Grades in treble? Bringing study back on track with technology

Supporting outstanding teaching and learning, diving student attainment and improving student outcomes are the bread and butter of those who work in the education sector. But the education landscape has evolved – it too has embraced technology

So, how can you best facilitate learning in this digital era? George Hammond-Hagan, founder of Studytracks, suggests that apps may well be the way forward

The amount of information that today’s students have to commit to memory and subsequently be tested on, is unlike that of any generation that has come before. Some might argue that kids today have it easy due to the amount of technology available to them, but quite frankly, Google is not available when it comes to taking your GCSEs or A-Levels. This has led to a period of intense questioning for teachers: what really makes information stick?

Connecting learning inside and outside the classroom

In this age of personalised curriculum, educators are constantly looking for ways to tailor the information to differing levels of skills and abilities. Unfortunately, this process can be extremely time consuming for teachers. Rather than focusing solely on personalising the learning that takes place inside the classroom, educators and decision makers could look at the different ways students can learn both in and outside the classroom that appeals to their lifestyles and preferences.

When my son was studying for his GCSEs, time after time I noticed him flitting between multiple subjects while constantly being surrounded by technology and music played at a level that many would find distracting. However, after him insisting that it helped him concentrate, I realised that perhaps our idea of revision was in fact stuck in the past and was in desperate need of an upgrade.

Upgrading the tools of revision

The same tools for revision have been available for decades (namely, textbooks, hand written notes and highlighters), and while it may have been the case a number of years ago that not all students had easy access to technology and the internet, recent reports show that upwards of 85% of today’s students own a smartphone and use it daily. Therefore, surely the best way to encourage students to engage with learning is to put it somewhere front-of-mind – or at the tip of their fingers!

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The world of education technology is rapidly expanding to include hundreds of smartphone apps. The innovations are delivered by a heterogeneous group consisting of not only those with a teaching background, but also researchers, business people and artists, like myself.

A theory for memory

As a musician, I was naturally drawn to the auditory side of tech before I looked into the science of education tools. But the truth of the matter is that there is research to show that music can really help content stick! Songs and lyrics are stored in a different part of the brain to other memories; it is easier to recall and, if you’ve ever had a song stuck in your head, you know that it is difficult to forget! This phenomenon is known as an ‘involuntary musical image’ – also known as an earworm.

In addition to considering the accessibility of a resource, its capacity to encourage students to engage with the curriculum, and to help them remember content that they will be tested on, it is also beneficial for teachers to be able to clearly demonstrate the impact it has on students’ learning.

Impact on learning

We live in a data-centric world; everything is capable of producing data, including your students’ engagement with the curriculum. For teachers, it’s useful to be able to see who is logging on to the resource, how long they are spending on tasks as well as how they are performing on the assignments. This makes it exceptionally easy to see why some students are struggling in certain areas.

Traditional methods of study prep may work for some but in order to engage the millennials of today we need to be able to appeal to their tech-savvy lifestyles. By then introducing that concept into the classroom will ensure teachers can really drill down into the areas of development of each individual, and subsequently provide them with the right support to help them ace their exams.

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