Beyond the textbook: How to inspire the next generation

Samantha Blyth

Sam Blyth has 12 years experience of working with schools, Local Authorities, multi-academy trusts and teaching school alliances in purchasing and implementing new technology. Formerly national Secondary manager for Discovery Education (formerly Espresso Education and Channel 4 Learning) and national key account manager for itslearning UK, Sam is now responsible for managing the team bringing the hugely successful Canvas VLE/LMS to schools across Europe.

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For centuries the textbook has been the Primary learning tool in classrooms, but it’s universally agreed that even the most traditional institutions now need to deliver content in a way that better serves social, connected, millennials.

I’ve seen first hand how harnessing technology to move ‘beyond the textbook’ can better engage and inspire students. Rather than ingesting often outdated material by rote - the ‘chalk and talk’ method - digital technologies can empower students to learn in a collaborative and connected way, engaging with content anywhere, anytime.

But while most schools acknowledge the need to change the way that courses are delivered, it’s not enough to simply bring content online. The real value of moving beyond the textbook, and embracing a more flexible, engaging, way of delivering lessons, is in the student experience it enables.

STEMming the gap

A key pedagogical change enabled by digital technologies is project-based learning. Honing investigative skills and solving real-world problems can be particularly beneficial in the STEM fields. Grounding theoretical subjects like Mathematics and Science in authentic ways can help students to understand them better; bringing problems and theories to life. By asking students a driving question and then giving them the tools to investigate, they’re in control of their learning - and they can run with it!

Most recently, we’ve seen how Pokémon Go has captured the imaginations of millions"Grounding theoretical subjects in authentic ways can help students to understand them better." of young adults from all over the world by using augmented reality (AR). AR is another great example of how technology can bring the more conceptual subjects to life in a way that textbooks just can’t. It can also add a creative element to subjects which are not traditionally seen as innovative creative or free form - inspiring students to think in new ways.

Shaking up traditional teaching methods by delivering contextual and visual learning supports a forward-thinking approach which aims to better engage students, fostering enthusiasm for traditionally undersubscribed subjects. For the STEM fields particularly, where there is a significant shortfall of graduates to supply the growing industries, helping engage and inspire students to pursue these subjects is crucial.

Showcasing AR

AR gives students a unique opportunity to dive into the subjects they are studying, to surround themselves with subjects that they may have previously struggled to connect with. By connecting the physical world of textbooks, lesson plans and presentations with digital devices, students can add a new type of visual which pupils can often find difficult to relate to. By releasing students from textbooks and passing the information directly to them via their own devices, their learning can occur anywhere. By incorporating learning with augmented reality, students can project their learning on to their own environments.

Flexible Learning

Bringing learning materials online doesn’t just allow students to change when they access the materials, but also where they are able to do this. Freedom from the textbook can also mean freedom from the classroom, allowing students to learn at their own pace, and in their own place. By allowing students to work in their own spaces, schools and colleges can help pupils grow their ability to learn independently, a skill that will be essential to them as they go forward into higher education and the world of work.

Moving beyond the textbook is an essential component in offering the student population the flexible, customisable, and innovative learning experience they are looking for, and education technology is the best way to make this happen. By adding this sense of variety to their teaching, educators can keep a class on their toes and ensure the highest standard of learning.

How do you take education forward? Let us know below!

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