As a major player of the digital transformation of organisations, we are fully committed to the education of the future! So what can EdTech offer students and teachers? And how can we help schools embrace this revolution? These are just some of the questions we asked Sophie Hirat, Education Market Director for the Group.
For years Econocom has been contributing to the digital transformation of schools and education: what changes have you noticed over the years?
Sophie Hirat: The most radical and obvious change is the mobile, individualised nature of equipment. Until now, schools had IT rooms, with a fleet of desktop computers that were shared. With the individualisation of workstations, digital has become a natural, logical, everyday part of learning, and with mobility, the possibilities of where and when you can learn are infinitely broader.
Aside from teachers’ and students’ equipment, more and more education communities are thinking of the kind of working environment that can accommodate these transformations. Shouldn’t we have bigger, modular spaces that can allow for different working configurations? How can you incorporate a fab_lab or innov lab into a school environment? These are the kind of questions schools will be asking themselves more and more in the future.
Aside from hardware, software has also become more diverse and modern: in addition to the software, there is now interactive multimedia content, service platforms to help teachers design and implement teaching projects and offer students a range of activities. Digital is also ideal for collaborative, interdisciplinary activities: there are more exchanges among students, between students and teachers and among teachers, which leads to greater engagement all round.
Another example, in the field of higher education and vocational training, is e-learning. These remote learning methods and tools have been around for a while but have been recently reinvented thanks to digital features. Some of these new platforms are no longer just for teachers: any employee can become a teacher. And now there’s gamification with badge-based reward systems to motivate learners: they’re light years away from the dull online lessons of the past! Although they do require a certain investment, they are also both popular and effective.
The key advantage of digital for learning is that it gets the learner to act: it’s a modern, effective way of teaching, in line with current uses and needs. Because the best way to learn and remember things is by being actively involved.
How do teachers respond to digital? How does it change the way the way they teach?
There are basically three types of teachers: adventurers: those who embrace technology full-on and invent new methods, like the flipped classroom; followers, who adopt digital once they become aware of the benefits of what the adventurers are doing; and the detractors.
We hear a lot about digital natives, but it’s not always the youngest teachers who are the most digitally-savvy! The problem is that teachers’ initial training doesn’t include digital at every level: creating resources and learning activities, updating instructional design, assessing and running the class are just some examples. So it’s usually the more experienced teachers who introduce digital into their teaching once they’ve got the measure of the class.
One thing I’m absolutely sure of is that it’s not so much the technology itself that matters but the way you use it.
Teachers typically go through several phases of digital adoption for teaching: most start by doing a digital version of their traditional lesson, then, as they learn more about the features and possibilities specific to digital, they start experimenting with more disruptive methods that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. They really leverage the specific strengths of digital.
What about pupils and parents? How is digital revolutionising their attitude to school?
For students and teachers, the main advantages are a personalised approach to learning and empowering the student, thanks to adaptive learning. Not everyone learns at the same pace; not everyone responds to the same visual or auditory messages.
Also, over the next few years, artificial intelligence and big data will improve these methods by offering more detailed insights into students’ difficulties and thus offer them a more personalised learning experience. The aim is that students will learn more, understand better, and can create collaborate and share, and can bounce back from failure and go on to succeed!
Parents, meanwhile, are enthusiastic about the idea, but still have some concerns, particularly about Wi-Fi and security. We can reassure them on these points: we only offer certified technologies and e only use them for the right purpose. One of the things they appreciate is the digital school interface, which allows them to communicate with teachers and admin staff more easily, so they feel more involved in what’s going on at school, better informed, and thus more actively part of their children’s education. They’re very committed.