Using technology

This page covers:

  • The role of technology 

  • Support for using technology

  • Terminology

  • Social networking and social media

  • Using technology

  • Examples of using technology

  • Assistive resources and adaptive technology

  • Online safety

  • Teaching online

  • Tools, apps, programs and software links

  • Useful weblinks


The role of technology

Technology is about the application of knowledge for practical purposes, such as using a new piece of equipment or machinery. Digital technology is about using electronic systems and devices which generate, store and process data. Digital literacy skills is the term often used for being able to use, to understand, and to benefit from information and communication technology (ICT).

Technology should not be relied on as a means to entertain learners, or be used to fill in time during a face-to-face session. It should be used for the benefit of teaching, learning and assessment i.e. to support and enhance learning. Your organisation should have a fair use policy; and a code of practice regarding access to computers, devices and the internet. Staff and learners should be aware of them and adhere to them. This is to ensure everyone stays safe.

During COVID-19, many educational organisations transferred their traditional face-to-face teaching to online learning. This enabled learners to continue to gain knowledge relating to the subject or qualification they were working towards. Teachers had to adapt very quickly by either using existing systems or by finding new applications which would work for everyone involved. However, if learners don't have access to a suitable device with a reliable internet connection, online learning will not be appropriate for them, and they will get behind with their studies. Teachers need to bear this in mind when face-to-face teaching recommences, or if a blended approach is used.


Support for using technology

  • Reading lists for online learning, e-learning and digital skills can be found by clicking here.

  • Relevant blogs, vlogs and podcasts can be found by clicking here.

  • Videos are available by clicking here.

  • Free and subsidised online courses are available via the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the WEA.

  • A free guide from ETF about inducting learners online can be accessed by clicking here.

  • A free publication from EdTech HUb 'Learning through the crisis: Helping decision-makers around the world use digital technology to combat the educational challenges produced by the current COVID-19 pandemic' can be accessed by clicking here.

  • An online module regarding using technology can be found by clicking here Ref T/14.

The following text is adapted from the book in the picture.


Terminology

There are many different terms for using technology. You might be familiar with some of the following:

  • blended learning

  • computer science

  • digital skills

  • digital literacy skills

  • digital technology

  • edtech (short for educational technology) 

  • e-learning

  • IT (information technology)

  • ICT (information and communication technology)

  • online learning

  • remote learning

  • TEL (technology enhanced learning)

Whichever terms you use, it's all about encouraging your learners to use technology to help increase their knowledge and skills in a safe and supported way.


Social networking and social media

Social networking is about connecting and communicating with friends, family and other people who share an interest (i.e. a network of people). Social media is about using technology to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. However, you might consider some networking sites to be social media sites and vice versa depending upon the context in which they are used.

If you wish to use either for teaching and learning purposes, you could create a private group for learners to store, organise, and share information for their particular subject. You could upload your course resources, reading list, and links to useful videos, podcasts and blogs. You will be able to view and read what your learners are posting, interact with them, and incorporate their findings into a discussion when you next see them.


Using technology

Technology includes: computers, tablets, smart phones, 3D printers, virtual reality goggles, game consoles and much more. Encouraging your learners to use technology will help to increase their knowledge and skills in areas which relate to their learning. 

It would be worthwhile for your learners to use technology when possible, as it is bound to form a part of their professional or personal lives. It could be that your subject is more practical than theoretical and doesn’t lend itself to using technology. If this is the case, you could ask your learners to carry out some research via the internet regarding a particular topic. They might find some interesting facts or useful information and videos to support their learning. Learners could also decide which areas of technology they could use, this could stretch and challenge them to find out about particular tools, software or applications. This could be a good activity for self-study which would enable them to report back during the following session.

You should be aware of learners using social media or checking e-mails and messages during sessions, and keep an eye out for any instances of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is where an individual or a group of individuals carry out behaviours and actions that are deliberate, repeated, and hostile towards others. These behaviours and actions are intended to upset and cause harm. It's best to agree some ground rules with your learners, whether this is for using technology in a classroom or in another environment. 

The use of technology can take place during traditional face-to-face sessions with learners, and then continue after the session, for example, in the learners' homes. This can blend the learning process by using traditional teaching methods along with the use of online learning and communication. 

Flipped learning is about the learner using multi media i.e. watching videos, listening to podcasts, and collaborating with their peers away from a traditional session. The learners then discuss relevant points during the next session. This gives the teacher the opportunity to give a more personalised and interactive approach during the session. The teacher becomes more of a facilitator of learning; guiding and supporting learners to find things out for themselves.

Never make assumptions about technology. Always check the equipment personally and in the context in which you are planning to use it. Have a contingency plan in case of technical failure. If your learners are using their own devices, avoid trying to fix any problems which might occur, in case you damage anything. You also need to make sure that your learners have a suitable device, a reliable internet connection (if necessary) and know how to use the relevant tool or application.

Online learning can be synchronous i.e. carried out by learners and the teacher at the same time; or be asynchronous i.e. carried out by learners and the teacher at different times. Synchronous learning enables learners to study via a virtual classroom and duplicates the capabilities found in a real classroom. Asynchronous learning gives e-learning (short for electronic learning) much of its appeal, as learners can engage with each other when it is most convenient for them. A knowledge thread (or trail) of their postings is left, which is useful for auditing purposes. A discussion thread is an example of asynchronous learning. One learner can post a question, and hours (or days) later, another learner (or you) can post a response. 

If you are considering taking an online course, check out these tips to help you find a legitimate provider.

There are some useful tips regarding teaching remotely from the Education and Training Foundation.


Examples of using technology

There are many different tools, apps, programs and software available for teaching, learning and assessment purposes. However, most will need a device with a reliable internet connection.

Click on the image to see lots of different applications which both you and your learners could use. Most offer a free basic service. You can then click on an icon to find out more about it. 

This fantastic resource was compiled by James Kieft.

Scroll towards the end of the page for lists of various tools, apps, programs and software.

If your organisation has an intranet (a computer network for sharing information by those who work in the organisation) there may be programs and software accessible by staff and learners via a password. This means that they can access it from anywhere at anytime, and the system should be safe and secure. An intranet is useful for communication and collaboration, and can work well as a blended learning approach.

You might not have access to computers or the internet/intranet in your learning environment. You could therefore ask your learners to bring their own devices e.g. tablets, smart phones and e-readers, to use during a face-to-face session. This is know as BYOD - bring your own device. Ground rules would need to be agreed, and the use of social media, access to e-mails and texts limited. Learners might need to use their own devices if they are learning purely online, unless equipment can be loaned from your organisation. They will need to know that the sites they are accessing are secure, and that they can contact you when necessary; either for subject support or technical support.

Wherever possible, you should try and involve your learners with using technology during and after their sessions with you, for example by using:

  • applications (apps), tools, programs and relevant software

  • audio, video, digital and online clips and videos (either viewing or creating their own)

  • e-mail (text and video)

  • interactive whiteboard

  • social networking and social media (if appropriate)

  • virtual learning environments (VLEs) and secure online platforms.


Assistive resources and adaptive technology

These are the terms used to denote devices and their use for people with disabilities or difficulties. Their use can lead to greater independence by providing enhancements to change the methods of use. This should enable learners to accomplish tasks they might not have been able to do without it.

Technology can provide a means of access to learning for those who:

  • are hearing impaired

  • are visually impaired

  • have a degenerative condition which is physically tiring

  • have a first language which is not the one used during the course

  • have difficulty in speaking

  • have difficulty with manipulation and fine motor control.

You can find lots of information from Jisc regarding assistive technology at this link.

From September 2020, most further education and training providers have a legal duty to make sure that their websites and virtual learning environments (VLEs) meet The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.  Most providers are considered to be in scope for the regulations, due to their dependence on government funding. However, funding arrangements in the sector differ, therefore you should seek legal advice if you are unsure. 

The Regulations apply if the organisation is: financed, for the most part, by the state, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law; are subject to management supervision by those authorities or bodies; have an administrative, managerial or supervisory board, more than half of whose members are appointed by the state, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law.

All websites will need to meet accessibility requirements, and organisations will need to publish an accessibility statement. In the Regulations, 'accessibility requirement' means the requirement to make a website or mobile application accessible by making it perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. 'Accessibility statement' means a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application. 


Online safety

Online safety is not something which occurs automatically. Everyone needs to take responsibility for what they do and don’t do. Digital resilience is the term for understanding the relationship between technology and risk, and being positive about dealing with it. Learners need to know how to use technology appropriately, i.e. by not accessing unsuitable websites, not clicking on links which might contain a virus, changing their passwords regularly, and not communicating with people on a personal level who they don't know.

Documents should always be backed up in case of data loss, confidential data must be stored securely and in accordance with relevant legislation and policies.

An aspect to consider when using computers, devices, keyboards and mice which are shared amongst others, is hygiene. Germs can linger and then be caught and spread by everyone who uses them. Washing hands regularly, and/or using cleansing wipes or antibacterial/antivirus sanitiser can help to prevent this.

There are some useful tips regarding safeguarding when teaching remotely from the Education and Training Foundation.

The following links from the National Cyber Security Centre will give you some information regarding staying safe and secure online:

Cyber Guide

Device Security Guidance

Exercise in a Box - Online resilience tool for cyber attacks


Teaching online

Many lessons are now conducted online. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Make sure everyone knows what time to log in, and that they have the right program/app installed (if necessary) and/or the correct link to access it.

  • Appreciate that not everyone will log in at the same time, some learners might be late due to no fault of their own, or not have a suitable device with internet access, or not know how to use the program/app.

  • Advise learners how to use the mute/unmute, raise hand, and camera-on camera-off functions.

  • Advise learners to have an appropriate background image, and to be away from any noise or distractions.

  • Treat the online session like a class session, i.e. have plenty of activities, ask lots of questions, use learners' names, have breakout sessions, incorporate individual tasks which learners can go and work on (e.g. for ten minutes), and incorporate the use of different programs and apps to add variety where possible.

  • Use collaborative activities where learners can work on something together, perhaps creating a presentation or a poster which is saved in the cloud for everyone to access.

  • Know when to intervene if things get too noisy or out of hand.

  • Check with your organisation if you are required to record the session - this is useful if learners can't access it in real time as they can view it later. However, you may need to seek the permission of everyone involved. You can find out about the legal considerations regarding recording lectures here and participants' legal rights here.


Tools, apps, programs and software links

You might find some of the following useful and many offer a free service. Please note: I do not endorse these products, I have compiled the lists to help you make your own decision as to what will work for you and your learners. You will need to find out what is available free and what you may be required to pay.

Please let me know if any links no longer work, or if you would like a link adding to a particular list.




  • Reading lists for e-learning and digital skills can be found by clicking here.
  • Resources to support teachers and learners can be found by clicking here.
  • An online module regarding using technology can be found by clicking here Ref T/14.


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