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What is EdTech? And Why is it Important for CEIAG?

Either through conversations with colleagues or from the power of the internet, you probably have some idea of what ‘EdTech’ means and what it refers to. But have you thought about how it applies to you in the classroom? Especially when it comes to careers education?

To give a bit of background on the term; EdTech is the abbreviation for education technology and refers to the division of technological development and advancement that is devoted to the education industry. This includes software, hardware, programming and processes. The EdTech Review provides quite a nice little summary to define EdTech:

“EdTech is a study and ethical practice for facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

It’s a rapidly developing field, gaining more momentum as all things digital and tech become further integrated across our societies. The implications for its uses are far-reaching, especially in the classroom and within educational data management. EdTech Magazine has advised that currently emerging technologies are providing schools and colleges with:

“A very clear understanding of any number of points of reference – student progress, budget performance, alumni snapshots; the list of possibilities and insights truly is limitless.”

It’s a conversation of a global scale and if you’re not convinced by the growing importance of EdTech, take a look at the financial data. According to The Guardian, UK schools and colleges now spend around £900 million on EdTech a year. In the first 10 months of 2017 alone, $8.15 billion was staked in EdTech companies by global investors. One of those companies was Mark Zuckerberg’s investment fund, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, who have made it clear that EdTech is one of their main investment priorities, with the aim of supporting digitalisation of education worldwide.

What does EdTech look like in the classroom?

“Geeks can’t teach and teachers can’t geek.” Whether you agree or not, that’s one way that educator and EdTech expert, Caleb Clark, has summarised the use of technology in the classroom.

Personally, we think you can be a little bit of both. But understanding what technology is available to you and how it will help enrich your classroom is the first step in that journey. As an educator, your priority is to teach, and technology needs to add value in this respect, not create more challenges and demands.

We’ve collated some examples of this at work below.

Kahoot!

Kahoot is a fantastic piece of tech that you can incorporate very quickly and easily into lesson plans, helping to build engagement across your students. It’s currently the top education app in the UK with 50 million users each month. Educators are able to create their own games, quizzes, or utilise existing content. The content can be shared on a smartboard and students engage with it via an app on their own devices. They can select or type in responses that then appear on the main board. It’s perfect for testing learning and academic checkpoints in a less formal and more engaging way.

Virtual Reality & Immersive Technologies

VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) are quickly gaining precedence across many platforms for their multiple uses, including in the classroom. As you can imagine, students are fully on board with this one. Utilising VR in the traditional classroom is a great way for educators to embrace tech and enrich learning experiences. VR platforms are working in conjunction with curriculum, so imagine teaching about the solar system and providing students with the opportunity to ‘see’ what that looks like in VR or AR, turning the classroom into a more active learning environment.

Nearpod

As the attention spans of learners adapts to our technologically advancing world, so will the ways they want to learn and engage with educators. It’s difficult enough creating engaging lessons and this is an area where EdTech can really support you. Nearpod is a content platform for teachers. They provide a range of pre-made, fully interactive lessons developed by subject matter experts, across all learning levels and disciplines. Nearpod allows educators to import lessons, across different file types, and add to their own content using the existing resources in the platform. The content you create can then be synchronised and made accessible across your classes’ devices. This covers a wide range of medium including video, imagery, animation, text, infographics – the list goes on.

Tracker

Tracker is a space where you can plan and document specific careers education and activities in a way that assists in tracking what works and what doesn’t work with your students. It is great for careers educators as it links your careers plans with the Gatsby Benchmarks scores. The Gatsby Benchmarks are vital in helping you to develop a consistent, high quality framework and improve provision within your school, so this is a an incredibly helpful piece of EdTech to elevate education and teaching.

These are just a few examples, and there are loads more that you can find in our article on the different types of technology that can help to support CEIAG

The impact for careers advisors

Careers advice and guidance is often seen as a bit ‘outdated’, and many learners will have expectations in place for who you are and what you can deliver. Bringing EdTech into the careers sphere is a great way to shake things up a bit and demonstrate to students that careers education is keeping pace with them! A few ways EdTech can impact how we teach about careers include:

Supporting new ways of learning and engagement

As mentioned above, students’ preference for learning and engaging with education is changing rapidly and, if we’re to get the best engagement, we need to be adapting with them. Making use of different ways of engaging with students in the careers classroom is a great way to do this. Immersive technologies are being utilised across careers (think the army, healthcare, industrial, construction) to showcase what it’s like working in those areas. An VR/AR day really showing students these career pathways could be a great step to engagement.

Supporting ongoing development

It’s time to ditch the outdated ‘careers quiz’. We’ve all experienced it and the weird and wonderful career options it might have offered us. While it once had its place, we need to be utilising EdTech to create more robust means for supporting ongoing development in the careers space around transferable skills, ‘soft’ skills, and students’ affinity for different career areas. Rather than a quiz that tells them they’ll be a dog groomer, how about a test that shows students how their current skills match with current roles and what that might look like in a meaningful way? For instance, take WISE’s new People Like Me quiz which helps girls understand what type of personality they have, what job roles they might be well-suited to within science and engineering and then connects them with women in those careers.

Springpod, a platform that connects students with STEM employers, has features that empower the careers teacher, helping CEIAG staff understand their students better and thus more efficiently support their personal development journeys. For instance, through a “student interests” feature, staff are able to see the career paths, companies and opportunities that their students are looking at, both at an individual and school-wide level. This knowledge enables CEIAG sessions to be personalised and tailored.

Connecting education and work

Distance learning and remote education is obviously benefitting from EdTech, but one step further could be to use the improved connectivity we have in this space to connect students with different employers – virtually. Many employers are stretched for time and bringing them onto campus might not always be the most streamlined process to navigate. A virtual meeting – via Skype, Zoom or any other network – is a great way to give students access to employers that might not otherwise be able to get into the classroom. We don’t just need to think locally about this either – with virtual employer engagement, the global opportunities are endless. STEMtalks.live, a new webinar platform being launched by Springpod and UTC Hub, is a great way that technology can act as a bridge between employers and influential figures in the STEM world. 

A growing career industry

The appetite for investment in EdTech is showing no sign of abating, so when speaking to students about growth career areas, this could very well be one worth mentioning! The growing field of education technology is providing many different opportunities across STEM careers including engineers, software architects, programmers, animators, coders and more. One of the biggest challenges for careers advisors is expanding the horizons of our students and encouraging them to think strategically about where they can apply their skills and qualifications. Highlighting niche areas, such as EdTech, is one way to showcase to them where their skills can take them across many different industries.

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The key take-aways here are that EdTech is here to stay, and its ongoing evolution within the classroom is not to be ignored. In fact it’s something we should all be getting pretty excited about. The potential to elevate careers education and engagement with students is endless, and the more we embrace it, the sooner we can start reaping the benefits.

Elaine Mead

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