With a sudden shift to remote learning during COVID-19, many schools across the world were caught off guard, without adequate and integrated technology solutions to support the changing needs of their school community. Out of necessity, schools became reactive, turning to simplified tools as a quick ‘emergency remote learning response’.
Searching for technology fast fixes to solve isolated needs, many International Schools adopted popular solutions such as Google Classroom, as an emergency teaching tool. However, even schools with mature LMS platforms and learning tools in place faced problems by not having adequate time to effectively embed their technology and practices in the teaching community.
To understand some of the technology challenges leaders were facing, International Education Solutions (IES), with the support of Schoolbox, iSams, and Digistorm, reached out to International School Leaders in the APAC region during 2021.
Not surprisingly the research showed:
- 38.2% of schools use multiple routes to communicate with parents, and 4.5% of schools admitting they rely only on email for communication.
- 31.8% of schools indicated using multiple solutions, having anywhere up to 4 reported LMS tools across the School.
School leaders identified some key challenges when it comes to the use of technology in APAC International Schools:
- The number of different systems used across a school causes confusion for staff, students, and parents.
- A lack of integration between systems meaning that data flow and user experience is disjointed and untuitive.
- The focus for technology is not on learning and teaching, making it challenging to implement changes in approach to learning.
- Difficulty ensuring professional development and upskilling for teaching staff using the technology.
So, where are International Schools today?
We sat down with Schoolbox General Manager, Grant van der Kruk, to talk about how innovative International Schools are responding to the challenges.
The two post-covid approaches present in International Schools in Asia
We are seeing two clear approaches to educational technology emerging across International Schools in Asia — those taking a strategic approach to technology solutions, and those assessing the multitude of tools individually.
A Strategic Pathway
As we learn more about the post-covid response, in many top tier International Schools there is a tangible maturity surfacing. We are seeing a trend occurring with innovative schools and leaders, acknowledging the need to include technology in their overarching strategic plans, and holistically review their educational technology and digital learning practices.
These Schools are making a conscious decision to employ a Director of Technology, and they have a seat on the Executive Team. In doing this they have a mandate to review, investigate, and redesign their digital learning environment to help the school facilitate its strategic plan, and in partnership with the other executive members, make structural, longer-term decisions on which platform they will and will not adopt, and why.
Single Tool Evaluation
Not all schools have stopped to re-evaluate their needs after being forced to react during covid, and instead of assessing technology holistically, these schools are replacing and evaluating individual tools in isolation.
The schools that are replacing tools with similar tools, or adopting new tools to ‘plug gaps’ in their ecosystem, do not seem to have a strategic technology voice on their Executive Team. In this approach, decisions on adoption of technology platforms and tools are often the responsibility of educational leaders within each campus or section of a school.
Technology choices are mostly based on what they have used previously, with a reduced understanding of the impact to the wider ecosystem of technology. Unfortunately, this creates more change for Teachers, Students, and Parents.
Is this trend unique to International Schools in Asia?
No, absolutely not! We have seen similar trends in Australia over recent years, and we are currently having these conversations with schools in the Middle East. We have found that while each region has its own challenges and educational needs — consolidating technology is a common thread. I think we are having more of these conversations in Asia as the impact of Covid on International Schools in the region has been particularly challenging — but this is a worldwide conversation.
Can you paint a picture of a consolidated system?
This is an interesting question, with the number of different tools available to Schools it can be really difficult to evaluate the requirements. Educational leaders are trained in education, not in strategic building of technology ecosystems, data models, system integrations or user experience, so it is a big ask to put the responsibility of technology on a Principal’s shoulders.
When I discuss this with Principals and Ed Leaders they are often surprised at the opportunities that can be opened up with a consolidated system like Schoolbox. The simplest way to look at an Ed-Tech Stack is to think about the different functionality.
A platform like Schoolbox can support learning and teaching needs within a school, from traditional LMS functions like lesson planning, markbooks and assessment, to collaborative spaces, community engagement and even data analytics and wellbeing information. This allows the school to look at the whole student, tracking progression from their first year all the way through their schooling, in one platform.
Think about how many systems you have across all parts of the school that sit within the learning and teaching area — have you got a consistent system from K–12? How many different tools do your teachers use each day?
Find out more about consolidating your ed-tech stack here