A look at the future trends in education
Teachers can only be in so many places at once, and while they would like to devote individualized attention to each student in every class period, they often cannot. Technology is helping teachers expand their reach and improve their effectiveness in classrooms whether those classrooms are in-person, hybrid, concurrent, or remote. The more teachers become familiar with new technologies, the more impact teachers will have on their students and the more they can provide individualized support that is learner-driven and evidence-informed.
Better Diagnosis of Misconceptions
If we design learning so it is deep, challenging, and authentic, students aren’t going to fully understand new concepts after a single lesson. In fact, students learn best after making mistakes, so ongoing formative assessments are incredibly important. But this brings us back to the barrier of time. Teachers don’t have the ability to check every problem of every student for accuracy, especially since some teachers work with hundreds of learners. But digital tools can be a great support.
Software programs like PurpleMath, IXL, and Khan Academy can support teachers and students by diagnosing the types of errors students are making. The algorithms in these programs tailor each student’s next lesson or objective based on the students’ current skills. This immediate correction keeps students from repeating errors and helps teachers by providing individual assistance to each student.
These programs aren’t only useful to teachers, but to students as well. Khan Academy’s math courses go all the way up to Integral Calculus, which is more often a requirement for bachelor’s degrees than it is for high school diplomas so it can be a great option for acceleration and enrichment
Tech Increases the Responsiveness to Individual Needs
Many tech programs go a step further by offering lessons to build skills that address student misconceptions. When a student incorrectly answers multiple questions in a row that test the same skill, they are redirected to a lesson on the misunderstood skill. Teachers may not have enough time to do this for every student. Technology is a great way to increase the effectiveness of teachers so they are freed to provide explicit instruction and targeted intervention and feedback, informed by the digital tools.
Goldilocks is a good analogy for teaching—students learn best when the lesson is neither too hard nor too easy. But it’s a heavy load for teachers to create individualized lessons for every student, or even groups of learners. Instead, educators benefit from “firm goals, flexible means”, and provide multiple pathways for students to work toward rigorous goals in ways that are both challenging and supported. Digital tools allow students to self-differentiate their learning, as opposed to teachers having to differentiate learning for every student. This helps to build critical thinking, autonomy, and expert learning.
Technology Is Increasing Collaboration Between Teachers
When districts commit to using universal screening tools, diagnostic and formative assessments to drive instruction, individual classroom data is widely available. This data can be used in professional learning communities to identify student strengths and areas where students need support. It also provides educators with tools to reflect on the effectiveness of the strategies they are using. When teachers see significant growth, there is an incredible opportunity to scale professional learning and distributed leadership in teacher-driven professional development.
Teachers’ Lives Will Be Easier
The daily work of teachers often piles up and interrupts weekends and evenings. Grading and lesson planning are time-consuming tasks. Automated grading programs and adaptive assessment generators, which can incorporate the principles of UDL, help teachers spend more of their time building relationships with learners, providing targeted feedback and providing intervention and enrichment to flexible groups. There are even programs that can automatically grade essays.
With the right digital tools, teachers can monitor student progress more efficiently and see trends in students’ performances that weren’t previously possible. And most importantly, students can see their success in real time and can reflect on their learning and progress with their teachers.
The Future Is Bright as More Educators Implement Educational Technology
UDL was born along with digital technology. In the book, UDL Theory and Practice, founders of UDL (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) noted, “When we were forming CAST in the 1980s, we envisioned the new technologies as learning tools that could be radically different from the medium of print. Because digital tools offered flexibility in how content was displayed and acted on, we believed that they could be powerful levers for students who most needed better leverage—students with disabilities.” Since its infancy, UDL has evolved to meet the needs of all learners through flexible design. Although UDL doesn’t require technology, per se, digital tools certainly provide more opportunities for students to access instruction in ways that are relevant, authentic, and meaningful. Also, they provide incredible tools that free teachers to do what they do best.
Even before COVID-19 put technology on the main stage, teachers were building their skills to improve the way they use technology in the classroom. A continued focus on high-quality digital tools and curriculum, used through the lens of UDL, will result in higher quality education and better results for students. Moving forward, teacher preparation will continue to focus on how teachers can work with technology to help maximize and optimize learning that meets the needs of a diverse and inclusive classroom.