an unobstructed view of the whiteboard.
Real-time collaboration has become something that is expected by students in a hybrid working scenario, and here, edtech has really excelled with an explosion of collaboration tools, such as Whiteboard.Fi and Google’s Jamboard.
2. Short, sharp assessment
Remote delivery of content can be made easier with the right solutions. Teachers have found it difficult to assess their students and have been resourceful in coming up with new ways to gain accurate snapshots of understanding.
Teachers are experts at gauging student understanding in the physical space, taking in all information from a classroom, right down to subtleties of facial expressions. In the virtual world, this is much more challenging but it is a place where edtech can really shine.
With the help of technology, teachers have become adept at quick-fire diagnostic assessments to prove understanding before moving forwards. Digital staples include Microsoft Forms, Quizziz, and Kahoot. These tools work equally well in the hybrid delivery model, with some enabling entirely asynchronous delivery.
3. Improving accessibility
Edtech has enabled some significant workload-easing opportunities for teachers, allowing us more time to focus on our practice.
Using digital platforms appropriately through embedded staff training and clear digital strategy, teachers are able to provide meaningful tasks, often self-marked and hands-free.
Working in communities of educators to prepare banks of homework activities, teachers have increased confidence with time-saving tools, entirely removing the need for lugging books to and from school. We can make tech work for us, with tools like Quizizz and Diagnostic Questions providing forensic analytics in the classroom, sharing our content banks with other teachers and supporting wider networks.
Consequently, home learning has become vastly more accessible and students have a wealth of explicit instruction to help them make positive steps to catch up and thrive.
And it doesn’t have to come at the expense of their comfort, as many solutions are designed with students’ wellbeing in mind: ergonomic tablet keyboards and mice ensure comfort during lessons, and noise-cancelling headsets reduce distraction and maximise focus if they’re at home.
Moving into the unknown of a future education system fuelled by hybrid learning and online access, the challenge is deciding which technology provides your school with the best value, then using it to its fullest. Don’t fall into the trap of acquiring a hundred tools that solve the same problem. The entirety of a successful hybrid model depends upon both investment and skill. Careful, considered procurement and continuing professional development is all that’s required to exploit the benefits for your learners and empower teachers in their practice.