The role of technology

Technology has always been an integral element of the Education sector, but today it is even more important. In 165 countries, affecting 87% of the world’s student population, schools have been closed, and, according to UNESCO, over 1.5 billion students, are no longer able to go to their usual school, and this situation might well continue into the autumn. On the one hand technology has enabled more engaging learning with young people, and on the other has also empowered them to be both more creative and connected. The passive learning model, that was traditionally used in Education (and still prevalent in some countries) is now fractured. The usage of laptops, tablets or Chromebooks are making lessons more interactive, which is therefore encouraging increased pupil participation and motivation. It is also improving the retention rate of learners, as it caters better to different types of learning skills. Recent studies have shown that a child´s brain is not stimulated much by a blackboard and chalk, while with the latest technology, the response of the brain is much more active. In comparison to a teacher simply reading from a textbook, pupils are more likely to retain information shared and reviewed in this format, which in turn accelerates learning.

In Brain Rules, (2014) John Medina stated how “Those in multisensory environments always do better than those with unisensory environments. They have more recall and better resolution that lasts longer, evident even 20 years later”. Having access to technology also gives children the opportunity to enhance interaction with classmates and teachers, as it encourages collaboration. Using these digital learning tools, broadens access by children to different courses, experiences, learning materials, and can support learning outside of the classroom. As such, this becomes a major contributor to achieving “Education on the Go”. A recent paper from the International Journal of Cognitive Research in Science, Engineering and Education stated “Today, more than ever, the role of educational technology in teaching is of great importance because of the use of information and communication technologies”.

The role of the teacher or mentor?

Roles have also changed as a result of technology being available in the classroom, with the teacher becoming the encourager, the adviser, and the coach or mentor. Technology has the power to transform teaching by ushering in a new model of connected teaching. However, according to a recent McKinsey report, “While technology can support student learning outside of school, its record in school is mixed, with the best results from technology in the hands of teachers”, so it is not just a case of the students having the hardware, teachers need to be the ones managing a class. Moreover, technology also has a role in helping children become more responsible: owning a device, or even borrowing the school’s devices, gives children the opportunity to improve their decision-making skills as well as taking ownership of a valuable and often expensive piece of technology. Learning to use and manage technology and applications can also help prepare students for their future, building relevant skills which will help them in their careers. It is one thing to own and use a mobile device, however, it is another to know how to use this correctly and responsibly.

Teachers have a fundamental role in this important aspect of a child´s education and we are reinforcing this by also giving a role to the parents. We have also incorporated this concept of involvement into our software that sits on the hardware, giving a clear role for the parent to play in this process. Today parents have been forced into a more proactive role in the ongoing pandemic crisis. Teachers are still the most important mentors, but the physical distancing between them and the children is creating an opportunity for parents to become more involved in the education of their children, as hard as this might be for many of them. This can be achieved directly or indirectly, using the Escudo Web Software functionality for “Digital Parental Interaction” that we have built into all of our solutions.

Easy to integrate

Technology needs to be introduced into a framework for learning. Access to Internet, while a great opportunity to learn, is also a major distraction for children and frequently acts as a magnet to search for inappropriate content, even when we are in this period of confinement. Therefore, a layer of security needs to be added to the technology: that of a secure internet filter that can be set up according to the child´s age and class level, with wider access to materials for older children. This filter needs to set up as part of the integration into the back office of the major platforms, namely Intune and Azure Active Directory, for Microsoft environments, and G-Suite for Chromebooks. This can then enable the ICT administrator to be able to upload suitable profiles and automatically block content across thousands of devices in a matter of minutes and is easy to install by the ICT Administrator, and is an integral part of our offering. Once in place, this will continue to function in exactly the same way under remote quarantine from school.

Managing a class

Our “All in One” solution (midess, Lugus and onTAB) incorporates many other elements beyond what competitor products offer: a very secure Internet Filter; Geolocation of the device; Digital Wellbeing (enabling the school ICT administrator to establish break times); and Analysis and Monitoring, which is also important to oversee and feedback, where relevant, to school management. Beyond this, when a school device is permitted to be taken home – or as now, when the device is permanently at home – our system allows a parent to manage the child´s access to Internet sites from their own phone with a free app for iOS and Android, as well as set the appropriate level of filter. When required, the parent, with the remote app, can also freeze the device completely to bring the child back to the reality of life at home and activities such as meal times, bed time etc. It is also an effective way to educate a child about the usage of technology and can be a key feature in preventing addiction. Today, more than ever, with stay at home policies in every country, addiction is potentially one of the greatest challenges for parents as there are limited activities to entertain children with.

The global pandemic and lockdown across the world, have disrupted traditional education in schools and governments everywhere are looking for ways to try and equip children with a device to help ensure that learning does not stop. This situation might even drag on in other forms in the Autumn, so children should be prepared for further remote schooling. Given that education is so integral to the future of our children and our economy, money is being invested in digital devices with most schools now moving to Microsoft Teams in order to continue to effectively deliver classes. What schools, or parents nor the Education authorities want to is to allow children to be distracted by inappropriate content on the Internet or content unsuitable for their age. This is where our midess (for Windows) Lugus (for Chromebook) and onTAB (for Android) “All in One” systems can still offer a great level of security and supervision that a school needs in order to achieve this objective. Using our software, the teacher is always supervising the task at hand on the child´s device even when they are displaced and working at home.

From their device a teacher can:

• View a thumbnail (small real time representation) of each of the children´s desktop
• Ensure that the child is connected to a specific class and on-task
• Open a web page link to go to bypassing the established filter momentarily
• Review what web searches are being attempted in real-time in a class
• Pause all screens of connected devices instantly with one button

After the school day ends the management and supervision of the device and internet filter and access is passed to the parents (using the free app downloaded from the Google Play Store and App Store). They can then set or maintain the same level of filter for internet access and, as mentioned before, when required, and in order to stop addiction, can freeze the screen of the device.

These features are as relevant now, if not more so, during this period of schooling from home, as when children are being taught in school classrooms. This format of school device supervision is currently operating in hundreds of schools across Spain who rely on this system to continue to educate children digitally yet remotely, in a safe and secure environment, keeping them focused, and most importantly, continuing to learn in this new environment. With over 500,000 children around the Spanish-speaking world using one of Escudo Web Software solutions, they are very tried and tested. A Brief from UNESCO in 2019 stated that “School policies need to provide schools with the minimum acceptable infrastructure for ICT, including stable and affordable internet connectivity and security measures such as filters and site blockers”. Singularly, the software element of teaching is the most important for focused and productive learning, but this needs to be combined with a state-of-the-art content filter.