This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on October 12, 2021 as part of the guide How Is Technology Shaping the Future of K-12 Education?
“Why do wolves howl at the moon?”
“How do cars move?”
“Why don’t haircuts hurt?”
Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes in the presence of a child has seen how instinctively and wondrously curious they are about the world around them. Their developing brains observe and question the new, unfamiliar or confusing in an effort to understand the world and their place in it. Such exploration is key to learning. But if you’re like me, your K-12 experience focused more on educational standards than creative exploration.
Education is complicated. Schools and districts are tasked with many challenges — from classroom management and test scores to student safety and emotional well-being. It’s not surprising, then, that the more creative, exploratory elements of instruction take a backseat at times. Yet, we know that teachers deem them essential.
GoGuardian’s research team recently conducted a survey of educators from 40 countries to gather insights about the instructional practices that drive student engagement. Responses revealed that, when it comes to engagement, teachers value learning experiences that address the whole child — creatively, cognitively and emotionally. Of all outputs, creativity and self-expression were rated highest for their perceived impact on student engagement.
Thankfully, the prevalence of technology in education gives us a powerful opportunity to mitigate many of the challenges that our schools are facing and help students reach their full potential. With thoughtfully developed tools, we can make great teaching more effective and empower teachers to create educational experiences that inspire students.
At GoGuardian, our philosophical belief is that students are inherently curious, and it’s a matter of supporting teachers and schools to enable the right set of educational experiences. We are focused on helping educators deliver impact in a few key areas:
Creating active learning experiences that foster self-expression
What happens when students are given more options to engage with content and demonstrate their learning? Research has shown that tools like Pear Deck that support active learning can improve equity, reduce achievement gaps and help improve school culture. When students are able to demonstrate their thinking in a variety of ways and hear their ideas being discussed in class, student engagement and confidence increase. Out-of-the-box thinking from teachers — in how they teach, deliver information and collect student work — supports creative output from students.
Enhancing student-teacher relationships
Technology can never replace the role of a teacher, nor should that ever be the goal. Students who are connected to, and feel supported by, their teacher are more likely to develop a growth mindset and improve their social-emotional skills. Technology can give teachers a connection point with students for support and engagement, whether they’re in a physical classroom or learning remotely.
GoGuardian Teacher and Pear Deck allow teachers to provide personalized, private feedback on student work, driving metacognition for those on track and better supporting those who may be struggling. These moments of connection help teachers build trusting relationships with their students, which improve classroom climate and learning outcomes.
Keeping students safe with thoughtfully placed guardrails
Technology opens many doors, but not all doors are safe or appropriate for students to walk through — especially during class. With tools like GoGuardian Teacher and GoGuardian Beacon, schools can keep students focused on learning, while also ensuring that they have the support needed if a crisis arises. With proper guardrails, digital learning environments are safer and more productive, allowing students to more freely explore their interests and curiosities.
Amplifying student voices
Encouraging broad class participation is a familiar struggle for many educators. And the absence of student feedback raises real concerns: Are students engaged with the lesson at all? Do they have a stake in their own learning?
Students may hold back in classroom discussions for many reasons: shyness, lack of confidence, not understanding the content or questions, etc. They may not want to risk embarrassment — or they may be thinking through the question more deeply than their peers.
Classroom technology, like Pear Deck and GoGuardian Teacher, makes room for more students to share their thoughts, ideas and knowledge at the pace that works for them. Teachers using Pear Deck, for example, may opt to control the pace of a lesson or give students more freedom. For synchronous work, Pear Deck's Lock Timer encourages teachers to slow down and allow for different processing time. Educators using GoGuardian Teacher can also see students working in real time, so even if a student never raises their hand, their teacher can be sure they’re tuned in and making progress with the rest of the class.
The future of digital learning
K-12 education will always experience challenges, but each presents an opportunity to unleash curiosity, foster engagement and advance learning outcomes for all students. As the learning landscape continues to change, digital learning tools must keep pace, supporting teachers every step of the way and making room for more creativity, more curiosity and more wonder in the classroom.