Why 2022 will be a significant year for digital learning
In 2022 the impact of technology in the classroom shows no sign of abating.
The ‘pandemic years’ have proved critical in providing impetus for weaving and integrating powerful digital tools and classroom practice.
As we look to the year ahead it is easy to see how many of these threads continue.
We enter a year where we will come closer the day when every learner carries a personal device for learning to school in their backpack, hopefully also lightening the load of textbooks. This vision is now backed by a clear government commitment to get a computer device into the hands of all 700,000 Scottish pupils by the end of this parliament.
This is an exciting moment in itself, but perhaps more so because it has greatly increased the number of conversations among local authority and school leaders across the country about how to strategically plan to make sure that devices are focused toward better outcomes for young people.
But the commitment towards 1:1 provision [when every pupil has access to their own tablet or computer] is just one of a number of critical education ‘stars’ that are aligning – others including the impact of the OECD’s review of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) which will lead to the re-shaping of senior phase and the reform of key governing education bodies.
We see a continued move towards the personalisation of learning around the learner. This will by no means see revolutionary change in the year ahead but there will be an increased recognition that young people can personalise their devices, apps and services and ultimately the ways they demonstrate their knowledge and even the learning journeys they choose to take.
Technology is increasingly taking account of user preferences and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in education and learning.
On the back of the pandemic, with the legacy of ‘zoom-fatigue’ there is an increasing desire to see technologies that are used for remote learning to link with other ways of encouraging interactivity during lessons.
Part of the reason for this is the advent of so-called ‘hybrid’ classes which are very challenging to manage and which require learners to participate in some way in real-time learning and interaction, whether remotely or face-to face. Again, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Another important trend that has been around for a number of years and is set to gather pace as mobile, connected devices increase in schools is the opening of doors to coding, programming and computer science subjects.
Already robots are commonplace in schools, both primary and secondary, and we will continue to see a focus on making these subject areas more accessible and attractive to young people across the country.
Another legacy of the past 12 months which is here to stay is the increasing breadth of curated lesson resources that are available to teachers and learner as part of the National e-Learning Offer(NeLO). Many local authorities now take advantage of lessons taught remotely via offerings from e-Sgoil or offer courses themselves – taught across schools and sometimes across the country.
There are also amazing banks of resources and lessons shared by organisations like WestOS which are creating and curating quality video lesson content accessible by all.
These resources are great news for teachers, bringing an often disparate and fragmented world where teachers share on so many platforms, into places that will become trusted ‘go-to’ repositories.
This brings us onto the one thing that will not change, except perhaps to become more significant; the role of the teacher. Teachers bring learning to life – great technology in the hands of a great teacher is an amazing thing but the teacher is still often, if not always the critical factor in shaping and creating engaging learning. Teachers in 2022 now have a plethora of ways to develop their own professional practice – many technology providers and apps have their own professional development programmes and recognition badges – these are certainly here to stay and on can see communities of experts continue to grow across the country.
One area that will see more focus in this area in 2022 is the area of technology leadership within schools – recognition and training support for staff who are keen on leading programmes of strategic change and improvement will see increasing support.
And then there are the many discrete technologies that are already impacting education, from virtual reality, which enables lessons to be taught in engaging, immersive environments that bring learning to life, to augmented reality which allows learners and teachers to bring elements of learning into the ‘real-world’ and enhances both education and creativity.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis are already providing powerful ways for schools to make better decisions about how to support young people, report to parents and personalise content.
The continuing drive towards ensuring that all this is within a world which allows young people to develop key skills in order to thrive, whilst being protected and kept safe from the darker side of technology, which can certainly be harmful as well as positive.
All in all, 2022 looks already like another significant year for technology in education.
Andrew Jewell is an education technology consultant who has helped implement the rollout of tablets to schools in Glasgow City Council as part of its education technology department and in the Scottish Borders as development lead of the Inspire Learning project.