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The Reliance of Digital Education

By Sean Connick : Published: 8th September 2023

One of the great strengths of digital education is its inherent ability to operate in difficult situations, whether it is extreme conditions, natural disasters, or man-made crises. Educators in the United Kingdom are now facing such a situation with no concrete certainty as to when it will end.

The literal foundations of this problem were laid in the 1960s when various UK governments started to build or replace over 200 schools of all sizes. To speed up construction and reduce costs, a new type of concrete called RAAC was used. Source.

Known as "aerobar," "aircrete," and RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete), this cheap lightweight alternative to traditional concrete mixes was used in thousands of UK public buildings from the 1950s to the 1990s. The material has a lifespan of roughly 30 years. After this period, RAAC can suffer from microcracking that can cause sudden catastrophic failure. Source.

In the last couple of weeks of the summer break in the UK, a school in Kent suffered a structural collapse of a classroom roof. Structural engineers discovered that the collapse was caused by RAAC failure. The wider ramifications are that any school with structural RAAC could be prone to sudden catastrophic failure. As of this article, roughly 150 are closed or partially closed. Without significant mitigation, this is likely to cause massive disruption.

Educators, students, and parents/guardians are having to readjust to a situation where going to a physical school is not an option. As such, over the next couple of months in the UK, we will see the highest number of students learning remotely since the pandemic. A complete list of schools affected can be found here.

Now that we know how we got into this situation, let's explore how Edtech has evolved since the pandemic and how this time it will be different.

The adoption of blended learning has been one of the key areas where digital learning has improved, allowing students to attend in-person classes safely while also participating in online education, offering the best of both approaches. This is only possible if it is safe to do so. Source.

We have seen the tremendous ability digital education has to provide continued learning in emergencies, whether that is pandemic-related or the current war in Ukraine, where the normal operation of educational institutes is not practical or safe daily. Digital education in Ukraine is also facing the criminal targeting of infrastructure, such as power grids and educational buildings, which has caused additional challenges.Source.In situations like the above digital education is the only realistic way to provide students with any educational access which is vital in lessening the impact on a student's long-term development. Source.

Digital education also can provide focused bespoke learning programs across a wide range of subjects, from STEAM-related to foundational subjects such as language and humanities. Certainly, here's a reworded version of your statement:

The integration of technology into education empowers students with crucial digital literacy skills essential for thriving in the contemporary world. Through digital tools and platforms, students acquire proficiency, readying them for the demands of the digital job market. Furthermore, technology-enabled learning environments foster the development of collaboration and communication skills, as students participate in virtual teamwork, engage in online dialogues, and undertake project-driven tasks. Source.

The use of technology in education can help students who may not thrive in the traditional classroom. Students can easily access recorded lectures and use them as a reference. This helps them understand the subject better and speeds up the entire learning process. It is also very convenient to access additional reading materials and other learning sources. Source.

Let's not forget the most important element in the provision of high-quality education, and that is the teacher. Teachers have had to adapt to recent world events, probably more than any other profession, whether it's the strain of pandemic learning or the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. As such, digital education has adapted to support teachers and educational establishments in maximizing their educational offerings to students. But how does digital education benefit teachers? It can be in several areas:

Simplified Information Access, It can make accessing information a lot simpler and more effective, whether it's in response to an unexpected question from a student or information from regulators.

Enhanced Engagement, Digital education can make learning more entertaining beyond what would have been possible in the classroom, such as the use of computer animations and interactive classwork. It can also improve engagement by removing traditional distractions, such as misbehaving students.

Inclusivity can foster a more inclusive learning environment where students who may not normally participate in classroom engagements, such as answering questions, can feel less stressed in the comfort of their own homes and more comfortable participating. Source.

Digital education has become an essential tool in providing education to students in situations when the traditional classroom is no longer a viable and safe option. But digital education has moved beyond emergency response and can now offer features and services impossible in the school. This can complement traditional learning. However, like all learning, digital education is only effective with the input and efforts of dedicated educational professionals.

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