As the World Changes, So Should the Ways of Learning

Daniel Budd, Design and Technology Teacher and Hamlet Lin, Tech Coach, Hong Kong International School

Daniel Budd, Design and Technology Teacher and Hamlet Lin, Tech Coach, Hong Kong International School

"Change is the essential process of all existence." -- Spock

Teachers were once considered to be the authority and one of the few sources of knowledge in a classroom. Students previously had limited access to references to challenge the content being delivered by their educators. 

Now, with a world of information at our students' fingertips, we have seen a pedagogical shift towards facilitation of learning as student agency takes the front seat. And although this shift may seem to threaten one of the core businesses of education — knowledge acquisition — school is much more than a place where students learn facts. 

As such, EdTech cannot be the silver bullet to solve all the challenges and changes facing students in schools. Nothing has made this clearer than school closures forced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Now, with a world of information at our students' fingertips, we have seen a pedagogical shift towards facilitation of learning as student agency takes the front seat.”

The sudden switch to online learning due to Covid-19 surfaced many of the social functions of a traditional school. While students may have the right technology tool to meet with each other via Zoom and submit their assignment through the learning management system, what became very clear was that the delivery of content is only one of the few things good teaching is about. 

EdTech is more than just instructional technology, but a way to connect people and ensure the learning experience is embedded into our daily lives. Therefore, our challenge as educators and EdTech leaders is not the adoption of the latest technology, but an understanding of the culture and core values which drive the school ahead, and to find the best combination of existing and innovative solutions to support the evolution of the school.

We also have a responsibility for duty of care. A popular trend in the EdTech world is data-driven decision-making for “effective” teaching and learning. While it sounds very logical, the application and impacts of such a data-driven approach are still being discussed in the field of education, not least of which are about the ethics and transparency of data collection and usage. This is a big topic that leaders in the education field need to address as artificial intelligence, technology outsourcing rapidly take place. 

Another big trend that has risen to the top during the pandemic is sustainability in EdTech. This encompasses more than being environmentally sustainable — investing in tools that will last beyond today’s trend to reduce e-waste — but also sustainable in a way that protects and supports the growth of the next generation. One thing our school adopted during the extended distance learning of 2020 was the introduction of an extra day in the normal class cycle. On this day, instead of attending regular classes, students and teachers spent some time together to build connections in their homeroom, numerous different sessions on wellness, special interests and workshops were held by teachers, peer students and even external speakers. While it was initially a response to the extended screen time during the virtual learning period, when we managed to return to campus, it became an opportunity as a mini-incubator for building community and exploring passions (similar to Google’s 20 percent Project). It restored balance between technology usage and in-person interaction. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and proven to be supportive of students' well-being and development of student agency. 

The Covid-19 pandemic may end up being one of the biggest challenges that our modern education system has ever faced. However, it is also a chance for educational and EdTech business to pause and think deeply about sustainability, student agency and digital citizenship in a broader sense, to reflect on why we are in the business of educating students in the first place.

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