“They seem to spend so much time using tech, I don’t think they’re learning any of the basics!’“
“Everytime i see them in class, they’re all on their iPads. What are they doing?“
“My child’s handwriting is awful… they hardly do any ‘proper’ writing in school anymore.“
If any of these concerns sound familiar – you’re not alone! Many parents wonder what the benefit of technology in schools is, whether their child is being exposed to too much of it, and feel unsure as to how the technology is actually helping their child learn.
So how are schools actually using educational technology? Is it really helping our children learn? And how can we use tech at home to motivate and inspire our kids?
Tech in schools: styles of use
It’s easy to assume that there is a strong correlation between technology and the quality of education. However, time and again academic research shows that the impact of technology on student achievement is highly variable – and it depends entirely on how it is used by teachers. In its simplest form, educational technology can be used to replace traditional learning methods and materials.
For example, typing on GoogleDocs instead of writing on paper, or using a Mind Mapping app instead of physically drawing a mindmap on paper. In these sorts of examples, the style of learning doesn’t change – it’s just ‘modernized’. Spellcheck, Grammarly, online dictionaries and other sorts of support tools may also be used to assist children with their learning.
Technology to enhance & transform learning
In more technologically-advanced schools, educational technology is used for much more than typing and spell-checking: it is being used to actually transform how children are learning, and to create completely new learning experiences. Some examples?
- Using Google Slides, GoogleDocs or GoogleSheets to allow several children to work a project at the same time – even if they’re not in the same class or year group.
- Creating multimedia presentations or books to convey deep learning, using Apps such as ExplainEverything or iMovie.
- Having children explore technology-rich learning environments – for example Garden International School’s Immersive Learning Environment – where music, lighting, sound and projections combine to create incredibly exciting environments to inspire or ‘spark’ curiosity about a topic, or enhance understanding.
How do you know if your school is using tech effectively?
So how do you know whether your child’s school is doing a good job at incorporating technology effectively? Here are a few ideas.
1. Take a look at how they’re using tech, not what they’re using
Tech use isn’t simply about typing rather than handwriting, or using an online dictionary rather than a copy off the shelf. Instead, you should see your child exposed to new and exciting apps, taught to use these in creative ways, and bringing home projects that encourage them to use a variety of technology approaches to stretch and share their learning.
2. The teachers
Whether a school is using technology effectively depends entirely on the skill level, confidence and passion of its teachers. Regardless of the technology that a school possess, “the quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers.”
In schools using educational technology constructively, teachers get regular opportunities to develop their own technological skills, and learn about how to apply technology in the classroom in meaningful ways. For example, at Garden International School, teachers have professional development every week and the school also employs a group of digital coaches who support teachers in finding exciting and meaningful ways to incorporate technology in their classrooms.
Look for the ‘Apple Distinguished School’ accreditation: this is the result of a rigorous external process that shows that a school has been recognised by Apple as a distinguished school for continuous innovation in learning, teaching, and the school environment.It proves a school is integrating technology meaningfully to enhance and support learning, and positively impact achievement.
Here in Malaysia, only 7 schools have been recognised by Apple as a Distinguished School – including GIS. In these schools, you will find Apple Distinguished Teachers who have been globally recognised for their technological prowess in the classroom, as well as extensive technological infrastructure and resources and training for the entire school community. In fact, GIS boasts 10 Apple Distinguished Teachers, 4 Google Certified Educators and 4 Apple Distinguished Educators!
If you have any questions about the use of educational technology in your child’s school – start a dialogue with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as:
- Which edtech tools will my child be using in your class?
- Are the suggested sites/apps/games approved by the school, or is the teacher free to choose the edtech?
- Will I be able to access or monitor my child’s work/interactions in these tools? If so, how?
- How much time during the day or class will students be using media or tech? How much time is allocated for more ‘traditional’ skills like handwriting?
- Will my child need to have access to these tools at home? If so, how often?
When used well, educational technology can have a hugely positive impact on your child’s engagement, motivation and skill development. What’s important is that it’s being integrated by teachers who have the confidence and skill to do it well, and that as parents, we understand how it is being used and how we can support at home!
And if you’re keen to put your child’s tablet to good use this summer, there are many apps that genuinely motivate children and offer serious educational benefits. Here are a few fantastic apps for early years & primary children, that have been screened and recommended by our team of GIS digital coaches!
1. Reading Eggs: applicable from reception – a great app to make learning to read interesting and engaging for kids, with great online reading games and activities.
2. Hairy Letters: hairy Letters provides an introduction to single letters. It is aimed specifically at those who will be using phonics to learn as it does not give the name for any letters – just the sound that they make in words. Containing colourful and humorous animation it entertains while it teaches.
3. Toca Band: a fun and easy app, which encourages children to explore music in a new creative way! Choose from 16 different cool characters – each with their own unique quirky sound and musical rhythms.
4. Epic Books: digital library with books for kids 12 and under. Epic books app contains quizzes, audio books, and read-aloud books.
5. Crazy Cursive: with this app children can practice writing the top 100 words in cursive style and can also type in their own words to practice. Letters are sounded out phonetically to allow your child to develop skills of breaking down words which are particularly useful for children with dyslexia.
To see for yourself how Garden International School uses technology to create amazing learning experiences for every child, book your personalised tour today. The friendly GIS admissions team would be delighted to welcome you, and you can even book your visit online. See you there!
This post is sponsored and written by GIS.