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A digital learning platform is designed to make teaching easier by allowing educators to manage and individualize lessons and evaluate students. As for any tool, technology or otherwise, its usefulness pivots on the skill of whoever operates it. To get the maximum out of any digital learning platform your school uses, your operators need to be well-trained and skilled.
The analogy stops here, though. K-12 teachers, tutors and faculty can’t be trained on edtech like machine operators in a shop. Managing edtech tools isn’t and was never intended to be their main gig. This means that training on using digital learning tools must be adapted to support a teacher’s real job of guiding and educating their learners.
What can digital learning platforms provide?
Defining a digital learning platform
To be categorized as a digital learning platform on the rating website G2, a software product must be designed for use in K–12 and feature elements such as multimedia or gamification. It must also have the capability to deliver interactive educational lessons, personalize student learning experience and generate student performance reports.
Digital learning platforms commonly allow:
- Access to classroom resources 24/7
- Insights into learner progress and performance data
- Real-time communication between student and teacher
- Ability to differentiate and individualize learning
- Ability to adapt lessons based on student performance
- Expanded access to resources outside the classroom
- Videos, animations, audio recordings and images
- Self-directed study
- Interactive elements which require students to complete given tasks before continuing
- Up-to-date content
How to prepare educators to maximize digital education tools
Educators who are more confident and comfortable using digital tools help learners access broader resources and the depth of education that they deserve. When educators are able to achieve expertise and enjoy the process, the entire school community benefits.
Improved communication with all her learners stood out for Ontario, Canada-based educator Jennifer King when she took a Hāpara Learning Bytes course.
“I’ve now discovered ways to use [Hāpara] to help ensure that all of my students are on-task, clear about task expectations and collaborating effectively. Most importantly — I see this as a quick way to give ALL students brief and timely feedback! Love it!” shares King, an educator at Holy Trinity Catholic High School.
Prioritize teacher and faculty mental health
Burnout and stress are leading causes for the unprecedented numbers of teachers poised to leave the field. The very real need to keep up with rapidly evolving technology can become their proverbial straw. Experienced, dedicated teachers are irreplaceable, period. Administrators need to take teachers’ emotional health seriously.
Teachers in the role of learner, like the students they serve, require security as a base for moving forward to acquire new knowledge and skills. Adjust communication with faculty and teachers to reflect today’s current climate. A balanced perspective that recognizes strengths along with the need for improvement can help prevent taking on a deficit mentality.
Address new teaching staff
Educators who taught in classrooms pre-technology integration are often pinpointed as the category most in need of technology training. Contrary to popular belief, just belonging to a generation that grew up as a digital native doesn’t automatically give a teacher the ability to use education technology pedagogically.
A 2023 ISTE research study included a survey conducted by Jenna Conan Simpson of new educators with three or fewer years in the profession. In her findings over half reported feeling unprepared to use technology in the classroom and that their teacher-preparation program lacked sufficient training on how to teach with technology. Less than a quarter said they felt confident in this area.
Provide consistent learning opportunities
Consistent learning opportunities are essential for all educators regardless of the number of years they’ve been in the classroom. New perspectives, skills development and increased confidence are among the benefits of good professional development.
Building professional development that supports teachers’ social and emotional health into your school’s structure can provide a container for dealing with inevitable change that comes with technology and changes in student learning needs.
Provide access to training that adapts to teacher needs
Professional educators, as all learners regardless of age, have ways they assimilate new information better. One-size-fits-all training will leave some people without the confidence to be able to use the platform to its fullest. Hone in on small specific adjustments in lieu of sweeping general teachings. Micro courses, collaborative support systems and training from peers are effective tools for educators to manage their professional development in the way that best works for them as individuals.
Reward small increments of learning with micro-credentials
Tiny rewardable steps are a lifesaver when the pressure is high. This may explain why micro-credentials are growing in popularity as an upskilling option. A micro-credential recognizes bite-size increments of learning that focus on a specific skill.
The Hāpara Learning Bytes micro-credential courses are a great example of asynchronous courses designed with busy educators in mind. They are short enough to be completed in a single sitting, yet designed to allow teachers to take the time they need.
“The courses are meant to be flexible so each teacher can tailor their learning journey,” explains Heather Rentz, Community Development Manager at Hāpara. “Whether your educators prefer reading articles, watching videos, or taking on formative assessments, they have the autonomy to customize their learning path in a way that suits them best.”
Micro-badges are stackable credentials. Learners who want a broader base of knowledge can follow a learning pathway by earning, or in other words, stacking several micro-badges. The badge itself is a digitally recorded, portable communication tool that names the specific skills acquired in the course.
This credentialing process is ideal for busy or overwhelmed educators already juggling too much. Along with being able to work at their own pace, educators can begin to use what they have already learned in the classroom with students. Assimilating bits of knowledge and skills before taking the next step can help them develop a more solid base of understanding.
Embed a collaborative support system
For many, working with one another and collaborating is the best way to learn and build knowledge and skills. Schools often do this by creating professional learning communities where groups of educators exchange ideas aimed at enhancing their teaching practice. Peer support can also help educators as they apply newly acquired skills and aptitudes in the classroom.
A global PLC such as the Hāpara Community brings minds from different backgrounds together to discuss best practices with technology for the classroom.
Benefits of a professional learning community
- Lightens educator workload
- Enhances teacher reflection on instructional practices and student outcomes
- Facilitates sharing of ideas and best practices
- Facilitates brainstorming of innovative ways to improve learning and drive student achievement
- Builds a team of leaders in the school or district
- Helps teachers stay on top of new edtech tools and research
- Allows teachers space to reflect on ways to enhance and adjust their practice
Learn from peer trainers
Teachers often learn best through people who can easily relate to them, that is, other teachers. Employing trainers who themselves have gained their expertise through the same process they are teaching provides a profound depth of understanding and empathy that’s hard to duplicate.
This is how Hāpara’s Champion certification program is structured. An education professional such as a teacher or instructional coach learns how to effectively use Hāpara by completing three self-paced online courses, then can train and pass on what they’ve learned to others.
Promote psychological safety as a leader
Educators, regardless of their role in the system, may experience overwhelm or some insecurity about skills they lack.
That doesn’t mean faking it. It means recognizing and acknowledging the very human response to change. In his recent EdSurge blog on navigating psychological discomfort with technological change, Leo S. Lo, dean at the University of New Mexico shares how he addressed skepticism and fear he observed in his team when he suggested they explore incorporating generative AI.
Lo explains that educators who’ve spent years carefully cultivating their teaching methods may feel profound unease at the suggestion of a radical shift of any kind. Based on this experience, Lo recommends that leaders foster a culture of experimentation along with clear, consistent, multi-directional communication. This can help create a foundation of psychological safety needed for teachers and faculty to become more open to experimenting with technology that is unfamiliar.