Technology is changing the way we see and interact with the world on a daily basis, and the way we teach is no exception. Innovations in technology have fundamentally shifted the education technology (or edtech) market in ways that would have seemed impossible just five short years ago.
What’s changing in the world of edtech?
Some of the most prevalent trends emerging in edtech right now include:
- Interactivity: The humble worksheet is no longer the only thing in a teacher’s toolkit. Internet-connected devices in classrooms give us access to a whole range of interactive resources, from simple audio and video files to online quizzes and even creative tools. All of these have become even more prevalent in a post-COVID world, where blended or remote learning is a necessity.
- Gamification: Gamification means appling ‘game mechanics’ like rules and rewards to make learning more engaging. It often involves a lot of repetition for emphasis - think learning times tables or spelling rules - but it’s wrapped up in a user experience that distracts from the monotony of repetition. When it’s linked to a clear learning objective, it can be a powerful tool to enhance teaching! It can be digital, like giving someone a badge or certificate for completing a task, or it can be as simple as a star chart on the classroom wall.
- Social Media: It’s undeniable that social media is playing an increasingly large role in schools. Many schools use their social media channels to reach out to their communities, while teachers use Pinterest boards and Facebook groups to search for resource ideas and connect with other educators.
- Cyber Security: As we spend more and more of our lives online, cyber security is an increasingly important subject that needs teaching in schools - something that the new compulsory RSE curriculum thankfully addresses. According to Cifas, 500 cases of identity fraud are reported in the UK every day, so it’s essential that children understand the difference between public and private information, the importance of strong passwords and the fact that they make a digital footprint as they use the internet.
- Social and Emotional Learning: According to a report by Young Minds, 90% of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety or stress over the last five years. The most common causes include exam stress, and the pressures of maintaining the kind of ‘perfect’ lifestyle children see reflected on social media. It’s crucial that we teach children how to recognise their emotions, as well as how to ask for help and talk openly about their problems.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): Schools are starting to embrace AI both on a school-wide level (helping teachers with administrative tasks and marking) and on an individual level (identifying pupils’ strengths and weaknesses and personalising their learning). However, as the furore over A-level results has shown, there are still significant obstacles when it comes to assessing students using AI and algorithms.
All of these trends have been accelerated by the global pandemic as lockdowns around the world have led to a rise in remote and ‘blended’ learning programmes, and we’ve found ourselves at the intersection of these developments in the edtech market.
By presenting the platform in the style of a social network, Natterhub has created a space for children to learn the genre of social media (and make mistakes) without being exposed to its inherent risks. Our lessons touch on themes of both cyber security and social/emotional learning, and are designed to be interactive and easy for teachers to use, with video lessons for remote learning currently in development. Natterhub offers an immersive environment that mimics the real world, with a badge system to provide children with that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to come back lesson after lesson.
Using technology to teach humanity
So what makes Natterhub different from other edtech products with interactive lessons, or deal with themes of online safety and digital literacy? Simple - while other products focus on teaching children how to use technology, we focus on teaching them very human skills that are essential for online and offline citizenship.
87% of primary school children are already using the internet on a daily basis, to keep in touch with family and friends, share photos and videos or play games. They already have the technical skills they need, and in some cases are more adept than their teachers! What needs nurturing are abstract skills like empathy, kindness and emotional intelligence - in short, while children can cope with the functionality, they need to be taught about the impact of interactivity.
Those abstract skills are crucial, not just for turning children into good digital citizens but for giving them the best chance at a healthy and happy life. A study at Harvard Medical School
that’s been going on for more than 75 years has found that our relationships with other people are the most important factor in determining our physical and mental health
as we get older. As our lives become increasingly digital we run the risk of spreading ourselves too thin and focusing on the quantity, not quality, of relationships we have with others. Worse still, we can find ourselves in more confrontational situations, which the study suggests can have a detrimental effect on our physical health and can lead to declining health earlier in life.
The internet has fundamentally changed the way we live, and many edtech companies have devised innovative ways to teach a new generation of people to operate in that space. At Natterhub, we’re using those innovations to teach children what it means to be human.