With every great new trend comes a slew of accompanying buzzwords. And one of today’s most exciting new trends is undoubtedly the rise of educational technology (ed-tech).
Educational Technology, or ed-tech for short, has been around in one form or another for a couple of decades. Do you remember Speak & Spell? It was huge back in the 80s. That was a very early form of educational technology, even if we probably didn’t have the term “educational technology” at the time. Today, educational technology encompasses everything from tablets, to graphing calculators, to smartboards, to learning management systems, to educational games, and so much more.
Ed-tech has seen massive growth year after year across North America. It’s a world in constant flux as we create new technologies, and new educational strategies around those technologies. And of course, with all these new tech-toys comes a new dictionary of buzzwords and terminology.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat in a meeting where people are casually throwing out terms that you know you should know...but don’t. Or maybe you’ve even used terms yourself that you kinda-sorta know what they’re about...but not really.
Well, this article’s for you! Here’s a glossary of essential ed-tech terms for the perplexed among us.
1. Adaptive Learning
Imagine sitting down with a student, let’s call him Jack, as he works on a math problem. Jack is struggling, so you ask him some probing questions, and give him an easier problem. Jack answers easily this time, but you think they he may have misunderstood one of the concepts so you give him another related problem.
Adaptive Learning is the same as the process we just described, except done entirely by a computer program! That means it is up to a computer program to learn about Jack: where his knowledge gaps are, and where he is excelling. The adaptive learning system would then make sure Jack gets in enough practice in the areas he’s struggling with, while also increasing the difficulty in the areas he’s excelling. All this serves to provide Jack with a personalized learning (hey look - another buzzword!) experience.
Gamification is big these days. At its simplest, it is a way of motivating and engaging people by applying game principles and game design mechanics to ordinary things. Frequent flyer miles are often cited as one of the pioneering examples of gamification — people attempt to rack up as many frequent flier miles as they possibly can. This taps into the human impulse to compete, to achieve, and to increase status.
In an educational setting, gamification is intended to liven up learning material by turning it into a game. The point is to increase students’ enjoyment and their engagement in the hopes that they will retain the material better.
You can see teachers gamifying their classroom when they hand out points for doing homework, give students badges for being on time or introduce a little friendly competition in the classroom!
3. Game-based Learning
Game-based learning is often misunderstood as gamification. The two sound pretty similar, but are surprisingly different.
In game-based learning, students explore a virtual game world in order to discover specific learning goals. Maybe they are helping a wooly mammoth learn about fractions, like in Slice Fractions. Maybe they are leading their tribe of Zoombinis through a series of puzzles, like in the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. Or maybe they are exploring the universe, getting into hijinks on unknown planets like in our very own Zorbit’s Math Adventure.
Game-based learning has the potential to be very engaging for students. Especially when they are playing a game with a rich narrative, fun characters, and challenging problems!
Check out this great infographic on the difference between game-based learning and gamification.
4. Flipped Classroom
This is another big one these days. Basically, in a flipped classroom, a teacher will have her students watch an instructional video or read a passage or participate in a webinar on a given topic at home, and then together, as a class, teacher and students will work through the type of activities that were typically assigned as homework — problems, exercises, assignments, and so on. It’s backwards — the instruction happens before class, and the teacher helps the students with their homework.
The goal of the flipped classroom is to maximize time spent working through the evaluation of concepts as a group, since these are what kids learn from the most. Inviting kids to get the instruction at home frees up class time for getting down to the nitty gritty. With the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and online instructional videos — two key areas of ed-tech — the flipped classroom is becoming more and more common.
5. Blended Learning
Educators who are just beginning to explore learning using technology in their classroom often start with blended learning. The ‘blended’ part refers to the mix of traditional with technology: spicing up your regular classroom teaching by integrating some technology along with it!
Blended learning is an awesome way to get started with technology in the classroom. Even better: there are so many ways you can use technology to augment your teaching! Does one of your students need more algebra practice? Find an online game for them to play! Does another student want more information on the topic? Have them follow an online tutorial! Would your regular lecture benefit from some added graphics? Try using a smartboard!
6. 1:1 Classroom
Ahhh the elusive 1:1 classroom (pronounce that “one to one”). 1:1 refers to the ratio between the number of students in a class and the number of devices the school has provided. This makes for a pretty high tech classroom.
It’s pretty costly to purchase a device for every student in a class, so instead, some schools have opted for a BYOD approach: Bring Your Own Device. In BYOD classrooms, it is up to students to bring their own device to class! This is a great cost-saving measure for schools but it can lead to other issues like unequal access, or students using a really wide range of devices.
7. Social Learning
Social Learning, in an educational setting, refers to collaborative learning that is enabled by social media. Instructional videos, as previously mentioned, would be one such example. Participants are able to view a video, submit comments and interact with fellow participants. Google Drive and other cloud storage programs allow students to collaborate remotely on projects.
Students can also share independent resources they’ve found on the Internet. They can share knowledge and answer each other’s questions. In a lot of ways, social learning is just getting started, and there’s no telling where it will go. One thing is for certain: social media has been nothing short of revolutionary. It wouldn’t be anything of a surprise if it ended up revolutionizing K–12 learning, too.
Are there any other ed-tech terms you'd like to see defined? Let us know down in the comments!
Zorbit's Math Adventure is a fun and engaging online math game, currently available for kindergarten and grade 1 teachers and students. This adaptive, game-based learning program will improve your student's experiences with math, increase their level of understanding and performance, and will allow you to view your entire class's game performance from a high-level overview.