K-12 schools, colleges and universities are surrounded by technology that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. Interactive tools have transformed online and blended learning from passive experiences to active, engaging environments that allow students to work together on projects tailored to their specific needs and interests. Next-generation education emphasizes collaboration and interactivity, whether students are in the classroom, learning from outside experts or working on their own time. But this new learning environment will only be as effective as the supplies and tools educators have at their fingertips. And no one knows this better and can deliver upon these modern education needs than OMNIA Partners and our robust portfolio of world-class suppliers.
Top Trends to Watch for In the New School Year
Learning Management Systems
Used by educators to create and deliver content, monitor student participation and assess performance, LMS technology is rapidly evolving to provide new functions that can help educators more deeply understand each student’s progress and tailor teaching to meet individual needs. Systems integrate student data from multiple sources to help educators better understand the progress of each student, down to specific learning standards. This enables teachers to adjust and personalize instruction in real-time, while principals and administrators can track overall trends and identify gaps in curriculum or professional support. Next-generation systems allow students to set their own learning goals and connect them with the resources and assessments to meet and demonstrate mastery of specific skills. LMSs can help students connect and work with peers on individual projects or expand group efforts to a broader scale — including other classes, schools or systems. Analytics and insights can be presented to different audiences — administrators, parents and community stakeholders — using dashboards, including the ones required by federal policymakers for both K-12 and higher education institutions that tell the story of students’ progress.
The 4Cs — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity — are the cornerstone skills learners of all ages need to be successful in life. That’s why the most transformative use of connected classroom technology, whether in face-to-face learning or online and blended learning models, isn’t through presenting lectures or material. Instead, it’s leveraging these resources to help students collaborate and problem solve in new ways. New collaboration tools make learning a hybrid, continuous experience for all students and enable them to securely connect and communicate with peers, teachers and experts. Whether in an online or traditional classroom, tools such as video, whiteboards and lecture capture systems give students the opportunity to access learning materials when and where they want. Students use these tools to gather materials and collaborate in class, then return to their projects on their own time. Video conferencing helps educators connect with parents in new ways, while students can speak to experts and collaborate with peers in other classrooms, cities or countries across the globe.
Virtual reality is becoming a preferred tool for educators eager to expand the minds of their students beyond the confines of the classroom. As experts discover more evidence promoting the benefit of modern classrooms and interactive education programs, demands for virtual learning tools is on the rise. VR headsets use sound, visual content and structured lesson plans to help spark the imagination of students, leaving them with memories and experiences that help visualize and understand even the most complex educational subjects. VR tools allow students to take virtual trips to locations around the world that they might not have a chance to visit, providing an exceptional way to illustrate a topic. Virtual field trips can bring students to the desert, the rainforest and the tundra to experience the Northern Lights, all in the same afternoon. Virtual laboratories allow students to try more lab exercises than they could have ever in the physical world and without the pressure of having to get it right on their first attempt.
Educators must learn to leverage new tools to engage students and support their personal growth. Rather than starting with students — who today are digital natives at all ages — it’s imperative to focus on the adults who teach them. Educators must have the opportunity to take risks, collaborate with one another and use technology in the service of creating a personalized learning environment. Training teachers on the nuts and bolts of using digital tools — and providing on-site support for when things go wrong — are the foundation on which a digital learning culture can be built. Using technology to connect educators with peers teaching the same subjects on other campuses can help encourage innovation. Embedded training and credentialing can help educators to build skills as they teach. Regular and persistent use of collaboration or web conferencing technology in the classroom is a great way to create and grow a digital school culture — and thus, a new digital learning environment.