Rapidly advancing technology, including automation and AI and its impact on education, skills and learning in the UK, is a subject of much debate for universities. How can institutions equip students with the skills they need to succeed in a changing jobs market? It’s a valid question, though often the answers are the problem.
Since technology is driving these changes, there’s an assumption that the government should keep focusing on Stem subjects. These are often referred to as “hard skills”, which are prioritised in primary school and right through to university level. In the meantime, “soft skills” – which are already disadvantaged by the term’s connotations – are being relegated even further down the pecking order in terms of curriculum must-haves.
This is a mistake. Much evidence suggests that soft skills are far more beneficial to graduates than is currently acknowledged. Research from Harvard University on the global jobs market has shown that Stem-related careers grew strongly between 1989 and 2000, but have stalled since. In contrast, jobs in the creative industries – the sector probably most associated with the need for soft skills – in the UK rose nearly 20% to 1.9m in the five years to June 2016.
Soft skills are in fact increasingly in demand in the workplace: Google cites creativity, leadership potential and communication skills as top prerequisites for both potential and current employees.
So why, in an age cited as the “fourth industrial revolution”, are soft skills so highly sought after? With the rapid evolution of technology, a focus on hard skills leaves students vulnerable to change, as these often have a shorter shelf life.
According to research by the World Economic Forum, more than one in four adults reported a mismatch between their skills and those needed for their job role. Although technical skills, such as learning to code, can be taught and assessed more easily and soft skills take time to develop and are more complex in nature, the latter can turn out to be more beneficial in the long term.
If taught well, these skills should enable students to adapt to change more easily, gain a greater understanding of people and the world around them, and ultimately progress further in their chosen career.
Of course technical, practical and more easily quantifiable skills are important but without the curriculum placing equal, if not greater, importance on soft skills, our governments and education systems are missing a huge trick. Hard skills may help a student get a job in a particular industry, but soft skills will help them disrupt it, creating change for the better and achieving a wider impact in their chosen field.
To return to the Google example, many of the company’s top “characteristics of success” are soft skills: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into other points of view, being supportive of one’s colleagues, critical thinking and problem solving, and being able to make connections across complex ideas. It’s these fundamentally human emotional and social skills which should be nurtured, developed and celebrated as the key to future success for students and society in general.
Many universities have embraced this, teaching students soft skills such as critical thinking, idea generation and interdisciplinary ways of working alongside hard skills. But the issue goes much deeper: it needs to be tackled across the entire education system, so that by the time students reach university level they are already familiar with the importance of, and the qualities needed to develop, these essential skills.
With enrolment in arts and humanities degrees in decline and the government’s continued focus on technical Stem subjects, the value of soft skills may be in danger of being lost along the way. Perhaps a good place to start would be a reframing of the language we use to describe these skills as, if the evidence is correct, they’re not so “soft” after all.
We spend a lot of time in school learning things we rarely use in life. And then, a massive chunk of our lives after formal education, gathering practical knowledge to build a good life. The irony of learning in school is that we don’t apply much of what we learn in our lives.
The practical skills to build a great life is learned through experimentation, imitation and deliberate self-learning.
Success is built on permanent skills, but society values hard skills more. Therefore, people are encouraged to learn hard skills to be “successful” in life. Traditional skills (engineering, programming, accounting, expertise, etc.) are easy to measure and job-specific. The problem is, not all skills are permanent. Some skills are valuable for a while, and then they become obsolete as technology evolves and gets better at doing specific tasks.
Many people have lost their jobs because employers found a faster way to save money. If your skills are indispensable, you are among the lucky few who can rely on their skills for as long as possible. Permanent skills have been around for centuries. They help people navigate life and do their jobs effectively.
Successful people learn both hard skills (through formal education) and permanent skills (via self-learning) to become efficient or effective humans. Their permanent skills complement their hard skills. Sheryl Sandberg once said, “Build your skills, not your resume.” A few permanent skills that can help you thrive in the next decade.
Dealing with uncertainties and change — In the wake of the pandemic, your ability to rise above things you cannot control is now more important than ever. How you react when most things are out of your control changes determines your level of stress and anxiety.
“Knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security,” says mathematician John Allen Paulos. Of course, there are no guarantees in life, but knowing what you can and can’t control can help you plan for inevitable change.
When you are worried about the future, focus on the outcomes you can control and be proactive about them. And always remember, don’t believe everything you think, live in the present but be proactive about the future.
The ability to spend and invest time wisely — Time is all we have to do more great work, change, improve, learn or make money. How are you spending your time? If you are bad at using time, you won’t get anywhere in life. Time management skill is what separates successful people from everyone else.
“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” is one of my favourite quotes. William Penn said that. It’s a powerful statement that reminds us of the shortness of life. You can achieve almost anything if you learn how to invest, spend or save time.
The willingness to change your mind — If you can’t change your mind, you can’t improve, can’t adapt, and can’t work with people. You are not right all the time. Your reality is only the only truth. So it’s vital to maintain an open mind. “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw said.
Your perceptions, assumptions, beliefs, and mental models inform your life choices — improving them can help you make better judgements. When the facts change, I change my mind.” John Maynard Keynes said.
The ability to understand emotional language — Humans are social beings. We communicate through language, emotions and body language. If you want to get far, influence people, change minds or make friends, develop a better understanding of your emotions to respond better to how other’s feel.
“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.”Daniel Goleman said. Nurture your emotional brain. You can do a lot better in life if you understand the emotions of others deeply.
The art of persuasion is an emotional job. Emotional skills improve our relationship with ourselves, which helps us build healthy relationships with the people we love and those we work with.
The ability to think through problems and situations — The decisions we make (small and big) in life have long-term consequences on ourselves and the people we care about.
Learning to think could mean the difference between good decisions and bad ones. “He who thinks little errs much.” Leonardo Da Vinci said.
In almost every decision-making process, we have multiple options to consider. Knowing the consequences of every course of action, their short-term effects and long-term implications can help you make better judgements.
Permanent skills don’t get old. They won’t become obsolete. You will continue to rely on them over and over again to build a good life. And the good news is, these permanent skills can be learned. “All skills are learnable.” Brian Tracy said. You can improve yourself every day to become a skilful and better human.
Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. The methodology of teaching is called pedagogy.
Kianna Ameni-Melvin’s parents used to tell her that there wasn’t much money to be made in education. But it was easy enough for her to tune them out as she enrolled in an education studies program, with her mind set on teaching high school special education.
Then the coronavirus shut down her campus at Towson University in Maryland, and she sat home watching her twin brother, who has autism, as he struggled through online classes. She began to question how the profession’s low pay could impact the challenges of pandemic teaching.
She asked her classmates whether they, too, were considering other fields. Some of them were. Then she began researching roles with transferable skills, like human resources. “I didn’t want to start despising a career I had a passion for because of the salary,” Ms. Ameni-Melvin, 21, said.
Few professions have been more upended by the pandemic than teaching, as school districts have vacillated between in-person, remote and hybrid models of learning, leaving teachers concerned for their health and scrambling to do their jobs effectively.
For students considering a profession in turmoil, the disruptions have seeded doubts, which can be seen in declining enrollment numbers.
A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19 percent of undergraduate-level and 11 percent of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income schools across the country, said it had received fewer applications for its fall 2021 corps compared with this period last year.
During the pandemic, Kianna Ameni-Melvin started questioning her decision to become a teacher and began researching roles with transferable skills.Credit…Rosem Morton for The New York Times
Many program leaders believe enrollment fell because of the perceived hazards posed by in-person teaching and the difficulties of remote learning, combined with longstanding frustrations over low pay compared with professions that require similar levels of education. (The national average for a public-school teacher’s salary is roughly $61,000.) Some are hopeful that enrollment will return to its prepandemic level as vaccines roll out and schools resume in-person learning.
But the challenges in teacher recruitment and retention run deeper: The number of education degrees conferred by American colleges and universities dropped by 22 percent between 2006 and 2019, despite an overall increase in U.S. university graduates, stoking concerns about a future teacher shortage.
For some young people, doubts about entering the teaching work force amid the pandemic are straightforward: They fear that the job now entails increased risk.
Nicole Blagsvedt, an education major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, felt a jolt of anxiety when she began her classroom training in a local public school that recently brought its students back for full in-person learning. After months of seeing only her roommates, moving around a classroom brimming with fourth and fifth graders was nerve-racking.
Ms. Blagsvedt’s role also encompassed new responsibilities: sanitizing fidget toys, enforcing mask use, coordinating the cleaning of the water bottles that students brought to school because they couldn’t use the water fountains. In her first week, she received a call from an office assistant informing her that one of her students had been exposed to Covid-19, and that she had to help shepherd the students out of the classroom so it could be disinfected.
“This panic crossed my mind,” she said. “I thought: This was what it’s going to be like now.”
Administrators running teacher preparation programs said the new anxieties were most likely scaring away some potential applicants. “People are weighing whether or not it makes sense to go to a classroom when there are alternatives that may seem safer,” said David J. Chard, dean of the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University.
But for many students, the challenges posed by remote teaching can be just as steep. Those training in districts with virtual classes have had to adjust their expectations; while they might have pictured themselves holding students’ hands and forming deep relationships, they’re now finding themselves staring at faces on a Zoom grid instead.
“Being online is draining,” said Oscar Nollette-Patulski, who had started an education degree at the University of Michigan but is now considering swapping majors. “You have to like what you’re doing a lot more for it to translate on a computer. I’m wondering, if I don’t like doing this online that much, should I be getting a degree in it?”
In some instances, remote teaching has deprived education students of training opportunities altogether. At Portland State University in Oregon, some students were not able to get classroom placements while schools were operating remotely. Others were given only restricted access to student documents and academic histories because of privacy concerns.
Education programs were already struggling to recruit new students to the profession, long before the pandemic forced teachers to hold classes remotely.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
At the university’s College of Education there was a decline in applications this year, which the dean, Marvin Lynn, attributed to students in the community hearing about the difficulties in training during the pandemic.
Applications may tick back up as schools return to in-person learning, Dr. Lynn said, but the challenges are likely to outlast this year. Educators have struggled with recruitment to the profession since long before the pandemic. In recent years, about 8 percent of public schoolteachers were leaving the work force annually, through retirement or attrition. National surveys of teachers have pointed to low compensation and poor working conditions as the causes of turnover.
The pandemic is likely to exacerbate attrition and burnout. In a recent national study of teachers by the RAND Corporation, one quarter of respondents said that they were likely to leave the profession before the end of the school year. Nearly half of public schoolteachers who stopped teaching after March 2020 but before their scheduled retirements did so because of Covid-19.
This attrition comes even as many schools are trying to add staff to handle reduced class sizes and to ensure compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols. Miguel A. Cardona, the secretary of education, recently called for financial help to reopen schools safely, which will allow them to bring on more employees so they can make their classes smaller. The Covid-19 relief package approved by President Biden includes $129 billion in funding for K-12 schools, which can be used to increase staff.
Not all teacher preparation programs are experiencing a decrease in interest. California State University in Long Beach saw enrollment climb 15 percent this year, according to the system’s preliminary data. Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, the assistant vice chancellor for the university system, attributes this partly to an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, which temporarily allowed candidates to enter preparation programs without meeting basic skill requirements because of the state’s teacher shortage.
Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City also saw an increase in applications this year, according to a spokesman, who noted that teaching has historically been a “recession-proof profession” that sometimes attracts more young people in times of crisis.
Even some of those with doubts have chosen to stick with their plans. Ms. Ameni-Melvin, the Towson student, said she would continue her education program for now because she felt invested after three years there.
Maria Ízunza Barba also decided to put aside her doubts and started an education studies program at the Wheelock College of Education at Boston University last fall. Earlier in the pandemic, as she watched her parents, both teachers, stumble through the difficulties of preparing for remote class, she wondered: Was it too late to choose law school instead?
Ms. Ízunza Barba, 19, had promised to help her mother with any technical difficulties that arose during her first class, so she crawled under the desk, out of the students’ sight, and showed her mother which buttons to press in order to share her screen.
Then she watched her mother, anxious about holding the students’ attention, perform a Spanish song about economics.
Ms. Ízunza Barba said she realized then that there was no other career path that could prove as meaningful. “Seeing her make her students laugh made me realize how much a teacher can impact someone’s day,” she said. “I was like, whoa, that’s something I want to do.”
Whether in a formal or informal setting, the ability to conduct research and impart knowledge has always been a crucial part of human life. That led to the establishment of colleges that are now centuries-old and have grown to become institutions. Those institutions might have seemed permanent and too dominant to challenge just a year ago, but the events of 2020 have caused a seismic shift in how people live, and how we learn specifically, such that digital education is clearly going to be the dominant force in the years to come.
This represents a lot of change in the sector, from the kinds of tutors who will be able to succeed in the new model to the tools the students and their teachers will need for an efficient learning process. That change also represents an immense opportunity for entrepreneurs — to make a profit while making a real impact on the future of humanity.
1. Interactive media
An important aspect of elearning is the ability to use a variety of media in communicating information. While traditional education models were largely restricted to text, and in some cases, audio and video, new digital learning platforms can leverage advanced technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create a more immersive learning experience that will help students understand and retain more of the information which they are taught.
It’s also particularly helpful for training, where students gain experience using complex equipment without the risk of making real-life errors. Flight training for pilots and surgery models for surgeons are two increasingly popular applications.
A recent study by Goldman Sachs showed that education is No. 4 on the list of sectors receiving the largest amount of VR-related investments, shaping the industry to be worth over $700 million by 2025. That would amount to an increase of over 500% in the next five years. As large as those numbers are, they are unsurprising when we consider that up to 97% of surveyed students stated that they would be interested in undergoing a VR educational course. The market will always go where the money is.
2. Flexibility and on-demand education
This is another primary driving factor of the elearning revolution, and it is visible in every aspect of the system. From the fact that students can attend and participate actively in class from anywhere in the world using teleconferencing software, to on-demand classes that allow students to set their own schedules and learn at their own pace, the key is to provide a learning experience that is as tailored to the needs of each student as possible.
This flexibility means that students have full control over their learning process, thus making them more likely to stick to it. Corporate organizations have also been making a push into elearning as part of their training processes. In fact, 41.7% of global Fortune 500 Companies were already using some form of digital training as far back as 2013, and that number has only continued to grow.
This flexibility also reflects in the marketing approach. While traditional institutions are more uptight and reserved, entrepreneurs in the digital learning space can be more engaging by implementing content marketing strategies to attract users, such as the Learn a Course Online course reviews section which helps online learners share their experiences with online courses to help others make the best choices.
3. Artificial intelligence
Education has traditionally been driven by the teacher and student, progressing based on their interactions. Nowadays, advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning/neural networks have resulted in software capable of evaluating how a student is doing based on a variety of criteria and guiding them accordingly to ensure they understand what is being taught fully.
These tools use everything from how students answer quizzes to how long they spend on a page and how many times they look back at certain sections to produce personalized learning plans just for that particular student.
This level of granularity in the education system is unprecedented, giving students the ability to direct their lessons and entire learning experience with the assistance of advanced AI. When combined with the removal of time constraints and a strict curriculum, it is clear why there is such a huge interest in digital learning among teachers and students alike, and why the industry is so ripe for disruption by savvy entrepreneurs.
Education at scale doesn’t have to suck. If you ditch conventional e-learning’s clicky gimmicks, and focus instead on science-backed design principles and powerful human stories, your training will shift from tedious to transformative. Dr. Aaron Barth, thought-leader and president of Dialectic, gives progressive leaders the confidence they need to tackle their hardest people problems using scientific methods. Rooted in education, Dr. Barth founded Dialectic after completing his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Western University, keen on fusing theory with application.
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Evidently, an increase in child deaths is the significant issue as another child death becomes an additional statistic yet, it doesn’t correlate to what effect it has internally on all parties concerned. With the emerging digital age, it is vital that everything online is scrutinized and it is our responsibility as educators to guarantee a child’s safety.
Reducing the number of deaths is the obvious priority but subsequent factors of the online world such as crime, county lines, sexual abuse and grooming all have increased. A survey produced by Children’s Commissioner for Wales Professor Sally Holland stated that:
“four in 10 of the 17-year-olds taking part in her survey said they felt lonely most of the time while 30% of 17 to 18-year-olds said they felt worried most of the time.”
Isolation and loneliness will lead young children to become involved in dangerous predicaments as their intrigue is raised. This is where online safety is paramount as it is an accessible route for criminals to target potential victims to exploit.
“County Lines has contributed to 807% increase in children referred for support by councils in relation to modern slavery.”
With this excessive increase, it demonstrates how important safeguarding is in online education. Gangs will utilise social media as a ploy to flaunt a lavish lifestyle and lure young children into Country lines due to their naivety and inability to comprehend that they are indeed victims.
Not only will children be exploited for financial gain, but online it allows predators to seek out young vulnerable people for their own gratification through grooming. Last year the NSPCC stated the Police recorded:
“over 10,000 online child sex crimes in a year for the first time.”
But not only in the UK is this prevalent, the problem is increasing Internationally. The Times reported that in Thailand during the pandemic:
“Police and child protection organizations say that cases of abuse, including the extracting of pornographic images from children, increased last year by as much as 40 per cent.”
With less school time because of recent lock downs, it has led to less education whilst increasing vulnerability. With schools now reopen it is critical that children are being supervised.
In addition to this, the UK has seen an increase in radicalization. COVID has led to more seclusion resulting in close relatives and friends taking advantage of young children. Sky reported that over the past 2 years there has been:
“more than 1,500 children under the age of 15 [who] were referred to the Prevent counter radicalization programmer.”
Ultimately the diminishment of social interaction due to COVID that young children will have with their peers and teachers leaves them exposed, further highlighting the importance of safeguarding young children online.
Educational barriers need to be broken online
Online education is a valuable asset as it enables learning remotely and breaks down the barriers at home unveiling a glimpse of what may be going on behind close doors.
Unfortunately, not all children can be monitored online due to a number of factors, one including, inadequate resources due to socio-economic backgrounds.
A tragic example of safeguarding importance lies with Chadrack Mbala Mulo, 4. Had there been sufficient communication between his school and home prior to his mother’s death, he may still be alive. He died from starvation as a result of being unable to feed himself due to him being mute and having autism.
His unexplained absences, which were not pursued in thorough depth, ultimately led to his death. Remote online education would have ensured that his scarce logins on education portals would have raised flags and an investigation would have occurred properly.
Sadly, this is just one case of thousands who are at risk in similar situations exemplifying why safeguarding children who are learning online is vital.
Educating children about the dangers online is the key
Our opinion is that educating young children before they can be exposed to the dangers will be the best option to minimize exploitation.
Here at EdClass It is our mission to guarantee that every child home or abroad gets the chance to learn safely with our DBS checked staff ensuring remote learning is completed in a correct and secure manner.
All chats are recorded and sent to their corresponding schools’ server to guarantee safeguarding elements.
Our EdClass Designated Safeguarding Lead Cara Radford said:
“Safeguarding online is massively important especially during COVID when everyone is online. Pre-COVID, a lot of parents were looking into what their children were doing online but now parents are busy balancing working from home and parenting which has meant more opportunity for people that are looking to groom children.
So, educating children into not befriending people they don’t know on forums and not disclosing personal information is really important, more so now than ever.”
Online safety is now part of the wider safeguarding requirement for schools but it is a fast changing and sometimes seemingly inaccessible world for staff. However, all members of the staff team should have at least a basic awareness of online safety so that, should an incident occur, they can respond appropriately and quickly.
This is the first in a free series of videos that will not only help raise awareness in the team but also has a partnering child-friendly version of the principles discussed to extend the training into the classroom. The content is appropriate for everyone from Senior Leadership to new to education staff in any role and can be used to support a combined staff and classroom awareness campaign. In this first episode, we look at some key elements of online safety and some of the safeguarding responsibilities of the team will need to be aware of.
Our team at the Child Protection Company have been creating high quality training solutions since 2008 and every one of our courses draws on the experience of expert safeguarding professionals. Our training courses are developed in house, and are regularly updated to remain in line with the latest government guidance and legislation.
Effective educators have long known that one-size-fits all approaches to teaching and learning are insufficient. Through extraordinary effort, they have figured out ways to differentiate and personalize learning for their students. They have done so despite an industrial-era education paradigm that makes it very difficult to do so. Over time, some of their efforts were named, systematized, and scaled.
Today, building on these approaches, some believe (count us among them) that a shift to an entirely new education paradigm is within reach. Harnessing new technologies, aided by advancements in transportation and communication, and required in order to adequately respond to deep and disruptive social, economic, environmental, and political forces, we envision a fundamental shift in how learners experience their education.
In this piece, we identify some of the most-broadly adopted methods developed by educators to differentiate support, improve learning design, and meet the individual needs of learners. They include Response to Intervention (RTI), Positive-Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). Then, we seek to compare learner-centered education to these approaches, exploring the implications for each. Ultimately, we will make the following arguments:
Learner-centered education is about a paradigm shift, not a specific methodology.
Learner-centered education requires learning design that is flexible and adaptive, similar to or expanding upon the principles of UDL.
Learner-centered education may include specific methodologies for differentiating support (e.g. RtI or PBIS), but it is more likely to extend and/or replace them.
Learner-centered education is additive to and inherently strengthens existing systems-level approaches such as MTSS.
Learner-centered education is fundamentally adaptive and outcomes-focused (rather than technical and process-focused).
All of the approaches we name above recognize the same problem. The current industrial model for teaching and learning was designed based on an assembly line metaphor, expecting students to move through school in the same amount of time with more or less the same amount of support regardless of where they enter, unique challenges they may be facing, or strengths they may bring.
Within this rigid system, educators have sought ways to differentiate support. Over time, some of the techniques educators developed to provide each student the support they need have been built upon to create school and systems-level approaches. Tiered systems of support and intervention such as Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) were developed to introduce achievable levels of differentiated support (e.g. 3 tiers) within the constraints of the industrial paradigm.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is also a three-tier approach and framework but focused on student behavior and social-emotional development. The goal of PBIS is to proactively promote positive behavior. Similar to RtI, PBIS typically scales interventions starting with universal and proactive routines and support provided to the full classroom or school (Tier 1), then targeted behavior support (Tier 2), and lastly individualized, intensive support (Tier 3).
Recent innovations with tiered systems of support by organizations such as Turnaround for Children expand these models to include an understanding of trauma and adversity as well as taking into account how to adjust for hybrid and remote learning options.
These systems were developed based on a recognition that all students are capable of reaching similar outcomes, but require different amounts of time and support to get there. They were helpful steps towards providing each student with different amounts of time, support, and attention based on their needs. They have positively impacted tens of thousands of students in achieving desired standards however this often comes at the cost of removing students from their peers and narrowing the curriculum and will continue in such a manner as long as the traditional paradigm exists.
At the same time that these methodologies proliferated for differentiating and targeting support by pulling students out, complementary methodologies were developed for designing learning in a way that was flexible enough to meet the needs of learners with different motivations, interests, (dis)abilities, and needs. One example is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is an approach and framework for designing instruction and learning environments that are accessible to all students.
UDL emphasizes providing flexibility in how students access content (e.g., visual, audio, hands-on) engage with it, and demonstrate knowledge or mastery. The goal is to remove barriers to learning. UDL is rooted in the premise that while accommodations and flexibility are necessary to ensure learning accessibility for some individuals, they in fact benefit all individuals (sometimes in unforeseen ways) and therefore should always be in play.
More recently, attempts have been made to create overarching systems that build on and integrate these into an overall coherent framework for systems change. One example that has gained widespread interest and adoption is Multi-Tiered System of Support(MTSS). MTSS is a framework for meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. It builds upon and may include data-driven, tiered intervention strategies such as RtI and PBIS as part of the approach.
However whereas RtI primarily focuses on academic learning and PBIS focuses on behavior and social/emotional development, MTSS aims to bring a more comprehensive lens and integrated approach to meeting the needs of learners. Moreover, MTSS is often described as a system-level approach with implications for aligned leadership, resource allocation, professional development and more.
This now brings us to the term that is at the center of our inquiry: learner-centered education. Like MTSS, learner-centered education has been growing in popularity. Learner-centered attempts to define an alternative to the industrial-era education model itself. The graphic below, borrowed from Education Reimagined, makes this clear.
Learner-centered education is about a paradigm shift, not a specific intervention methodology. It pushes education leaders to critically consider the purpose of school and to re-envision how the complete education ecosystem prepares students for the future. Learner-centered education demands that we move away from the traditional industrial model towards a transformative one that designs learning in response to the diverse needs of students.
This future-oriented paradigm requires a new set of student outcomes and aligned success metrics as part of its vision, whereas most of the above can function within the traditional set of outcome metrics. Lastly, learner-centered education goes beyond schools as the unit of change. Instead, it looks at the needs and goals of the individual learner and macroscopically at opportunities for learning within an education ecosystem.
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More than thirty years ago, Fred Davis developed the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as part of his dissertation at MIT. It’s one of the most widely cited papers in the field of technology acceptance (a.k.a. adoption). Since 1989, it’s spawned an entire field of research that extends and adds to it. What does TAM convey and how might today’s AI benefit from it?
TAM is an intuitive framework. It feels obvious yet powerful and has withstood the test of time. Davis started with a premise so simple that it’s easy to take it for granted: A person will only try, use and ultimately adopt technology if they are willing to exert some effort. And what could motivate users to expend this effort?
He outlined several variables that could motivate users, and many researchers have added to his list over the years, but these two variables are the ones that were most important: 1. Does it look easy to use? 2. Will it be useful? If the learning curve doesn’t look too steep and there’s something in it for them, a user will be inclined to adopt. Many researchers have added to this foundation over the years. For example, we’ve learned that a user’s intention can also be influenced by subjective norms.
We’re motivated to adopt new tech at work when senior leadership thinks it’s important. Perceived usefulness can also be influenced by image, as in, “Does adopting this tech make me look good?” And lastly, usefulness is high if relevance to the job is high.
TAM can be a powerful concept for an AI practitioner. It should be front-of-mind when embedding AI in an existing tool or process and when developing an AI-first product, as in, one that’s been designed with AI at the center of its functionality from the start. (Think Netflix.) Furthermore, AI can be used to drive adoption by levering TAM principles that increase user motivation.
Making AI more adoptable
With the proliferation of AI in sales organizations, AI algorithms are increasingly embedded in tools and processes leveraged by sales representatives and sales managers. Adding decision engines to assist sales representatives is becoming increasingly common. A sales organization may embed models that help determine a customer’s propensity to buy or churn, recommend next best actions or communications and more. The problem is, many of these initiatives don’t work because of a lack of adoption.
TAM can help us design these initiatives more carefully, so that we maximize the chances of acceptance. For example, if these models surface recommendations and results that fit seamlessly into reps’ tools and processes, they would perceive them as easy to use.
And if the models make recommendations that help a sales person land a new customer, prevent one from leaving and help them upsell or cross-sell when appropriate, reps would perceive them as useful. In other words, if the AI meets employees where they are and offers timely, beneficial support, adoption becomes a no-brainer.
We also see many new products and services that are AI first. For these solutions, if perceived ease of use or perceived usefulness are not high, there would be no adoption. Consider a bank implementing a tech-enabled solution like mobile check deposits. This service depends on customers having a trouble-free experience.
The Newark airport’s global entry system uses facial recognition to scan international flyers’ faces. It’s voluntary, and the experience is fantastic. The kiosk recognizes my face, and a ticket is printed for me to take to the immigration officer. Personally, I find this AI-first process a better experience than the previous system that depended on fingerprints, and now I will always opt for the new one.
Using AI to drive adoption
And perhaps counter intuitively, what if AI was used to drive elements of TAM within existing technology? Can AI impact perceived usefulness? Can AI impact perceived ease of use? Consider CRM. It has been improved and refined over the years and is in use within most sales organizations, yet the level of dissatisfaction with CRM is high and adoption remains a challenge.
How can AI help? A machine learning algorithm that uses location services can recommend that a rep visit a nearby customer, increasing the perceived usefulness of their CRM solution. Intelligent process automation can also help reps see relevant information from a contracting database as information on renewals are being entered. Bots can engage customers on behalf of the representatives to serve up more qualified leads. The possibilities are numerous. All these AI features are designed to ensure that CRM lives up to its promise as a source of value to the sales representative.
Outside of sales, consider patients. In the past few years, many new technologies have been introduced to help diabetics. Adoption of this technology is critical to self-management, and self-management is critical to treating the disease. For any new technology in this space, patients need to see that it’s useful to them.
AI can play a role in gathering information such as glucose levels, activity and food intake and make recommendations on insulin dosing or caloric intake. Such information gathering could go a long way toward reducing the fatigue that diabetics feel while they make countless health and nutrition decisions throughout the day.
AI’s algorithmic nature makes it easy to forget that it’s another technology and that it can aid technology. Its novelty can convince us that everything about it is new. TAM holds up because it’s intuitive, straightforward and proven. While we boldly innovate a path forward in the world of AI, shed convention and think like a disruptor, let’s keep an eye on our history too. There’s some useful stuff in there.
Arun provides strategy and advisory services, helping clients build their analytics capabilities and leverage their data and analytics for greater commercial effectiveness. He currently works with clients on a broad range of analytics needs that span multiple industries, including technology, telecommunications, financial services, travel and transportation and healthcare. His areas of focus are AI adoption and ethics, as well as analytics organization design, capability building, AI explainability and process optimization.
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By their very nature, pandemics shake the systems of society, and that is certainly true for the global educational system right now. Institutions have had to adjust their entire structures, and for many educators, that has meant being thrust into remote learning environments, often without time to study or plan for the change. Until now, many educators have rightfully spent the bulk of their energies on meeting students’ most urgent needs, checking on physical and mental well-being first. Now, though, we find ourselves beginning to plan and conduct actual instruction, and the realities of remote learning bring new challenges. However, it may also bring opportunities to innovate, and, in the way of teachers across time, chances to flex our problem-solving muscles.
Our hope is that the Turnitin team can support you in ensuring student needs are met. This post, the first of three in our Together While Apart series, is part of our effort to help, but that’s not all that we’re doing. We have officially launched Turnitin’s Remote Learning Resources page and populated it with all the best materials, including past publications and a stockpile of brand new content specifically designed to meet the challenges of remote learning.
Remote learning is a broad term encompassing many different approaches. Often, these approaches fall into two brackets – synchronous or asynchronous. When classes meet at specific times in much the same way that they would in person, except that some form of technology is connecting everyone, that is known as synchronous learning. Because of the emergency nature of COVID-19, many institutions are finding themselves more likely to pursue asynchronous learning. In asynchronous learning, collective meetings are not always happening in real-time, and students often independently access content, assignments, and assessments virtually (or even through paper formats, in some places) on widely varying schedules.
Of the many shifts in instructional delivery, one of the most dramatic will be the methods by which educators communicate with their students. The challenges there will impact nearly every aspect of asynchronous instruction, so let’s begin there.
Instructor Challenge: How will I help my students combat a feeling of having limited live access to personalized support?
Set up specific shared times for discussions, question and answer, etc. so that students CAN schedule around the time and check-in if they need to. Make sure to set these times up in advance to increase the possibility that students will be able to participate. For students who can’t join in real-time, record those sessions and post them so that students won’t be isolated or miss out on critical conversations. Additionally, this will build in opportunities for peer interaction and support, which can be critical to the learning process and may help feelings of isolation, loneliness, and even depression that can occur when working remotely. This is a common phenomenon for people working remotely and is likely to present a similar problem for some students.
Offer 1:1 time slots on the calendar for students in the event that they need more support. In addition to the shared times for interaction, many students will want or need some individual interaction with instructors. It’s important to give them time and space to ask questions, seek out individualized clarification and support, and to simply connect.
Instructor Challenge: How will I ensure that my students always know WHEN learning activities are occurring and WHERE to find the information they need?
Set up a centralized communication hub with ALL relevant information. Students can link out to the various tools and materials you’ll use, but they will have this as a home base of sorts.
Establish a calendar! Set up a shared calendar where you list all relevant dates and can allow students to use it to schedule their own learning activities and time with you. Pro Tip:Feedback Studio users can use the Class Calendar tool to do this inside the system for ease of access to the information.
Consistent communication methods – pick the right tool for a task and then stick to it. Try making a list of all the different kinds of communication tasks involved in your instruction, and then match each to a communication TOOL that will best fit the purpose. For example, giving an overview of an assignment is different than providing ongoing feedback throughout an assignment. Which is the best tool for each? You need something that is well suited to longer, more comprehensive sets of information for the overview, but you need something fast and tied to specific student work for the second. Be thoughtful about the tools you select. Once you match each task with a particular tool, make sure you document that and share it with your students. Keep it in a location where students can easily access it over time too.
Once you select a tool, use it consistently! For example, try to avoid announcing some assignments through email and then some on a discussion board and still others on Twitter. Using other communication methods as back-ups are fine, but always utilize the one established upfront so there isn’t any confusion about where to access information.
Instructor Challenge: Since I am not communicating in person with my students, how will I avoid misalignment or misunderstandings about expectations, processes, or products?
Anticipate questions or misunderstandings and address them upfront. It might help to picture a particular student and ask what questions they might have. By answering them in advance, you are more likely to head off any confusion and save both yourself and your students wasted time and effort. Additionally, you will ensure that every student has the right information whether they ask for it or not.
Over-communicate – If you think your students already know your expectations, spell them out anyway. Sometimes, we make assumptions about how students think, but students surprise us. Losing physical proximity can complicate this even more. Outside the physical environment of a classroom, students sometimes fall back into the patterns of their new space. “I’m learning from my kitchen table, where I feel relaxed and easy-going.” Sometimes, those changes infect their thinking about work and expectations in unproductive ways. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to reassert those expectations and processes so that they carry over into students’ work.
Document – To the greatest extent possible, write down and/or record–audio or video, and with captions, if available–all information so that students can access it repeatedly. This might seem incredibly time-consuming, but the upfront investment will save time later as you’ll be able to refer students back to it anytime you need to, and you’ll find that you are able to re-use it. Since students won’t be accessing instructions or content at the same time, recording it in writing or through another medium means that they can read or hear it from anywhere, any time, and as MANY times as they need to. Just think… this might actually mean that you don’t have to answer the same question 10 times! Additionally, it means that students can repeat information without any fear of judgment from their teacher or their peers, and you will have done so in a way that encourages them to seek out critical information they need rather than passively waiting.
Provide feedback about expectations and processes, not only products. Students will make mistakes. In many cases, asynchronous learning is new to them too. Include opportunities to practice new skills within the tools they use and the processes involved, and make sure you give them feedback. Doing so has the added bonus of building their sense of agency and taking ownership of their own learning. Pro Tip: Be honest about your mistakes and what you have learned from this process so that students understand that learning is messy and requires us all to be reflective.
Students and teachers alike are overwhelmed by all that has changed in such a short time. That means that the “soft skills” that go into effective educational practices are perhaps more essential than ever. At its most fundamental level, education is built on relationships and communication.
By: Patti West-Smith, Senior Manager, Teaching and Learning Innovations Team
Our world in the next five years: Legal scholar Randal C. Picker on how widespread changes in teaching fueled by the pandemic will reshape education. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the United States and other nations around the world to rush into remote learning. This sudden shift will have a sizable impact on teaching and learning long after COVID-19 crisis ends, says Prof. Randal C. Picker, a leading legal scholar at the University of Chicago Law School. Full Story & Transcript: https://news.uchicago.edu/videos/covi… More from the COVID2025 series: https://news.uchicago.edu/story/covid…
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As an educator with 30 years of experience in North Dakota’s public schools, I’ve witnessed students enter my classroom with varying degrees of readiness. In an effort to create more equitable instructional opportunities, I have started to integrate scaffolding into my regular classroom activities.
According to Pauline Gibbons (2015), a scaffold is a temporary support a teacher provides to a student that enables the student to perform a task he or she would not be able to perform alone.
The goal of scaffolding is to provide opportunities for accommodating students’ individual abilities and needs as they learn and grow. It is important to note that scaffolding is fundamental to all effective and equitable teaching, and that the edtech resources many educators currently have access to support the integration of scaffolding into instruction.
Here are four scaffolding techniques I use, and some of the resources that support them
If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times. Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times to enhance students’ vocabulary. When exposure is coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, vocabulary acquisition doubled.
1. One technique I’ve used to design supportive instruction in the areas of vocabulary and reading is practice, repetition, paraphrasing, and modeling. If you want students to internalize new information, you need to expose them to it several times. Robert Marzano found that it was critical for teachers to expose students to the same word multiple times to enhance students’ vocabulary. When exposure is coupled with an explicit comment about the word and its meaning, vocabulary acquisition doubled.1. One technique I’ve used to design supportive instruction in the areas of vocabulary and reading is practice, repetition, paraphrasing, and modeling.
2. Teacher modeling is another great scaffolding technique. Model thought processes (think-alouds) and skills every time you teach new vocabulary or critical thinking. This includes reading aloud to your student picture books and novels (including texts above grade level), so you can model correct pronunciation of new words and reading with prosody.
I like to use Flipgrid when using paraphrasing with teacher modeling. With Flipgrid I can record myself instructing students and giving directions, as well as provide written instructions. Another nice feature of Flipgrid is that I can attach files, upload video from digital platforms, link from Google Classroom, Wakelet and more! Finally, I can group students as needed by topic or readiness and invite co-teachers to my grids and topics.
3. Integrating digital content into lessons is another learning scaffold that I use regularly. I use Discovery Education Experience regularly, and one of the best things about its high-quality digital content is that you know students are accessing safe digital assets that are multi-modal (audio, pod-cast, text, video and more). This provides students multiple ways to experience the content.
Even more exciting than the vast number of assets, is the convenient way they are organized in Channels curated by topic, asset type and more. Frequently-used channels in my planning for students include: English Language Arts, Audiobooks, and SOS Instructional Strategies. To model paraphrasing with students, I love to use the SOS Instructional Strategies Six Word Story and Tweet Tweet. Once we use these together several times, students can be gradually released to use them for repetition and paraphrasing of new learning, vocabulary, and to summarize text.
4. Also, I like to use augmented images and video to further scaffold instruction. One tool you may find helpful to support this is ThingLink. This tool makes it possible for teachers to share content by augmenting images and videos with information and links. ThingLink makes it easy to create audio-visual learning materials that are accessible in an integrated reading tool. All text descriptions in an image or video hotspots can be read in over 60 languages. Finally, it is an easy-to-use platform for students to show their learning and understanding as a creative productivity tool.
With all the diverse learners in our classrooms, there is a strong need for new scaffolding strategies and with the latest edtech resources, it really is easier than ever to do. But most importantly, at the end of a scaffolded lesson, the educator has created a product that promotes educational equity, delivers a higher quality lesson, and built a learning experience much more rewarding for all involved.
Jessie Erickson is the District Assessment Coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools, and holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Specialist Diploma in Educational Leadership. She is the NE Director and President Elect for the North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders, is a Discovery Education DEN Ambassador, a member of the DEN Leadership Council. She is certified educator, trainer, or ambassador for several edtech platforms including Flipgrid and a Breakout EDU.
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Unfortunately, time management is far more difficult now versus pre-pandemic. The findings from Doodle’s “Time Management in Education” study support this, with over a third of the surveyed college students (37 percent) saying it has been harder to manage their time and stay productive now that lectures have moved online. This is a serious issue, as a majority of students (66 percent) say that time management is extremely important in regards to their ability to meet their academic goals.
On top of this, nearly half of students (42 percent) say that they’re working more now that classes have gone virtual. And they’re very concerned about the long-term impact on their academic success, with 71 percent of students saying that they’re either extremely worried, or somewhat worried, that the shift to online-only education will negatively impact their academic success.
On the surface, these stats might seem like they paint an abysmal outlook for the future of education in a COVID-19 world. But I think there’s a way to right the ship and technology will play a huge role in doing so. This is a great opportunity for academic institutions to change their processes and implement new technologies. It’s not about stripping away all existing processes and systems that have been in place for decades.
Rather, it’s about making small, impactful changes. It’s also about implementing the right technology solutions to facilitate the kinds of change that will allow academic institutions to deliver the best experience possible to students, faculty members and administrative staff, while helping them to be highly productive, focused and successful in achieving their goals.
For students who are already digital natives and accustomed to using upwards of 15 digital tools/apps daily, technology can be tremendously useful in cutting down on administrative tasks like coordinating office hours with their professors, 1:1 guidance sessions with faculty advisors and group study sessions with classmates. That’s time that can be refocused and reinvested into studying, writing papers and devising their graduation strategy.
Not only does technology make learning more flexible and convenient as 55 percent of the surveyed students reported in the Doodle study, but it also creates a more engaged and collaborative environment. For example, 16 percent of students say they value how technology makes it easier to collaborate with classmates and 13 percent see it as being useful in increasing access to their professors and faculty members.
Now consider introverted students who may have once shied away from speaking up in front of their classmates. They can be more active participants in their online classes in the safety of their homes and with the option to turn off their camera to reduce their anxiety and shyness of being ‘seen’ while participating. It takes some of the pressure off, allowing them to focus on learning and excelling in their classes.
Technology can also add efficiencies for busy educators by cutting down on context-switching. For example, using a scheduling tool that is integrated with video conferencing software like Zoom will eliminate the need to toggle back and forth between both solutions. It can also address the all-too-common problem of forgetting to create, copy and paste a Zoom link into each calendar invite. If it’s integrated into your scheduling tool, then the Zoom link is automatically populated and added into each calendar invite. That’s less tedious work for educators and more time spent on guiding students to academic success and achieving their own goals.
To help, I have outlined some useful tips for professors, faculty, administrative staff and students.
Tips for teachers/professors, faculty and administrative staff:
Use a communication platform, like Slack, to interact and pass essential messages on to students, fellow professors, faculty members and administrative staff. Answering questions in a way that all can see means you won’t be asked the deadline for that paper 40 times. Having an open, real-time communication link between students and professors means more questions are likely to be answered online, rather than during lengthy one-to-one meetings, while students get answers when they need them.
Schedule one-to-ones with individual students whom you teach or advise. Use this time to gauge how they’re feeling. Don’t talk about the class curriculum, their grades or academic performance. Focus on their emotional wellbeing.
Set up group meetings with your department heads and administrative staff to understand how everyone’s workload is being affected. Does anyone have concerns? Are everyone’s needs being met? Does everyone have the necessary resources and tools to be effective educators? Asking these questions is critical to empowering your faculty and staff to do their jobs well and support your students.
Record key sessions so students can revisit them when studying for exams, catch up on them if they missed a lecture and even use the recordings for future study groups.
Tips for students:
Slice and dice projects into smaller, manageable chunks.
Focus on one task at a time. Don’t switch back and forth between assignments. Only move to a new task once a single task has been completed.
Automate administrative tasks, like scheduling study sessions and office hours with professors, so time can be better spent on engaging in class, studying and getting feedback from professors.
Pay attention to your productivity flows and energy levels. When your productivity is highest, use that time to focus on a larger, high-priority assignment.
Use time blocking to make yourself unavailable for meetings, activities or anything else and dedicate that time to important tasks/projects. So if anyone tries to book time in your calendar, it will appear as unavailable.
Set up assignment/project deadlines in your calendar so your grades don’t suffer simply because you forgot a deadline.
Renato Profico is the CEO of the leading enterprise scheduling tool, Doodle. A qualified executive with 20 years of professional experience in digital companies, he most recently held the position of CEO for four years at a leading job platform network in Switzerland, JobCloud. In addition to his extensive leadership experience, Renato is an expert in B2B sales, marketing, business development, customer relationship management, as well as organizational structure and development.