The use of digital technology in education has been actively promoted for a number of years throughout the EU and generally teachers and educational management have responded positively to the introduction and use of digital technology in the classroom.
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The use of digital technology in education has been actively promoted for a number of years throughout the EU and generally teachers and educational management have responded positively to the introduction and use of digital technology in the classroom. Many vocational schools strive towards digital maturity as outlined in the eSchools programme and the partners in this project are all actively using digital technology in their vocational education and are all well advanced towards digital maturity. However we have now reached a point where we need to examine the effectiveness of this use, not only a self evaluation of our digital maturity but also of our response to the learning needs of students. Each teacher has to question why they have decided to use digital technology in a particular lesson? How does it add to the student learning? Do different students respond differently to the digital technology used and which students benefit most? Can some students be disadvantaged in their learning through the use or overuse of digital technology?
It would seem that in many cases digital technology has been used to substitute for existing teaching tools. Students often use tablets or laptop computers as a substitute for books. Teachers use digital projectors and digital presentations as a substitute for the traditional blackboard. The Internet is being used to replace the students trip to the library. While there is nothing wrong with this as such it demotes digital technology’s role in education to one of substitution for existing technology.
As educationalists we should be asking if we can we get more from digital technology? How can we employ digital technology in a more productive way to enhance vocational learning. In fact how can we harness the full potential of digital technology so that our students gain the maximum vocational educational benefit from its use?
In many instances the things we know about how students learn, their attention span, different types of learning and other educational theories have not been employed in deciding how, when and why we should use digital technology. The purpose of this Erasmus+ project was to address these questions at a practical level in the following way:
By conducting a critical examination of how digital technology is currently being used in vocational education.
By identifying digital resources currently available that may be used to enhance student learning. This will include the identification and evaluation of online educational resources as well as a more general evaluation of the Internet as a learning resource. Areas such as independent e-Learning, digital technology in classroom gamification and the use of Alternate reality software will also be considered.
We re-examined how students learn with the goal of developing a better strategy for the use of digital technology in the vocational classroom. This included an examination of the different types of learning : Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Solitary and how digital technology can be used to deliver each of these.
We also examined how we can better use digital technology to assist students with learning difficulties, disadvantaged students and minority groups. This included examining digital technology as a learning supports, as an accessible resource and study support, types of digital assistive technology, focusing on the stronger learning styles of the individual student.
From this we developed sample vocational lessons using digital technology to enhance student learning and demonstrate how a more professional application of digital technology can add significantly to the students learning. These lessons cover a wide range of vocational subjects. We will then tested and evaluated these sample lessons in a real vocational classroom situation so as to fine tune our examples of a better way to use digital technology in vocational education.
Primarily the project gave participating teachers the opportunity to examine in detail how they currently use digital technology in vocational education, question whether this use is educationally sound and work to develop a better strategy for digital technology use to enhance student learning. In so doing also to examine how students with difficulty can be helped by using digital technology to deliver course material targeted towards their stronger learning type.
The importance of recording and sharing the project experience was fully recognized. There is a project website and public Facebook group which recorded project activity and learning as each phase of the project progressed. The project ebook entitled “Effective use of Digital Technology for Vocational Learning” records the learning from the project, contains many of the project presentations and contains the sample lessons as well as a detailed rationale behind each lesson outlining why the approach taken enhances student learning, student evaluation of the lesson and suggestions as to how the lesson may be adapted to other subject areas or age groups. It should be stressed that all of the partners in this project currently use digital technology in their vocational classrooms; the critical question we wish to answer is how can teachers use that technology more effectively.
Teachers from each partner institute conducted a critical examination of how digital technology is currently being used for vocational education and training. What exactly do we use digital technology for, what type of resources have we developed for digital technology, what range of equipment do we have available. We then re-examined how students learn with the goal of developing a better strategy for the use of digital technology in vocational education. This included an examination of the different types of learning and how digital technology can be used to deliver to different student learning styles: Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical and Solitary. Topics such as student attention span and aids to memory were also explored. This is crucial as only by understanding fully how students learn can we hope to find more productive ways to use digital technology to enhance that learning. Once we understand how students learn we sought to identify digital resources currently available that may be used to enhance student learning. This phase include the identification and evaluation of online vocational educational resources, as well as a more general evaluation of the internet as a learning resource. Areas such as independent e-Learning, digital technology in classroom gamification and the use of Alternate reality software were considered. We recognised that the opinion of students on the use of digital technology during classes is important as they may find certain types of digital resources stimulating and others not so useful. We engaged with them to better understand what works well and what does not and adjust our own thinking accordingly. We also explored the topic of how we can better use digital technology to assist students with learning difficulties, disadvantaged students and minority groups. This included examining digital technology as a learning supports, as an accessible resource and study support, types of digital assistive technology, focusing on the stronger learning styles of the individual student. Having gathered all of this knowledge we worked to put this into practice so that we can show how digital technology should be used in class to enhance learning. To this end we produced sample lesson plans with a digital technology content so as to demonstrate better ways of using the technology. The work of the project was conducted through a series of Teacher Training Events as well as through ongoing communication and sharing of best practice between project partners. These events combined formal presentations, brainstorming and discussion sessions, practical demonstrations and site visits. The teacher training events were structured into the following thematic areas:
Learning Styles And Digital Technology
Digital Resources For Teachers And Students
Digital Technology to Assist Students With Learning Difficulty
Designing Lesson Plans that incorporate best practice use of digital technology.
Two of these training events were organised in conjunction with student blended learning events so as to gain greater insight into the student views and experiences of the use of digital technology within their studies. Presentations were recorded and presentation material gathered for inclusion in the project eBook and website.
Impacts of the Project
The main impact of this project will be a more educationally based use of digital technology in vocational education. Teachers will not only use digital technology but will ask themselves how it might best be employed to serve the needs of the vocational students in their institutes. Teachers will better understand the different learning styles that students employ and will adjust their digital technology use to take into account the different types of learning.
We expect that there will also be a significant impact on student’s vocational learning as they will benefit directly from the better educational use of digital technology in the classroom. Digital Technology use that it geared towards their individual needs and which can contribute to a greater diversity in the way that vocational education can be delivered and assessed.