Back to School in Edtech: How to Combat Learning Loss
Ask any teacher what learning loss is, and they’re likely to tell you that it’s the forgetting of previously learned information that occurs every year while students are on summer break. After all, it’s why teachers always start the first few weeks of each new school year by having students review information and practice skills they learned the year before.
And while learning loss certainly isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, it has garnered a lot of attention ever since the covid school closures brought the issue into focus. The learning loss in the 2021–2022 school year is going to be a challenge even more difficult than it ever has been before. Kids are far behind in academics and they are struggling to make sense out of everything that has happened since the pandemic.
Whenever students are away from the classroom for any stretch of time—focusing more on non-academic activities like sports and video games—it’s only natural that they lose the ability to recall some of what they learned in school the year before. Simply put: students either use it or they lose it.
The covid school closures and rush to put curriculum online without the proper amount of time or training only exacerbated the learning loss that today’s students are now facing.
So it’s more important than ever that educators use the teaching strategies proven to address both covid and summer learning loss head-on and prioritize accelerated learning to help these students catch up quickly.
In essence, accelerated learning is speeding up courses so that students learn the most important parts of the curriculum within a shorter amount of time.
And knowing that all students are dealing with learning loss this upcoming school year—particularly those with learning disabilities and those from lower socio-economic groups—teachers understand just how important it is to use accelerated learning techniques this school year in all subject areas.
What does accelerated learning look like in a technology classroom?
Just like in any other subject area, the options are endless. But the good news is that technology and learning naturally go hand in hand. So with the right teaching techniques, educators in the technology classroom can easily get students excited to learn again and keep them engaged all year long.
Because the success of an accelerated learning program depends entirely on the student’s willingness to participate in active learning. So in other words, students must be willing to:
- Learn the correct way to type
- Practice typing through gamified learning programs to increase their speed and accuracy
- Learn new information and practice new skills related to technology
- Use digital tools to create multimedia presentations, spreadsheets, and documents
- Search online resources to further their understanding of a topic
- Engage with teachers and their peers in an online environment through group messaging apps, whiteboards, and email
Because students don’t learn when they don’t participate. And they don’t participate when they’re not focused. And they don’t focus when they’re not interested. And they’re not interested when they can’t see why something matters.
But that’s one really good thing about accelerated learning; It helps both teachers and students focus on what really matters in the classroom and push aside the rest. And in the technology classroom, there are several ways to make that happen. For example, instead of learning the history of modern-day computers and the origin of the qwerty keyboard, teachers can address learning gaps by getting students typing from Day One.
We all know practice makes perfect and students love to compete with each other. So why not set up weekly games with prizes going to the fastest and most accurate typers? And instead of starting the year out discussing the usefulness of coding, why not have students build their own mazes out of cardboard and program their own Code and Go Robot Mouse to race through the maze?
Another example of using accelerated learning techniques to address learning loss in the technology classroom is to teach students how to design their own websites. It can be a simple and easy process with the free website builders that are available today.
Or educators can teach students how to create spreadsheets and use formulas to track stock purchases, balance the books for the fictional businesses they create or build a family budget. The key to combat learning loss in the technology classroom is to get the kids doing something quickly. They learn far more through hands-on exploration than they ever will by hearing someone talk about it.
Just think about what it would be like to become a certified mechanic without ever getting under the hood. Or becoming a doctor without ever seeing a patient. Or learning how to build a house without ever picking up a tool. Could you learn all of these jobs just by reading or hearing information about them? Well, kind of. But you certainly wouldn’t be a great mechanic, doctor, or builder until you learned the job by actually doing it.
Information is important but it’s certainly not everything.
Because what really matters when it comes to educating students is not the actual information that they’re learning but really the process of how to learn, how to think beyond what is presented to you, and how to find answers to the questions you have.
Technology helps education because it shows students how to use tools in the real-life application of knowledge. And when technology teachers, subject area teachers, and special education or English language learning teachers all work together, they can address the learning loss of their students in ways one simply could never do alone.
In order to help students rebuild their confidence, get them excited to learn again, and help them actively participate in the learning process, teachers in the technology classroom can make it fun. They can make it a challenge worth winning. And they can help students see how these new skills will serve them in the future.
Brooke Ressell is a secondary teacher, freelance writer, and the Founder of Blue to Bliss. She is passionate about helping others live to their fullest potential and find true happiness.