Edtech trends: BYOD, e-safety, gamification, VR

Andrew Mulholland

Andrew Mulholland is the marketing director at Groupcall, the parental communications specialist. Before joining Groupcall, Andrew had held a number of commercial roles within the IT sector; he has been involved in IT for the education sector since the late 1990s.

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After working in technology for almost two decades, I’ve observed some trends which I think will take the education sector by storm in the months to come…

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

This is still one of the growing trends, as headteachers and senior leadership teams (SLTs) are increasingly encouraging BYOD amongst both students AND staff. Today’s students are millennials; they gravitate towards technology and have a natural affinity with it. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the number of students who own mobile devices outside of school is at an all-time high. By using their own, often larger form factor devices, students are better able to engage with learning. Crucially, with the increase in cloud-based working combined with ever-tighter budgets, more schools are finding making BYOD part of school policy more essential than ever – for teachers too.


E-safety

Of course, the rise of BYOD in the classroom also has safeguarding implications which must be considered if students are to get the most out of the technology available to them, without being put at risk. As a result of the Department for Education’s (DfE) updated
statuary guidance on ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’, schools are now required to have a clear policy on the use of mobile technology. The phenomena of ‘sexting’ among school-aged children is just one example of the areas that teachers need to be aware of and able to detect among their students, if they are to be able to incorporate personal devices into lessons.


This does not mean that BYOD should be discouraged, far from it; schools must simply be aware of the ramifications of allowing students to surf the web and share content from their smartphones or tablets, and put procedures in place to ensure that no inappropriate or potentially harmful material is shared. Once this is done, BYOD can make it far easier for students to access, engage with and share educational material and to conduct their own research in class – as well as at home.


Gamification

Gamification, the use of games to enhance learning, is another exciting trend that’s set to gather further momentum in 2017; many schools are seeing it being successfully applied to engage students who might otherwise struggle with traditional teaching and learning. Once schools are over the initial hurdle of ensuring students are using games for learning and not just for entertainment, the benefits have been shown to be numerous and significant.


Virtual reality (VR)

I believe we are going to see more and more of VR over the coming year, particularly with it being incorporated into the curriculum to support learning through immersive environments. By enabling large groups of students to interact with each other in a three-dimensional virtual environment, where all kinds of concepts can be depicted and explored, complex information can be made accessible and engaging like never before. The creative possibilities are endless!


With such exciting new technologies available to schools and students, edtech looks like it will continue to thrive throughout 2017. The future will certainly see a big uptake in areas such as BYOD, gamification and VR, but this will involve an even more stringent approach to safeguarding in schools to enable students to take advantage of the amazing possibilities that these new technologies are revealing, without being put at risk of online abuse, radicalisation or inappropriate content.


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