This month we talk to "The EduTec Alliance", who help schools all over the world to “get on track with their educational technology”. They explain the many benefits of education technology when it is used well.
Articles bemoaning the lack of digital skills in the workforce are now commonplace, such as this one from May 21 on the BBC website. But the problem is much broader – back in late 2019 Forbes published a short article which summarises the Top 10 Skills that will be ‘must haves’ for the years to come. They are; Data Literacy, Critical Thinking, Tech Savviness, Adaptability and Flexibility, Creativity, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Cultural Intelligence and Diversity, Leadership Skills, Judgment and Complex Decision Making & Collaboration.
What jumped out for us is how many of the skills have a digital component and how students now have the perfect opportunity to start honing their capabilities by using the educational technology available at school to prepare for university and beyond.
Here we dive into the most digital relevant skills and suggest some applications that might help you in developing them.
Data Literacy: Knowing how to source, assess and manipulate data has become one of the most procured 21st century skills. Data Scientist and AI/ML Engineers are now amongst the most sought after and best paid graduates. At its most basic, the ability to find the data you need (source), confirm its accuracy and completeness (assess) and assemble/shape it to meet your needs (manipulate) are the key skills. Many apps can help students collect data, like JotForm or even Survey Monkey. Data storage software (eg. Ninox), analysis software (eg. Excel) and data visualisation software (eg. PowerBI) can be used in different subjects, especially Maths and Science.
Tech Savviness: The essential talent here is knowing the ‘art of the possible’ – you’ll never be able to do everything personally but knowing what can be done, the people that can do it, and gluing them into a cohesive team to achieve a goal is an essential skill (see Leadership). Equally important is knowing technology’s limits and pitfalls. Buzzwords abound (AI, ML, Big Data….) but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Play with stuff – your school should provide facilities such as Innovation Spaces, FabLabs or Makerspaces. Those are designed for project based learning, exploration and innovation and can include cutting-edge technologies for design and construction. The benefit of these inspiring spaces is that it accelerates the processes of ideation and invention through collaboration and creative problem solving. Those spaces are the cradle of entrepreneurship; where ideas turn into reality and innovation takes place.
Creativity: There are a wealth of tools available now to help you capture, structure and present your ideas. Audio, video and image editing tools allows anyone with ease to create works rather than consuming them only. Canva is a simple tool students can use to create and share information in line with the way media communicates today. Going further, app creation tools are commonly used by students today. There is a wealth of tools to choose from for the ones who are more advanced in coding, but even young learners with no coding skills can make it using platforms like MadLearn. Get familiar with applications that allow you to create content that is engaging, relevant and purposeful such as Adobe Audition to create a podcast, or Adobe Spark to create a webpage
Leadership Skills: Charisma is attractive, but organisation is essential. Using information technology to improve operational efficiency and structure initiatives is vital. Take a look at Project Management applications from the simple (eg Trello, Monday.com) to the sophisticated (eg Merlin Project) and see what suits you. Technology can also be used to empower students to participate in global communities, build networking and expanding their experiences. Many online courses can not only help kids and teens develop new skills but also develop their passion for lifelong learning and self-development. An example of this is Masterclass.com, which many school clubs can use as part of their enhancement activities offerings.
Cultural Intelligence and Diversity: Especially post Covid, working with multicultural teams online is a reality in most companies. There is no better way to build cultural intelligence than by connecting and being open to learn with someone in a different culture. The British Council has a global education programme for schools called Connecting Classrooms, which aims “to help young people worldwide develop the knowledge, skills and value they need for life and work in the global economy”. You can ask your teachers to connect your classroom with another one anywhere in the world using the platform and you can exchange and work on a project together. Other programmes like Microsoft’s Mystery Skype or Empatico.org also serve the same function.
Judgment and Complex Decision Making: Decision making involves the act of collecting, filtering and analysing data before formulating and choosing decisions. So, everything in ‘Data Literacy’ applies as well as developing the skills to quickly create structures that allow you to assess the options to make the right decisions. The level of information and communication students have available today due to the internet allows them to use real world data when exploring a topic.
Collaboration: Collaboration builds trust, empathy and new avenues for communication, making it one of the most in demand skills in today’s world. Using mind map tools such as MindNode for collaborative learning helps the development of higher level thinking skills. A multitude of platforms are available for local, remote or hybrid modes, but they all work in roughly the same way – take a look at MS Teams, Google, Slack. Familiarity allows you to create the right structure and processes for each initiative you encounter. Tackling collaborative projects online allows you to easily bring the best ideas together and design new solutions, innovating by harmonising different perspectives.
All of the above does not mean technology can substitute the teacher in the classroom. The role of the teacher has been changing from the source of knowledge to the source of guidance. The best teachers now act as the curators of resources and facilitators of student learning, creating the ideal learning situations and using the ideal teaching and learning strategies that are most appropriate in each context.
To really get comfortable with these digital skills, there are a few tips which we’d encourage you to follow at school;
Become a member of a Digital Leaders group, where you can explore different tools and help your school with your input on best ways to use technology at school
Don’t be afraid to use new technology and applications - see what it can do and how it fits into your overall digital ecosystem – then share with others what you have learned, especially with your teachers. They might be learning how to use these tools, just like you!
Push the technology to the limits - install it on all possible devices and use them to see what works best and from where. Remember to search for quality apps and software to make sure you are safe.
Don’t miss any opportunity to collaborate and expand! – enjoy being a lifelong learner
Research your applications and let your teacher/school know if there are any features that they should be using
The EduTec Alliance provides professional advisory services for its members, and is committed to sharing its best practices and those of other top influencers from the educational technology community via its site and social media channels so that all schools can benefit. www.edutecalliance.com