School leaders are facing greater challenges today than ever before. Schools need to attract, retain and motivate the best teachers, compete for students in an increasingly competitive market and provide extraordinary learning within today’s budget realities. Furthermore, all of this needs to be achieved whilst empowering students to shape their own learning journey, preparing them for success in the modern digital world and keeping their parents updated on their progress and challenges. Schools need to juggle all of these issues while above all ensuring that each student reaches their full potential. As the requirements of schools continue to accelerate, funding is not increasing at the same rate, resulting in a significant gap between expectations and reality – what we might refer to as the Modern Learning Experience Gap.

However, some pioneering school leaders are managing to close this gap by adopting a new strategic imperative – one that sets a new standard of excellence by liberating teachers to help every student reach their full potential. How are they doing this?

Managing the Gap

To start, these schools are moving away from a tactical approach in the classroom to a more strategic one, giving teachers the freedom to innovate, whilst remaining within a common construct allowing a more holistic insight into the student’s experience. This experience is driven by formative learning, using an engagement-centric model and focusing on a continuous, dynamic approach to the school experience. This is a distinct shift from the traditional transaction-centric, static and summative approach which has typified schools historically.

The school leaders understand the importance of a strategy which adapts to the differing needs of all of their stakeholders, fitting seamlessly into the lifestyle and habits of the entire school community. Finally, they are able to take advantage of a joined up approach to the learning experience allowing them to see what is working well across all learning spaces, term by term, year by year, and helping them to empower their students to go further every day.

Taken together, these new strategies make up the Modern Learning Experience.

Schools that have embraced this concept have found that pedagogy once again sits at the heart of their day to day activities. They have been able to liberate teachers to do what they do best, and at the same time have the versatility to move with the shifting requirements of the modern education landscape. The school has become more inclusive for everyone involved in the learning process, leading to better outcomes for students, teachers, parents and school leaders alike, by providing a dynamic, engagement-centric experience, open to the entire school community. So what does this look like?

Benefits of the Modern Learning Experience

The modern learning experience allows schools to:

  • embrace messy learning and support the inherently fluid and complex nature of the modern classroom;
  • give teachers creative freedom, liberating them to design and continuously adapt the learning journey and improving staff performance;
  • cater to each student’s needs, by delivering differentiated learning within a universal construct so each student achieves their personal best;
  • be adaptable, enabling a learning experience that fits their own unique culture and values;
  • achieve complete observability, providing a 360° view of students for leaders, teachers and parents alike;
  • foster teacher collaboration, enabling seamless collaboration and resource sharing to continuously improve course content;
  • capture the complete learning journey by documenting the process of learning, assessment and dialogues: every teacher, every student, every parent… over time; and
  • engage the whole school community, enabling continuous, teacher-led dialogue between students, parents, leaders in ways that fit their daily lives.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has called on schools and the technology sector to work together to address these issues, but the problem is that traditional EdTech is not built for this modern learning experience which is fluid, complex and unpredictable, and where no two classes are ever the same.

Rather than working to reduce the difficulties faced by school leaders, schools are being held back through a rigid, fragmented, ‘one size fits all’ model. Good practice ends up siloed in schools making it difficult for teachers to collaborate with other teachers. Engaging parents is a significant burden, and a depressing amount of time is spent on non-teaching activities.

EdTech for the Modern Learning Experience

If more schools are to overcome the challenges they face today and in the future, then they need to have access to a new class of EdTech platform, one that is designed to meet the needs of schools and power this new modern learning experience. These platforms will not be operating in isolation, but rather in partnership as part of a new school ecosystem, multiplying the impact of each other and enabling one ‘true view’ into the school experience.

Crucially, they will not be remodelled solutions, retrofitted from business or higher education for example, but will be purpose built for schools, with a deep understanding of the inherently complex and ‘messy’ nature of modern learning.

The pressures that schools face means the modern learning gap continues to grow and it becomes more and more difficult to deliver extraordinary teaching and learning. The Modern Learning Experience, with its focus on dialogue, collaboration and partnership is providing schools with a new way of meeting these challenges and providing an education that meets the challenges of the 21st century.

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

John D. Rockefeller

This guest blog was written by Rob Eastment, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Firefly Learning. Rob has been in working in Education since 1998, teaching in a range of different schools before joining Firefly. He has been involved in the training of teachers in the uses of ICT since 2000, with a particular focus on its application as a classroom tool. As Head of IT and then as an Assistant Head, he was responsible for digital strategy within schools, looking at harnessing technology to establish a modern learning experience.