The Covid-19 outbreak has thrusted the world of work & business into a period of deep uncertainty, with lockdown restrictions continuing to close office doors across the UK, Ireland and wider European continent. However, for ProfileTree’s award-winning Business Leader series, it’s ‘business as usual’. In the first of our remote interviews, we sit down with Edmin Software’s Michael Humphreys to talk about technology in education and student support services. Check it out!
Like many entrepreneurs, Michael Humphreys followed a radically different path before deciding to embark on a life of business. Currently Director of Edmin Software, Michael’s previous career was in social work, before establishing a training company for students with specific educational needs. “We did a lot of work with Open University students who were studying alongside working – and that’s been running for over 18 years now,” explains Michael.
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A Natural Progression
While moving from social work to education seemed like a big jump, he explains that this was a fairly natural move, given that he was working with challenged students. Focussing on assisted technology for these students represented the next step for Michael, and Edmin Software was soon established.
Michael explains some of the background behind Edmin Software, where he researched the education market and discovered that there were lots of processes, with many of those being manual and paper-based. “We wanted to digitally transform that for the new millennium, offering more effective solutions that could capture data and give real-time reporting,” explains Michael.
According to the Edmin Software Director, calls to further digitise education have grown exponentially over the past five years. “We found that a lot of educational institutions were unwilling to go down the SaaS (Software as a Service) root. The introduction of GDPR did add a further layer of complexity in this regard,” he explains. However, things have changed significantly in the education sector, and digital offerings are now seen as essential, rather than a desirable extra.
At present, universities form Edmin Software’s largest client base. “A lot of our business to business sales would also be Universities. But we also have our own assessment company, and our own software to run that,” he adds. “We’re finding more and more that we’re able to sell on a sideways platform to other assessment centres as well.”
Raising Awareness: A Key Objective
According to Michael, part of the challenge behind building his business has been raising awareness amongst students and their pupils. Indeed, whilst Michael and his colleagues were aware of all options in the market, few of the stakeholders he interacted with had this knowledge to act upon themselves. “We wanted to combine these groups together into a community platform. But how does Michael describe this platform, and how does it work?
The software expert describes his company’s portal as having some similarities to the world’s most popular social media platform, Facebook. “Students and parents can log on to discuss issues with like-minded others. They can also reach out to the people who produce educational software and hardware, approaching them around introducing their products to schools or universities. This is often government funded, but we have found that in early years, those same layers of support just aren’t there,” he explains.
The features of Edmin Software’s online portal don’t end there. Michael outlines that the portal also enables his company to reach out to SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinators). According to the Director, this has been hugely beneficial, with best practice issues regularly discussed by such professionals inside the digital portal. All of the features within the portal have been reviewed and approved by Student Finance – meaning parents and students can use the product in full confidence that it is legitimate, secure and properly functioning.
Michael highlights that over recent years, public confidence is beginning to grow around the adoption of assisted educational technology. Parents of challenged pupils will always be looking towards tools that can improve educational attainment, and Edmin Software’s online portal offers a huge knowledge and networking base to facilitate this. “Right now, our main objective is to get as many parents and pupils signed up as possible,” he adds.
Tackling the Stigma Behind Disability
Beyond introducing pupils and parents to the platform, Edmin Software is equally invested in getting teachers and SENCOs involved, connecting them with resources which they may not have otherwise had time to research and find themselves. Michael also shares that a significant challenge behind the industry is in tackling the stigma behind educational disability.
“We’ve done lots of exhibitions, tours and open days, and we still find that some students are a little reluctant to approach our stall. By putting everything online, we break down all those barriers – students can even sign on with a pseudonym if they want.”
Is awareness of education disability improving in this part of the world? Michael suggests that awareness has transformed over recent years. Indeed, whilst he suggests that students are commonly viewed as commodities, this means that school-leavers are increasingly prioritising educational institutions that can support them throughout their university years.
Where next for Edmin Software? “We’re currently targeting the UK market. After that, we plan on targeting the United States and Canada. Someone with dyslexia in Birmingham is no different to someone with dyslexia in the States. We think that this element of peer support will be a really critical element of our success as we grow.”
Our interview with Michael Humphreys joins our celebrated Business Leader series, recently awarded with the Best Content Marketing Award for a Video Series at the inaugural Irish Content Marketing Awards. To take part in the series or to discover how content marketing can transform your online business, get in touch with our expert team today.
Unpacking the Benefits of Technology in Education
Technology in education isn’t merely a shiny gadget; it’s a treasure chest overflowing with benefits that can revolutionize learning for students of all ages. Let’s delve deeper into some of the most valuable jewels it offers:
1. Personalized Learning Pathways:
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all education. Technology empowers educators to personalize learning, catering to individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Imagine:
- Adaptive Learning Platforms: Algorithms tailor content and challenges to each student’s progress, ensuring they’re neither bored nor lost, always walking the optimal learning path.
- Interactive Learning Modules: Students learn at their own pace, revisiting challenging concepts or skipping ahead when mastery is achieved, fostering a sense of ownership and control over their learning journey.
- Diverse Learning Resources: Technology opens doors to a vast library of multimedia content, from interactive simulations and gamified experiences to personalized feedback systems, catering to different learning preferences and maximizing comprehension.
2. Building Future-Ready Skillsets:
The future job market demands digital fluency. Technology in education isn’t just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about equipping students with the skillset to thrive in a tech-driven world:
- Coding and Computational Thinking: Learning to code isn’t just about programming robots; it’s about developing logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and analytical abilities, valuable across all disciplines and future careers.
- Collaboration and Communication Tools: From cloud-based document sharing to video conferencing platforms, technology fosters collaboration and communication skills, preparing students to work effectively in global, digital teams.
- Digital Content Creation and Consumption: Students become adept at navigating the digital world, creating presentations, analyzing online information, and using technology as a powerful tool for research, expression, and critical thinking.
3. A Universe of Knowledge at Your Fingertips:
No longer confined by textbook walls, technology unlocks a universe of free, high-quality resources, democratizing access to knowledge for all:
- Open Educational Resources (OERs): A treasure trove of online lessons, textbooks, simulations, and educational materials is readily available, breaking down financial barriers and providing educational opportunities to students regardless of location or socioeconomic background.
- Global Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Students can connect with peers and educators worldwide, sharing ideas, participating in virtual projects, and learning from diverse perspectives, enriching their cultural awareness and understanding.
- Interactive Museums and Virtual Field Trips: Technology can transport students to the depths of the ocean, the peak of Mount Everest, or the halls of renowned museums, bringing history, science, and the world to life in immersive and engaging ways.
4. Igniting Engagement and Empowering Outcomes:
Technology isn’t just about passive learning; it’s about sparking curiosity, motivation, and active participation:
- Gamified Learning Experiences: Points, badges, and leaderboards transform learning into a thrilling adventure, igniting intrinsic motivation and keeping students engaged and eager to learn.
- Interactive Simulations and Virtual Reality: Stepping into simulations of historical events, exploring the human body in 3D, or conducting virtual experiments fosters deeper understanding, retention, and a sense of awe for the world around them.
- Real-Time Feedback and Assessment: Technology provides immediate feedback on progress, allowing students to adjust their learning strategies and celebrate their achievements, boosting confidence and fostering a growth mindset.
Remember, technology is not a substitute for teachers – it’s a powerful tool that empowers educators to become facilitators, guides, and mentors on a shared journey of exploration and discovery. By embracing the benefits of technology in education, we unlock a treasure trove of possibilities, paving the way for a future where every student can discover their unique potential and thrive in a world brimming with information and opportunity.
Challenges and Considerations in Embracing Technology in Education
While the benefits of technology in education are undeniable, it’s not a journey without its hurdles. Like any powerful tool, its effectiveness depends on careful navigation through potential challenges and pitfalls. Let’s explore some key considerations:
1. The Digital Divide: Bridging the Access Gap:
Not everyone enjoys equal access to the technological resources necessary for optimal learning. This digital divide poses several challenges:
- Unequal Infrastructure: Inadequate internet access, outdated devices, and lack of technical support in certain communities can exclude students from the full potential of technology-driven learning.
- Socioeconomic Barriers: The expense of devices, software, and internet access can create unequal opportunities for learning, perpetuating existing social and economic inequalities.
- Accessibility Considerations: Disabilities must be factored into technology choices, ensuring inclusive access to features like screen readers, text-to-speech tools, and alternative input methods.
2. Equipping the Navigators: Teacher Training and Support:
Technology is only as effective as the hands that wield it. Teachers need ongoing training and support to integrate technology seamlessly into their pedagogy:
- Developing Tech-Savvy Educators: Upskilling teachers in using learning platforms, managing digital classrooms, and effectively evaluating technology-based learning outcomes is crucial.
- Pedagogical Shifts and Integration: Moving beyond simply inserting technology into existing lessons, teachers need to develop strategies that effectively leverage its strengths for personalized learning, collaboration, and deeper understanding.
- Psychological Shift and Change Management: Embracing technology can be daunting for some teachers. Addressing concerns and providing ongoing support through communities of practice and mentorship can ease the transition.
3. The Double-Edged Sword: Over-reliance on Devices:
Technology is a powerful tool, but it’s not a replacement for human interaction and real-world experiences. Striking a balance is crucial:
- Digital Detox and Offline Activities: Ensure children have opportunities for play, physical activity, and social interaction outside the digital realm, fostering holistic development and emotional well-being.
- Critical Thinking and Digital Literacy: Teach students to navigate the online world responsibly, evaluate information critically, and avoid over-dependence on technology for problem-solving or social connection.
- Focus on Human Interactions: Technology should amplify, not replace, the vital role of educators in building relationships, providing personalized support, and fostering social and emotional learning.
Remember, navigating the challenges of technology in education requires a comprehensive approach. Addressing the digital divide, equipping teachers, and promoting responsible tech use are not obstacles, but opportunities to foster a just and equitable learning landscape for all. By actively working towards solutions, we can ensure that technology serves as a bridge, not a barrier, on the path towards a richer, more engaging, and future-proof education for every child.
Advanced Technology Strategies for Modern Education
While we’ve explored the broader benefits and challenges of technology in education, let’s delve deeper into specific strategies that ignite transformative learning experiences:
1. Collaboration and Creativity Powerhouses: Embracing Apps for Learning:
- Collaborative Tools: Cloud-based platforms like Google Docs or Miro unlock real-time co-creation, fostering teamwork, communication, and shared ownership of projects. Students can brainstorm ideas, build presentations, and solve problems together, regardless of location.
- Interactive Whiteboards and Learning Management Systems (LMS): These tools turn classrooms into dynamic hubs for interactive learning. Teachers can share content, conduct polls, annotate work in real-time, and track student progress, while students can participate actively and access learning materials anytime, anywhere.
- Creative Expression and Storytelling: Apps like Flipgrid or TikTok encourage students to express themselves through video presentations, storytelling, and digital content creation. These tools nurture critical thinking, communication skills, and digital literacy in a fun and engaging way.
2. Data-Driven Decisions: Harnessing the Power of Analytics:
- Personalized Learning Insights: Analyze student data from quizzes, assignments, and online platforms to identify strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. This allows teachers to personalize instruction, providing targeted support and scaffolding for individual needs.
- Performance Assessments Reimagined: Go beyond traditional tests. Tools like adaptive assessments and learning analytics platforms offer continuous feedback and track progress over time, providing a more holistic picture of student understanding and enabling adjustments in instruction.
- Predictive Models and Early Intervention: Analyze data to predict potential roadblocks or learning gaps before they arise. This empowers teachers to proactively provide support and prevent students from falling behind, ensuring inclusivity and success for all.
3. The Best of Both Worlds: Blended Learning Models:
- Flipped Classrooms: Students learn core concepts through online lectures or reading materials at their own pace outside of class. Classroom time is then dedicated to interactive activities, collaborative projects, and deeper discussions, maximizing the value of face-to-face interaction.
- Online Learning Modules and Personalized Pathways: Supplement classroom learning with online modules that cater to individual interests and learning styles. This allows students to explore deeper into specific topics, master key skills, and take ownership of their learning journey.
- Virtual Labs and Field Trips: Expand the classroom walls with virtual reality experiences or online simulations. Students can explore distant landscapes, conduct virtual experiments, and immerse themselves in historical events, creating richer learning experiences beyond physical limitations.
4. Computational Thinking for All: Weaving Logic into Every Subject:
- Coding Activities and Gamification: Introduce core coding concepts like logic, problem-solving, and algorithms through engaging games, puzzles, and age-appropriate coding platforms. This fosters computational thinking skills that can be applied across various subjects and future careers.
- Interdisciplinary Connections: Integrate computational thinking into diverse subjects like history, science, and even literature. Encourage students to analyze data, build models, and represent information visually, developing transferable skills valuable in any field.
- Robot Competitions and Maker Spaces: Hands-on projects like building robots or participating in robotics competitions provide tangible applications of computational thinking, igniting creativity, innovation, and critical problem-solving skills.
Remember, embracing these strategies isn’t about simply adding technology to existing practices. It’s about reimagining education, designing engaging learning experiences, and empowering students to become active participants in their own learning journey. By harnessing the power of technology thoughtfully, we can create a future where education is personalized, engaging, and prepares students for the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly evolving world.
Transforming Education Through Innovation
While the strategies previously discussed leverage existing technologies effectively, the future of education beckons with captivating possibilities. Let’s explore some emerging technologies poised to revolutionize the learning landscape:
1. Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Learning Tech:
- Personalized Learning Engines: Imagine AI algorithms tailoring content, difficulty levels, and feedback to individual students’ needs in real-time. Learning paths become dynamic, maximizing engagement and ensuring optimal comprehension for each learner.
- Automated Tutors and Virtual Mentors: AI-powered tutoring systems can provide students with immediate support, answer questions, and offer personalized guidance, filling gaps in traditional teacher-student ratios and ensuring no one falls behind.
- Predictive Analytics and Early Intervention: Advanced algorithms can analyze data to predict potential learning struggles before they happen. This allows teachers to proactively intervene, providing targeted support and preventing gaps from widening.
2. Augmented and Virtual Reality for Immersive Experiences:
- Interactive History Lessons: Step into the halls of Versailles or witness the eruption of Mount Vesuvius – VR makes history come alive, transporting students to different times and places for firsthand experiences that leave a lasting impact.
- Virtual Labs and Simulations: Conduct intricate dissections without harming animals, explore distant galaxies, or dive into the human body in 3D – VR labs offer limitless possibilities for safe, immersive learning beyond physical limitations.
- Soft Skill Development and Emotional Learning: VR scenarios can help students practice public speaking, navigate social interactions, or develop empathy and emotional intelligence in a safe and controlled environment.
3. Blockchain and Transcripts/Credentials Management:
- Secure Recordkeeping and Verification: Blockchain technology can securely store and verify academic transcripts, certificates, and diplomas, reducing fraud and simplifying credential sharing between institutions and employers.
- Micro-credentials and Personalized Learning Pathways: Blockchain enables the issuance of micro-credentials for smaller accomplishments, allowing students to build personalized learning portfolios and showcase their unique skillsets to potential employers.
- Decentralized Learning Platforms: The future of education could see decentralized platforms built on blockchain, offering students autonomous learning experiences and direct access to a global network of educators and knowledge resources.
Evaluating the Potential and Challenges:
While these emerging technologies hold immense promise, their integration requires careful consideration:
- Equity and Access: Ensuring equitable access to technology and addressing infrastructure disparities is crucial to prevent technology gaps from exacerbating existing inequalities.
- Data Privacy and Security: Safeguarding student data and navigating ethical considerations surrounding AI and blockchain usage is paramount.
- Teacher Training and Support: Equipping educators with the skills and confidence to effectively integrate these technologies into their teaching practices is critical for successful implementation.
By embracing the potential of these innovations while addressing potential challenges, we can navigate the exciting frontier of educational technology. With these emerging tools at our disposal, we can create a future where learning is immersive, personalized, and accessible to all, paving the way for a generation of empowered and future-ready individuals.
Remember, the journey of integrating these technologies is about fostering collaboration, exploration, and a commitment to ethical and equitable practices. As we venture into this uncharted territory, let’s do so with open minds, a spirit of innovation, and a shared vision for a brighter future of education.
Frequently Asked Questions about Technology in Education:
Q: Is technology replacing teachers?
A: Absolutely not! Technology is a powerful tool, but it can’t replace the irreplaceable role of teachers in the classroom. Teachers guide, mentor, and inspire students, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and social-emotional skills that technology alone cannot. Technology should be seen as a tool to empower teachers, not replace them.
Q: How can I ensure equitable access to technology for all students?
A: Bridging the digital divide is crucial. Schools can address this by providing devices, affordable internet access, and digital literacy training for those who need it. Additionally, incorporating alternative learning materials and ensuring accessibility features are available can help create a more inclusive learning environment for all.
Q: What are the biggest challenges of integrating technology in education?
A: Some challenges include teacher training, ensuring equitable access, responsible data use, and potential over-reliance on technology. Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, ongoing professional development, and a commitment to ethical and responsible practices.
Q: What are some practical tips for schools starting their technology integration journey?
A: Start small, choose tools that align with your existing pedagogy, prioritize teacher training, focus on equity and access, and be open to experimentation and iteration. Learning from successful examples and gathering feedback from students, teachers, and parents can also provide valuable insights.
Q: How can we measure the impact of technology in education?
A: Go beyond just academic scores! Assess both hard and soft skills, gather diverse perspectives (students, teachers, parents), and track correlations between engagement and achievement. Utilize data analytics from learning platforms to understand individual learning patterns and personalize learning journeys.
Conclusion: Embracing the Power of Technology for a Brighter Future of Education
Technology in education is not just a trend; it’s a revolution waiting to happen. By harnessing its potential thoughtfully, we can create a future where learning is personalized, engaging, and accessible to all.
This article has provided you with a roadmap – exploring the benefits, challenges, and strategies for using technology effectively in education. Remember, the journey is about embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and prioritizing ethical and responsible practices. It’s about empowering teachers, igniting the curiosity of students, and ultimately, building a future where technology serves as a bridge to a world of endless possibilities for every learner.