The use of new technologies aimed at the world of education has grown at a dizzying pace during the COVID-19 crisis, especially in Spain. The Spanish government’s contingency plan to deal with the pandemic and curb the spread of the virus included the closure of all school facilities from March to June 2020.
Throughout this period, the private schools belonging to the Best School in Spain network have shown their great professionalism and have prepared all the technology necessary to guarantee their students’ right to education, thereby adapting to distance learning. The experience has been very positive. Students’ learning has not been interrupted and the schools have maintained their excellent educational standards. This was possible thanks to the digitalisation and innovation processes carried out at our schools in recent years, not to mention the dedication of our teachers to support students on a daily basis.
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Technology and tools for online education
Teachers have faced an unprecedented situation. In this setting, new technologies have played a key role in the transition towards a diverse, adaptable, real-time, direct and customised teaching model in these new so-called virtual classrooms, which we have used over this period at the Best Schools in Spain. This has all helped open the door to a whole realm of new opportunities in the educational field.
The use of platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom, work spaces designed to improve communication and collaboration between different work teams, have changed the way the teachers teach and students learn. These platforms allow us to organise virtual classes and meetings with students, sessions that can also be recorded and viewed afterwards. It is also possible to share and edit various documents or online resources and create video tutorials. The flexibility provided by this type of platforms represents a significant change for students, allowing for activities that also support personalised teacher attention for students despite the distance.
Simply, teachers can distribute everything through these platforms: resources, assignments and assessments. In the case of Microsoft Teams, each group of students has its own work ‘team’, which it shares with all other classmates and the teacher of the subject in question. These make it possible for all members of the team to communicate fluidly. They can all share their impressions and opinions virtually either through messages or videoconferences. These videocalls can be with all students from their class, as if it were an in-person lesson, or individual calls or tutorials, which can be particularly useful for students that need extra support or help.
Teachers have worked through virtual classes, supporting students by monitoring their progress on a daily basis. In addition, students have also been evaluated online. They have used all the tools available to offer activities that provide continuous evaluation. Furthermore, they have carried out oral exams through videoconference and written exams through practical exercises and essay questions on online platforms. Afterwards, students do not only have access to their marks, but also to feedback and advice on how to improve their work and assignments in the future.
Teachers have access to the marks of each class, which means they can quickly and easy gain a comprehensive image of how a student is performing in each subject. All this information is stored on the platform and can be accessed at any time. They can even reward students’ performance through the platform, which is a great incentive for them.
The academic challenge of the digitalisation of education
Being able to offer students different options based on their individual needs is a way of preparing them to make decisions and providing them with the necessary tools and resources that will personalise their learning. For the teachers of the Best Schools in Spain, it has been highly encouraging to see how students interacted and discussed problems, availing themselves of the variety of tools offered by technology usefully and effectively. They were able to work together and jointly solve problems, and they also managed to establish efficient virtual communication as they could not be together in-person at school.
New technologies in education have broadened the range of resources available to teachers, offering an endless amount of online materials. They have also allowed them to keep in contact with students in an efficient manner, and often in real-time. These virtual platforms have made it possible for thousands of students to continue with their education thanks to online classes and high-quality distance learning, imposed by the current situation we are experiencing and which would not have been impossible without new technologies.