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Skill development encouraged through tech-driven teaching

Jane Ashworth, UK MD of SMART Technologies talks technology-driven collaborative teaching, and the positive effect it has on skills development

Posted by Charley Rogers | August 04, 2017 | Teaching

The formula for improving social and emotional skills in students requires proven, collaborative learning teaching practices supported by frequent use of software and hardware.

Earlier this year SMART Technologies commissioned a global study, titled Teaching, Technology and Learning: Understanding the Interconnection, that concluded that superb teaching involving collaborative learning, combined with complementary classroom technology, leads to more positive results among students. 

We conducted our study to discover how technology and collaborative teaching are best used together. The results highlight great teachers as the unsung heroes behind improved student success, while demonstrating the benefits of using technology in collaborative learning environments. The study's findings showed that when teaching that includes collaborative learning is complemented by software and hardware (in that order) the greatest improvement in social and emotional skill development is achieved.

Results also showed that outstanding success is 3.4 times more likely to occur when collaborative learning practices and technology are used frequently together in the classroom. 

Our research uncovers the interconnections between enhanced student social-emotional skill development, technology, and teaching practices; shedding light on the best ways to utilize classroom technology to improve social and emotional skill development in the classroom.

The study was conducted in collaboration and consultation with numerous IT and education thought leaders and researchers, and assessed the best practices and impacts of technology on active learning programs. The results represent the views of more than 400 educators, technology specialists, administrators and IT professionals.

Tackling concerns

Some suspect that without best teaching practices, technology is not as effective in improving social and emotional skill development. Indeed, prior studies contend that technology in classrooms is not beneficial and sometimes counterproductive to enhancing student skill development.

Our study was built to address those concerns, and those raised by OECD and Hattie research, that found that tech outcomes are elusive despite increased spending. 

We found that the formula for improving social and emotional skills requires proven, collaborative learning teaching practices, supported by frequent use of software and hardware.

While I truly believe that success in the classroom begins with great teachers, this study shows educators may not be utilising their full potential, until varied technologies are integrated into the classroom.

Impact on student outcomes 

The impact of collaborative teaching combined with technology is overwhelmingly positive: 76 percent of survey respondents reported that their efforts in technology and collaborative learning pedagogy strongly or very strongly improved their student's social and emotional skill development.

The implementation and adoption of truly active learning approaches is top of mind with educators, and yet, there is no clear path as to how technology can make the implementation easy and adoption more rapid, and what specific actions lead to incredible educational achievements. 

Social and emotional skill development was chosen as a metric for the study, because fostering collaboration and communications skills in students is a consistent theme from business and government leaders.

This is supported by the majority all of the 400 respondents in the Teaching, Technology and Learning study, who indicated that collaborative learning is an important approach at their schools (only 4% thought it unimportant).

  • The study's findings showed that when teaching that includes collaborative learning is complemented by software and hardware (in that order) the greatest improvement in social and emotional skill development is achieved.
  • Results also showed that outstanding success is 3.4 times more likely to occur when collaborative learning practices and technology are used frequently together in the classroom.
  • Other key findings include the respondents' observations that frequent (daily or near-daily) group activity in the classroom is significantly and positively related to social-emotional skill development and supportive metrics.

Compared to classrooms with moderate to low use (weekly or less frequent), classrooms with frequent (daily) group activities drive:

  • 20 percent higher levels of social and emotional skill development
  • 13 percent higher levels of safety to contribute (in the classroom, students feel safe to contribute their ideas, answers and thoughts without hesitation)
  • 16 percent higher levels of peer discussion (students discuss their findings with each other)
  • 23 percent higher levels of active engagement/rich discussions (everyone is part of the lesson, everyone participates)
  • 27 percent higher levels of interdependence (group work involves all participants, not just some)

The research confirms that active learning success is enhanced when classroom technology is paired with pedagogical best practices, additionally:

  • Certain types of technologies support student and teacher outcomes significantly better than other types of technologies.
  • The use and frequency of teaching and learning best practices makes a difference in technology rich classrooms.
  • The research showed software is more closely related to success as compared to hardware and devices. More specifically, when software, such as whole class collaborative software was used daily or for most lessons for student co-creation, respondents achieved positive success.
  • Concerns of technology being a distraction are most prevalent with less experienced educators and increases as students age.

It’s clear that the right technology, used in the right way, has the power to transform teaching and learning. That’s why SMART, alongside our partners at TES, have just launched an online space that gives educators and education leaders tools and ideas for inspiring greatness and improving learning outcomes. The hub aims to share the tools, stories, and best practices for unlocking the potential in every student, teacher and school. 

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