Many teachers already use digital learning tools in the classroom, but within i-Learn we want to take it further by providing digital tools that personalise. However, this can be very challenging for teachers since their role within the classroom expands. Therefore, we put a lot of effort into co-creation: we capture the wishes and needs of teachers concerning digital personalized tools and take them into account when developing our platform.
How do we organise this? We organised focus group interviews/discussions in 2019. In addition, in 2020 we sent out an online questionnaire. A total of 309 teachers (primary and secondary education) completed the survey. They were representative for the population of Flemish teachers, in terms of gender, age and experience. Maybe you were one of the participants?
To make sure the i-Learn portal meets the wishes and needs of our Flemish teachers, we asked them about current needs regarding digital personalised learning. What do teachers think about this form of learning? Which aspects of the portal and the educational tools do they consider relevant? What are possible challenges or pitfalls?
In this blog post we will elaborate on the results of this large-scale survey.
The survey consisted of seven parts, which we will use as a guideline for this blog post:
- software and hardware
- digital personalised learning in different situations
- preferences and barriers concerning implementation
- preferences concerning personalising
- preferences concerning collaboration
- preferences concerning dashboards
- support needs for implementation
Note: our survey was stopped when the corona crisis happened and schools were closed. These results therefore reflect the situation before Corona.
Software and hardware
Via the first questions we tried to identify the software use of teachers. The results show that learning management systems, presentation tools and online learning environments are the most commonly used today.
The teachers indicated that they are enthusiastic about using even more software in their future lessons. There is a great deal of interest in authoring tools (i.e. software that helps the teacher to adapt the learning content to specific needs), e-portfolios (i.e. personal, digital files in which the student can collect, organise and maintain tasks), platforms on which students can take tests and/or exams and software to support blended learning (i.e. a combination of face-to-face and online learning).
In general, the results reflect a need for a broader choice in different types of software. This is certainly good news for i-Learn, as we aim to provide the widest possible range of educational tools. In addition, the teachers indicate that software should be multicompatible with different types of hardware. The results show that the participants use Chromebooks, laptops, desktops and smart boards on a daily basis.
Use digital personalised learning in different situations
For which students is digital personalised learning desirable?
Teachers indicate that they want to deploy digital personalised learning for all pupils. In addition, they indicated that they also want to focus on specific target groups, such as pupils with learning difficulties and fast learners. In the future, the participants would like to tackle a wider variety of target groups: for example, non-Dutch-speaking pupils or pupils that are ill for a long time.
For which key competences can digital personalised learning be interesting?
When asked about ideal competences to use digital personalised applications for, teachers appeared to be focusing on:
- digital competences and media literacy
- competences for maths, science and technology
- competences for Dutch
For which activities can digital personalised learning be of added value?
Teachers currently use digital personalised learning to practice learning content, make personalised preparations and monitor progress. In the future, teachers would like to focus more on individual instruction, learning at personalised pace and evaluation.
Preferences and barriers concerning implementation
The use of digital personalised learning also holds some preconditions. Teachers consider it as important to have sufficient technical and didactic knowledge. They also consider the availability of technical infrastructure as relevant. We also see that user-friendliness, accessibility and security of the digital applications must be guaranteed. Finally, teachers also indicate that a common barrier is the high cost of hardware and/or software.
Preferences concerning personalising
Digital personalised tools adapt to the learner. However, this adaptivity can take place at different levels:
- What is adapted?
- How is something adapted?
- On what basis should adjustments be made (i.e. learner characteristics)?
With regard to the first category, teachers indicate that they are mainly interested in adjustments of (1) difficulty and (2) quantity of exercises. However, they are also interested in adaptation of (3) feedback and (4) degree of instruction. There are various methods of adaptation: a tool can be responsible for control over the adaptations or can give control to the learner and/or the teacher. In general, we see that teachers find control possibilities for themselves more important. Finally, we teachers want tools which focus on cognitive characteristics (e.g. pupil makes many or few mistakes), but also on affective and meta-cognitive characteristics (e.g. motivation, planning, self-evaluation, …).
Preferences concerning collaboration
Occasionally, digital personalised learning is also used to have students work together. Our survey shows that teachers are interested in features that provide opportunities to (1) give feedback on each other’s work and (2) solve exercises together.
Preferences concerning dashboards
Personalised tools can include dashboards with different functions. The teachers indicated they are mainly interested in teacher dashboards that monitor the learning process, and provide information such as achieved learning objectives, progress reports of exercises and tasks, and achieved results. In terms of student dashboards, the participants indicate that students benefit most from feedback functions such as an analysis of mistakes and a proper feedback system. In addition, features for planning and an overview function that provides information about completed exercises and/or results also seems important according to the teachers who participated.
Support for implementation
Our survey clearly shows that support is essential and that our target audience really needs it. This does not only concern help with the use of digital applications, but also support with technical and didactic pitfalls that teachers might experience. For example, some teachers like to be self-reliant and want to solve problems themselves with the help of videos and manuals. However, there are also teachers who prefer to get help from for example, an online contact point or a telephone helpdesk. The survey also shows that only few teachers already participated in training on digital personalised learning or technology in general. We see this as an opportunity for i-Learn in the future as professionalisation is an essential part of our project.
i-Learn is in the process of developing the portal and has certainly taken some steps in the right direction. With these answers, we can continue to build a portal that really means something to teachers. In the future, we would like to involve more voices from the field of education, to further build our platform.