Technology Used for Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As students K-12 and higher education are making their way back to in-person instruction, the value technology provides to the learning experience has never been more essential. Without the likes of learning management systems, namely Blackboard and Canvas and virtual group collaboration technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, students and teachers would lag to integrate a classroom-like experience online. There are many beneficiaries to software including Zoom and Blackboard, but if solutions are not properly used, they provide little-to-no value. Access to these technologies is a great start but understanding digital literacy that teaches us how to best use certain software efficiently will provide prospective students with a technological background allowing them to continually advance within the world.
Applying Technology to Real-World Scenarios
Digital literacy is one of the most useful skills that an individual can use, but it is also an extremely hard skill to master. As society is getting more technologically advanced, understanding how to use different hardware and software is more crucial than ever. Back in February 2020, 77% of teachers were originally confident in using EdTech to transition from the in-person classroom to the virtual classroom, but after asking these same teachers again in June, only 66% of them (11% decrease) reported confidence in using EdTech tools outside the classroom (EdSurge). Additionally, 13% of instructors surveyed were found to never have used digital media services to teach in an online setting before having to adapt to the current situation. This shows the importance of further training both students and faculty in digital literacy as the transition to online learning was a struggle for many. Ultimately, students and faculty were given technologies provided by their school districts or universities and had to figure out how to incorporate given platforms into their classroom experience with minimal-no training behind how to use them efficiently. As seen through the transition to online learning, teaching digital literacy as a means to critically think and apply applications of what is learned in the classroom to online learning tools will greatly benefit teachers, students, and admin.
Adaptability out of Necessity
To shrink the technology gap worldwide, there are many organizations worldwide that are developing creative ways to integrate and teach technological skills within the classroom. In Iraq, a non-profit called Hello Future teaches “teen refugees digital and financial literacy, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship” (Hechinger) to prosper students within society despite lacking the most advanced resources. Participants in this program range from 13-18 years old and use a basic mobile device with only internet access 90% of the time. Even without the newest and most up-to-date technology available, students have the opportunity to gain the necessary skills and literacy that can be applied to any new device or situation. Hello Future calls this style of learning a “mobile-first environment” (Hechinger). Through the program, participants learn how to use the internet beyond a means of basic education and part take in project-based learning in groups increasing collaboration and improving teamwork skills. Project-based learning focuses on longer, more in-depth collaborative projects allowing teachers to be more engaged with their students as more complex projects require more assistance from instructors. As a result of the assignments students received through project-based learning and collaborative group work, they are now able to think of problems and solutions more analytically, giving them critical skills employers look for in applicants.
The Unintended Outcomes of Technological Literacy in Schools
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 82% of the Gen Z population has increased their smartphone device usage compared to only 43% of Baby Boomers (Statista). A majority of students, who fall within this Gen Z population, are well equipped with how to use their smartphones to interact with friends and family via social media apps, but they lack the understanding of how to use the “internet as a tool” (Hechinger). As more teachers are using online software to teach their courses, administrators should instruct both faculty and students on how to effectively engage with certain software such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suites that will give them the ability to present their work in a grander fashion. Requiring faculty to integrate technology inside and outside of the classroom for their students will better improve their computer application skills and better prepare them for future jobs. The unintended outcome of adopting technology in school is the skills students learn along the way. Students developing technical skills will be better equipped to meet a digital world post-graduation and into their careers. Intervention at magnitude would allow students to significantly increase their learning potential to new ways we have not discovered.