In this age of digitalisation, is edutech a bane or boon for educators?

April 23, 2024 4 min
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Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Asia’s online economy has grown incredibly. Driven by consumer patterns over the past few years and COVID-19’s impact on business, digital adoption has taken a quantum leap.

Digitisation has had an enormous effect on many business sectors, from e-commerce to finance and education and everything in between.

Education technology (edutech) investments have been steadily increasing over the last number of years, reaching a total of US$18.66 billion in 2019, with many edutech companies seeing a rise in installations and usage of their Learning Management Systems (LMS) and other software.

Without home-based learning enabled by edutech solutions, an estimated 135 million schoolchildren would have lost access to education during the global health crisis.

Due to the pandemic, teachers are dealing with increased workloads as they move lessons online and make them easily accessible for all students.

Many educators are suffering from burnout and mental health problems from the stress of trying to accommodate all their students’ needs while dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their own lives.

This begs the question, are educators benefitting from edutech, or is it merely adding to their already overburdened schedules?

The teaching crisis

There has been an ongoing concern with teacher turnover, and it’s safe to say the pandemic did not make things easier.

Teacher attrition is a persistent problem across the globe. Parental expectations, higher workloads, long working hours, and a lack of work-life balance have increased discussion on teachers’ mental health status.

Studies show that high teacher attrition lowers student achievement, with high turnover resulting in lower student scores, particularly in math and English Language Arts (ELA). 

Even with the advancement of educational technologies, without the input and support of teachers, a student’s learning progress is potentially stymied, and the addition of edutech can contribute to teachers’ already overstrained workloads, further stretching them.

Suppose these technologies are too complicated and require a lot of time to learn how to use them effectively. In that case, this adds to teachers’ already intensive workloads and makes teachers less confident in the tools.

If they feel that they can’t utilise the tech confidently and effectively, they will be less likely to use them. With the pandemic in full swing, finding methods to reach students and continue their education with as little disruption possible is vital. 

For edutech to work and truly benefit both students and teachers, there is a pressing need for educational institutions to improve the working environment and support for educators.

The best way to ensure that these new technologies are helping, not hindering teachers, is to understand their needs the level of knowledge they have of using the systems and collaborate with them as much as practicable.

Edutech as the lever for empowering educators

The main goal of most edutech is to make learning more engaging for students and make it easier for teachers to deliver lessons. This LMS, platforms or software should help them deal with enormous workloads, not add to their stress.

Students already know how to use online reading materials, pre-recorded videos, remote assignments and digital tests. However, educators still need to figure out how to keep students interested and stimulated during their virtual learning journey to achieve better results.  

Edutech makes the personalisation of learning attainable in a way that wasn’t possible with physical classes alone.

It allows for real-time engagement and the creation of bespoke lesson plans and ability-targetted content. It is a time and cost-effective way for teachers to keep track of their student’s progress, aptitude, and skills.

Teachers can also maintain a clear picture of their learners’ overall progress. Customisation, gamification, and artificial intelligence are aspects of learning technology that can help students become more interested in what they are learning and remain engaged in the process.

Using AI to reduce educators’ workloads must not be overlooked.

It is possible to train or set up AI to take over monotonous and time-consuming duties such as taking attendance other administrative responsibilities such as sending reminders or timetables. It can also deliver structured feedback, develop tests and exams, tutor on concepts, answer questions, and evaluate student progress.

These machine learning capabilities will minimise teachers’ workload significantly. Still, it can free them up to devote more time to creating meaningful interactions with their pupils, which AI cannot accomplish.

Implementation of edutech adding to workload burdens

Even though students today are considered “digital natives”, they still depend on teachers to help them learn how to access and use online learning platforms.

Many educators are battling against the distractions that internet-enabled devices can bring to the classroom. Some struggle to use the technology effectively despite the available resources and meet the added challenge of policing their students’ online activities during class time. 

Not every student or teacher has the same access to computers and the internet at home. This issue of accessibility presents further difficulties for teachers if they must assign different tasks to different students or avoid assigning homework with a digital component.

Having access to adequate technical support, enough computer labs, software, and time to learn how to use these new technologies effectively are other challenges some teachers face. As a result, they are under more stress than ever before as they grapple with these new pedagogical approaches. 

Edutech implementation should be tailored around the current learning workflow

In many cases, multiple technologies are used in the classroom, which can confuse students and make it hard for teachers to keep track and manage their usage while juggling all of them simultaneously.

Rather than simply following the latest trends, edutech should have the sole purpose of strengthening and improving existing processes and systems. 

There is a pressing need to develop technologies that alleviate the administrative strain placed on educators and make it easier for them to teach.

When this is the case, they can spend more time doing what they are genuinely passionate about, teaching and making a difference in the lives of their pupils.

Complicated technologies that demand substantial training put additional strain on educators, who may lose faith in their tools. Simple, practical tools are the key to success.

Technology plays a crucial role in ensuring dynamic lessons enhancing teaching effectiveness and efficiency in today’s classrooms. It is possible to democratise education and make it accessible to previously disadvantaged populations using digital technology.

However, much of it fails to address the specific needs of teachers and students, becoming a bane to educators instead. It is not enough to utilise an LMS, software or device and expect meaningful technology integration.

Therefore, more significant consideration must be given to the stack of edutech used in schools.

Educators must be involved in the development process to ensure that the technology meets the particular needs of each classroom, whether it is online or in the school building.

This article was first published on March 30, 2022. 

Written by Yvonne Soh

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