Students may be returning to the classroom in the fall, but technology has certainly changed not just our ability to deliver instruction but also the innovation surrounding effective education. Virtual classrooms will not go away. The possibilities are limitless! Here are some great examples of how technology is creating optimal learning experiences:
UCI Professor Goes Virtual
Grown tired of Zoom, Christina Lopes, a professor at University of California, Irvine (UCI), developed a virtual space for her students to obtain hands-on experience in her course, How Computers Work. According to a Newswise article, she helped to create a new program called OpenSimulator. Instead of sitting in a classroom learning from a textbook, students are able to see the code come to life.
Virtual Innovation Is Disrupting Every Industry
From virtual meetings, where the CEO of a company appears as a hologram in various locations around the world, to tradeshows where buyers are able to examine virtual versions of the equipment they are interested in buying, virtual and augmented reality are changing how we perceive the world and how we interact with one another. Virtual environments are enhancing virtually every industry, and education is no exception. Virtual classrooms can help educators meet the needs of more students. What started as a way to reach students when schools closed during the pandemic has revolutionized education in a way that can hopefully continue even as students return to the classroom.
Virtual Classrooms Help Bring Education into the Future
We know that a radical revolution in education is necessary in order to prepare students for the future of work. Teaching to the test and basing student advancement on their ability to regurgitate facts is no longer enough to prepare students for the workforce of the future. Virtual classrooms allow students to accelerate their tech skills, improve their soft skills, and learn how to leverage technology for their benefit.
Virtual Learning and Classrooms Can Co-Exist
No matter how students receive instruction, educators are paramount to the overall success and progress a student makes. Virtual classrooms may never fully replace in-person instruction. But virtual classrooms can be used to enhance the in-classroom experience, by allowing students to pursue individualized and customized areas of learning, thereby giving every student the opportunity to have a richer education. Virtual classrooms can also allow two teachers from different districts, states, or even countries to collaborate to deliver a richer, more diverse curriculum.
Virtual education is not the enemy of the classroom – it is an enhancement to it. And for students who have difficulty being in school every day, either due to illness, disability, or the circumstances of their home life, it can bring additional equity to your district.
“Technology is neither the problem nor the solution, it’s just a tool. In the end, these are all human problems that need human-focused solutions.“
– Dr. Vivienne Ming
In March 2018, Vivienne Ming gave a speech at the SingularityU Czech Summit about the future of education and how to robot-proof kids. Fast-forward three years and her words are just as prophetic, if not more so, given the huge shift to virtual and hybrid learning we’ve experienced due to the pandemic.
One of the reasons Lumen™ Touch talks so often about inequity in education is that it really does have an impact on the success of the student. When we can resolve inequities, such as access to the internet, access to a computer, and easy access to libraries, the gap is reduced. Ming explains that there is no bigger impact on children’s minds than their experiences within the home, so the other thing we must tackle to give our students a better future is to address economic barriers at home: access to jobs, transportation, mental health, and medical care. This allows parents to provide the kind of role modeling that students need to start with a stronger foundation.
The Connection Between Education, Workforce, Health, and Inclusion
Ming’s research discovered that people who came from a higher socioeconomic status were 10 times more likely to have patents attributed to them as kids who performed similarly but came from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. When we consider what that means in terms of, as Ming describes it, the massive economic, cultural, and innovative potential that is being squandered, we can clearly see the need to address inequities in education, to take advantage of that potential.
How do we do that?
We level the playing field by providing access to edtech, AI, and other technologies, so that each student has the opportunity to develop, achieve, and contribute.
“In the future 10-15 years from now, there’s only going to be one job description: adaptive, creative problem solver.”
– Dr. Vivienne Ming
Window of Opportunity: Radically Changing Education Can Happen Now
Between the ages of five and eight, a child’s brain is most impacted by things like childhood household stress and childhood isolation. The trauma of those stresses decreases a child’s ability to develop working memory. Using literacy and numeracy, working memory can also be improved. Ming also discovered, through the course of her work, that grades don’t predict success. She goes further, however, insisting that education should be about helping each individual have a happy, healthy, productive life – not just philosophically but in an objective and measurable way.
How Can Radically Changing Education Help All Students?
According to Ming, we must recognize the trap of assuming that who a student is during one parent-teacher conference is not who that student will always be. So, if we learn to give students what they need in the moment, we can maximize their long-term outcomes. And this approach works whether a student is in elementary school or high school or college. It’s about putting emotional intelligence into education.
“If we keep building them for a world that’s not existing 10 years from now, then we will end up with a society in which a tiny sliver of people will be ready to compete.”
The school year is winding up, and while there will be celebrations and goodbyes and acknowledgements of completing another academic year, most school administrators and IT directors have already turned their attentions to next year. Budgets are being planned, and for the most part, we are all expecting to have most instruction occur in-person.
COVID-19 Has Forever Changed Education
We are seeing signs of permanent changes in education as a result of the experiences we’ve all had during the pandemic. Technology is not going away. In fact, the success of edtech has been so profound that some school districts are recognizing the value that remote learning provides in other circumstances. For example, the New York City public school system has cancelled snow days for the 2021-2022 school year, citing the benefit of remote learning.
Learning Analytics Will Be More Effectively Leveraged
Being able to deliver instruction, manage testing, and analyze data has been strengthened in the past year, and reliance on that data will be used to improve the delivery of education to all students. Because educators will continue to use edtech solutions and learning platforms to deliver some in-class instruction, they’ll be able to swiftly adjust to the needs of the students in their classrooms, using the more immediate feedback from the data.
Health Monitoring and Vaccine Tracking Will Remain Essential
Already, governors are announcing that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a requirement to return to school, placing pressure on schools to be able to track and monitor student health more carefully. In addition, because there will continue to be outbreaks of COVID-19, particularly in those areas that have not yet achieved herd immunity, the ability to conduct health checks and contact tracing will remain essential.
Student Data Security Will Take a Front Seat
Speaking of student data, student data security will be priority number one for school administrators and school IT leaders. From the incorporation of blockchain technology to the use of a private, secure platform through which edtech solutions are obtained, such as Bright PASSPORT, there will be a much more formal effort to ensure that whatever edtech is used by schools is properly vetted, securely obtained, and approved for use.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Lumen™ Touch can help you meet the rapidly changing needs of your district, get in touch.
Cybersecurity is a conversation we normally hear about in the business world, but cybersecurity is just as important for schools, as student data is a goldmine of information for cyber criminals. Schools are required, under a variety of governance regulations, to protect the information they collect about students.
Even if there were not federal regulations to guide schools, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), protecting student data is a matter of safety. Schools that have multiple edtech solutions often must provide each vendor with roster information and more. Unfortunately, the schools often have no control over the level of security each individual edtech vendor applies to the information they collect. This places a huge burden on district IT teams.
Managing Access to Student Data, Simplified
When everyone is finally back in the classroom, technology and edtech solutions will still be employed to aid with learning. Because of the enormous risk involved in sharing roster and other personal student data with multiple edtech vendors, schools must consider a different way forward that allows them to not only remain in compliance but to ensure that the vendors with whom they share the data are also using strenuous measures to protect that information. To make that easier for everyone, Lumen Touch is introducing Bright PASSPORT – a centralized, secure method of sharing student data.
What Is Bright PASSPORT?
Bright PASSPORT governs how schools share personally identifiable information (PII), such as student roster data. Rather than allow teachers or school districts to implement apps for their classrooms, Bright PASSPORT provides for districts a library of approved apps that have been properly vetted to meet the required security standards required.
Bright PASSPORT communicates with third party applications, providing secure and federated access credentials for all end-users within their Lumen Touch portal.
Student Data Security with Bright PASSPORT
Schools mitigate risk through the use of Bright PASSPORT, because information sharing becomes centralized and secure. Approved applications are provisioned to each individual user, allowing parents, students, teachers, administrators and staff access to their applications without ever leaving their Lumen Touch Portal. Vetted apps can be accessed directly through the Lumen Touch AppStore.
To learn more about how to adopt this solution for your school and secure your student data, get in touch.
Remote learning has taught us that we need to provide more access to education – and technology is the solution that levels the playing field among districts. While most districts have certain elements in their classrooms that make them smart, the idea behind a smart classroom is that technology plays a significant role in the delivery of education – automating things, such as assessments, grading, and assignment tracking – so that educators have more time to work directly with students. What also makes classrooms smart is the way in which technology improves the learning environment by managing air temperature and lighting. The physical environment of the classroom plays a major role in learning.
Benefits of Smart Classrooms
Smart classrooms, at their most basic level, foster access to education. From students who can continue learning from home if they are unable to attend (think: lice outbreaks; colds; and other illnesses that would otherwise spread throughout the student population; students without access to transportation; and more) to those students who benefit most from a classroom environment, edtech enriches their education.
Exposure to Technology that Makes Students More Hirable
As we’ve seen during the last year, with the shift to online learning, students are capable of learning how to use the tools and technology required in today’s workplace. Most third graders are at least as adept at Zoom as the adults using it – and sometimes more so. But it’s about more than just the tools; it’s about having the ability to integrate technology, merging these tools with collaborative efforts, project management, learning, and communications, that makes these students even more prepared for the future.
With the internet at their fingertips and the ability to take advantage of supplemental audio-visual information alongside every lesson, today’s students in a smart classroom have the potential of learning more about any particular subject. As well, subjects can be integrated with each other. While learning math, you can incorporate a science lesson on astronomy, a history lesson about Copernicus, and a social studies lesson about the Renaissance. Multiple educators can collaborate to bring entire curriculums to life in a richer way than was ever before possible.
Better Individualized Learning
It’s not just students on IEPs and 504s whose learning should be individualized. Every student should have an individual education plan. But that’s difficult to execute when you have 30 students in a classroom. Technology in smart classrooms can help educators provide a more individualized experience to all students, freeing those who can do so to work deeper or further along while providing educators with more time to help those who are struggling.
The smart classroom is the classroom of the future. It’s not designed to replace educators but instead to allow them to use the skills they possess to truly impact the learning experience of every student.
For some students, online learning has lasted for a year or longer. Some teachers have likewise been making magic in front of a computer screen instead of a class full of students. So, the return to fulltime in-person instruction is an exciting moment, but we cannot for one minute think that it will be easy for anyone.
Isolation Makes Human Contact More Stressful
Have you seen the film Cast Away? After 4 years on an island, when the character portrayed by Tom Hanks was finally thrust back into society, it was an overwhelming experience. While the situations may not be comparable, it’s likely that both educators and students will struggle to adjust when being thrust back into the classroom. Districts should consider having supports in place for their employees as well as strong SEL systems for students. Ted Gennerman, director of student services, and Emilie Tregellas, school psychologist for the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, wrote an exceptional guide for incorporating SEL to support students and improve student behavior.
Beware the Assessment Drive
We realize that there will be a push to complete a lot of assessments when students return to the classroom full time, in order to determine how far behind – or how far ahead – they are from the standard grade level. While we’d prefer to do away with grade levels altogether and simply teach students at their own pace and in ways that motivate them to learn more and love learning more, we urge districts to complete assessments not to hold students back from their grade level but to identify who needs the most support to catch up.
Forward Progress Must Continue
Even as we return to traditional classroom settings, we can bring what we’ve learned about accelerating and individualizing education into the classroom – and we can bring the technology that helped us achieve it, too. Just as corporations are recognizing the benefit of continuing to support a remote workforce, schools are recognizing the benefit of continuing to use the learning systems and technology they implemented during the height of the pandemic.
Technology Improves Education
Hybrid learning does not have to end when schools open. Consider all of the kids sent to school sick because of attendance requirements who could continue to participate in class from home in a hybrid learning environment. Extending this further, consider the capacity for schools in different areas of the country or world that could collaborate on learning through technology. A recent study, “Learning and instruction in the hybrid virtual classroom: An investigation of students’ engagement and the effect of quizzes,” revealed that the ability for students to relate to their peers, as well as their intrinsic motivation, improved when multiple screens and collaborative technology were in place.
As school districts resume full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is that back-to-school means returning to educating students in the same way we did prior to the pandemic. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.
The pandemic has been a tragedy of grand proportions, and we do not want to take lightly the impact it has had on people throughout the country and around the world. However, we believe strongly in finding the positive and the hope in any circumstance – and in celebrating the resiliency and the innovative nature of people under pressure. We want to celebrate the scientists who are guiding us through the pandemic with rapidly developed vaccines and treatments. And of course, because of the industry we are in, we are elated with the progress we’ve seen in edtech and the nearly overnight transformation it has had on education – which is why it is all the more important that going back to school does not mean falling back into pre-pandemic patterns of providing education.
Edtech Should Be Here to Stay
Edtech has often been haphazardly incorporated into curricula, almost as a forced segment instead of a method for enabling teachers to better engage and encourage students. Having been thrust into online education, edtech and tech solutions took a front seat for many schools for the first time. But that technology, which may have been hastily thrown together to meet an urgent need, can now be properly integrated into varied curricula permanently.
Moving Education Forward
Hybrid learning, exposing students to the technology in which they will need to be savvy for success in the work environment, and giving educators tools that make it easier for them to be effective and engaging without being bogged down in the minutiae of paperwork should be priorities. Learning systems that allow teachers to automate lessons and grading practices, so that they can focus on individualized attention to students, should be the norm, not just a pandemic response.
Back to School Does Not Have to Mean Back to What Was
We will be announcing some new collaborations and innovations throughout the year, but the main motivation will be to continue pushing education into the 21st century. As school districts begin discussing the resumption of full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is for back to school to become a euphemism for back to what many consider to be normal.
In an education system that literally has not been updated in over a century, the changes that have happened because we have had to adapt must be sustained. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.
Built on the Lumen® Touch Bright SPED™ platform and packaged with CompuClaim’s Medicaid billing, CompuSped Powered by Lumen Touch is a comprehensive special education management system that will be delivered through the Greenbush and CompuClaim partner platform.
The joint effort between Lumen Touch, CompuClaim, and Greenbush will ensure that educators, schools, and students in special ed programs have access to the tools needed to deliver education – in person, online, and hybrid – with dramatically reduced paperwork and reporting. The solution incorporates Bright SPED’s data-driven reporting and tracking with CompuClaim’s automated Medicaid billing and Greenbush’s exceptional services to schools.
Since the spring of 2020, we have all come to know what online learning is. As a result of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and teaching organizations had to transfer their regular classes from traditional to virtual classrooms. To operate efficiently entirely online, the schools had to adjust all of their activities – not only the teaching and learning process, but also the handling of administrative activities, communication with parents, office hours, etc.
Before the pandemic, some of these activities had already been digitalized and automated due to SIS. Instruction, however, took place for the most part in traditional classrooms. The unexpected and immediate need to switch to online learning during the lockdown forced the teachers to use different and often incompatible tools to replicate their regular activities in an online format. After almost a year in this situation, the need for solutions that unite all face-to-face training elements in one online ecosystem has come to the fore.
Fortunately, such solutions already exist – for example, the integration of Lumen Touch (a comprehensive all-in-one school system) and VEDAMO (a virtual classroom for highly interactive real-time online teaching). The next step is to improve the methodology and practice of online instruction. The virtual classrooms’ students should not be passive receivers of information transmitted via video conferencing and shared screens. A productive and high-quality learning process requires students to be actively involved with their teacher and peers, albeit from a distance. A lesson in the virtual classroom lesson should not be like a TV show hosted by a teacher. Instead, it should provide an environment for teamwork, discussion, self-expression, sharing experiences, practicing new skills, etc. The personal contribution to the interaction is a prerequisite for increased motivation and engagement during online classes.
Here are five strategies that can make your virtual classroom teaching more engaging and effective:
Collaborative activities on the whiteboard:
Тhe virtual classroom session is not and should not be a video lecture. It happens in real time and affords opportunities for active participation and collaboration between the instructor and the participants. Advanced virtual classrooms are equipped with all of the tools needed to apply collaborative learning. This pedagogical approach involves a group of students who work together to achieve a common goal, exchange views, or solve problems. In this type of interaction, the instructor’s role changes significantly – the instructor is not a lecturer but, rather, a moderator and counselor. It is a great way to turn the interaction into a partnership and encourage cooperation in skills development.
The online whiteboard in the virtual classroom is the perfect tool to engage students in collaborative activities. By using the tools for drawing, writing, editing, and presenting content on the online whiteboard, students can work together on many joint activities, such as:
Creating mind maps
Playing or creating educational games
Working on a joint presentation
Discussing and analyzing case studies and much more.
Small-group activities in breakout rooms
Small-group activities are a great way to take students out of stressful large-group discussions, which often do not allow each student to participate, reflect on the learning material, and practice the new skills and knowledge. Working in smaller groups creates a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. The instructor’s role is to carefully plan and facilitate the interaction in the smaller group so that each student contributes equally towards achieving the learning outcomes.
The virtual classroom allows the instructor to separate students into breakout rooms and assign small-group activities. Breakout rooms are a separate workspace where students cannot hear or see those outside the group.
For example, suppose the virtual classroom instructor works with a large group of 20 students. In this case, the instructor can divide them into five groups of 4 students, distribute them into separate breakout rooms, and assign each group a specific task for a particular time limit. After completing their assignments, each small group can choose a presenter and report their results back to the whole class. This approach boosts student creativity, communication skills, and teamwork.
Flipped classroom approach
The typical scenario in the traditional classroom is that the teacher presents the lesson during class and assigns practical activities for homework. The flipped classroom has the exact opposite logic. The students prepare for the new lesson on their own by using different types of resources created or selected by the teacher – video lectures, presentations, articles, etc. During class, the focus is on practice and discussions under the teacher’s guidance. This approach stimulates more in-depth learning and skill building. This method’s practical application depends on the quality of the materials for self-preparation and the students’ motivation to work independently and prepare for the class. The instructor can trigger the students’ motivation by giving them a particular problem to solve that is related to the new study material.
The flipped classroom method can be successfully applied to online learning, especially when using a Learning Management System (LMS) with a video conferencing virtual classroom. The instructor can upload the materials for self-preparation on the LMS and assign a quick quiz for reading comprehension that students should complete before the virtual classroom session. During the real-time virtual classroom session, the instructor can engage the students in practical activities and discussions. In this way, the students will use the virtual classroom time to build on their skills by applying the new knowledge acquired independently.
When the focus in class is on the instructor and the presented content, students usually remain passive and have little opportunity for collaboration. Student-led activities place the student at the center of the interaction. They aim to engage students in the material by giving them a leading role in the learning process. The students become the teachers – thus, they take ownership of the classroom interaction. In this way, learning becomes more meaningful and collaborative.
The virtual classroom provides the perfect environment for student-led learning. The instructor can easily create opportunities for both independent and collaborative learning. For example, the teacher can assign some of the students to make a presentation, demonstration, or a project on a specific topic. Each student will prepare in advance using available resources and guidance. During the virtual classroom session, the students and the teacher will shift their roles. The students can present part of the new lesson and engage their classmates in games, exercises, or discussions. This approach promotes peer-to-peer learning, improves the students’ presentational skills, and supports the long-term acquisition of new knowledge.
Gamification is often confused with educational games or game-based learning. Gamification is an approach that applies gaming principles and techniques to the learning process; examples of gamification include collecting points, prizes, badges, etc. Usually, teachers use gamification to solve problems they encounter in their classrooms, such as issues with behavior, concentration, motivation, active participation, etc.
Gamification in the virtual classroom boosts the students’ motivation and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. How can the virtual classroom instructor apply it? Here are some ideas:
You can use the online whiteboard for weekly rankings. First, identify criteria and indicators to assess the students’ achievements during the week. Then, assign points to each indicator. Present the weekly ranking as a table on a separate whiteboard sheet. Finally, discuss the students’ progress at the end of the last virtual classroom session of the week.
When assigning individual work in breakout rooms, you can use an imaginary scenario and determine challenges for the students to overcome while completing their tasks.
You can award virtual badges for completing given tasks during the virtual classroom session. You can put images or graphic objects on the whiteboard next to the students’ work.
Gamification makes learning a fun and exciting process. It stimulates the students’ interest in mastering the new knowledge and developing skills.
With the right tools and functionalities, advanced virtual classrooms allow instructors to easily apply these strategies. They can provide significant added value to online learning by addressing student needs, individual characteristics, and preferences. Making students active and responsible participants in their own learning is one of the main factors that is taking virtual classroom instruction to the next level.
About the author:
Dr. Veronica Racheva is an education programme director at the VEDAMO company.
She is also managing various educational and social project at “Proznanie Foundation” Veronica has a PhD in Theory of Education from Sofia University. She also graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, Veronica is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, trainer of teachers, researcher and author of scientific reports.
Do you remember what you were doing a year ago today? You might have been sending the kids off to school, driving to work, or shopping for Christmas presents. You most likely weren’t running back in to grab your mask, transforming your dining room into a work-study area for your kids, or angling your laptop just right for the light and background in your bedroom to hop on yet another zoom call. A lot can change in a year. And from our perspective, it’s a year that points to the endurance of spirit, the kindness of strangers, and the ability to transform challenge into progress.
We Will Endure
We’ve worked through challenges to overcome everything from zoom bombs to Wi-Fi inequity. Along the way, we’ve learned that teachers are wonderfully committed beyond all expectation to caring for their students – and that they can get pretty creative in finding ways to do just that – like the teacher laying on the side of the road recording an ant hill for his students using a GoPro. Or the teacher who used his stimulus check to pay his students’ utility bills. Or all of the teachers who showed up this fall – in person, online, and both – still ready to give their students 100% every day.
We Are All Innovators
The saying necessity is the mother of invention has never been more accurate. From parking buses in neighborhoods to deliver WiFi to rolling out new technology to make it easier for schools to safely track and monitor student heatlh, innovative solutions have been in abundance to help students, teachers, parents, and schools have a successful year. Nowhere has that innovation been more apparent than from the scientists who have rapidly developed multiple viable vaccines.
Hope Is Eternal
Throughout this year, amidst the tears, frustration, and loss, there has been an underlying feeling of hope. From a renewed appreciation for the essential workers in our communities to empty pet shelters across the country, good things happened in 2020. Here are some of the highlights: