Hybrid learning a chance for education to transform
The pandemic and move to remote and hybrid learning has given education a unique opportunity to transform itself, to deliver richer, more interactive learning experiences to learners and higher education students.
So says Candice Erasmus, Training and Change Management Consultant at DigiCloud Africa and end-user specialist for Google Workspace.
DigiCloud Africa is Google’s chosen enablement partner in Africa for Google Cloud products, including Google Workspace, Google Cloud Platform, Chrome Enterprise and Google for Education solutions.
Erasmus says many teachers across South Africa were not confident about the use of digital technology only a year ago, but were forced into the digital world due to remote learning. For some, this has proved challenging, but those who adopted Google for Education solutions have quickly mastered remote teaching and started enriching their lessons with a plethora of Google tools, she says.
“It’s phenomenal,” says Erasmus. “The first lockdown hit many teachers hard – they were forced to change their teaching style overnight. But teachers using Google for Education solutions are quickly becoming adept at enhancing their curricula, and are now becoming adept at making videos and interactive worksheets that come alive with maps, images and multimedia. Even pre-school teachers are making videos, playlists and online activities for their learners."
Erasmus notes that Google for Education also addresses the growing security risk schools face. “Initially, people were concerned about potential risks on the internet, but who better to partner with than the internet safety leaders – Google?”
Google for Education solutions make IT administration simple and include Google Workspace for Education.
Google Workspace for Education boasts easy-to-use learning tools, productivity tools allowing educators to organise, share and grade work, and secure storage and collaboration tools. Google Workspace and Classroom are free for schools, and Chromebooks – a range of simple devices with built in accessibility and security features – extend the benefits of technology easily and affordably.
Google for Education solutions for higher education include a suite of communication and collaboration tools, solutions to analyse and grade assignments, and a suite of Google Cloud solutions for storage, compute, big data and machine learning.
Google’s innovative resources for teaching and learning include Read Along – an app to help young children learn to read independently; Family Link – an app to set ground rules as students explore online; a virtual reality Google Tour Creator; Google Expeditions – VR and AR tours around the world; Google Earth Studio and Google Earth Engine.
Accessible for all
Google for Education isn’t just about the teachers and the schools. It's about the learners. Google as an education platform prides itself on being easy to use and intuitive to learners of all ages regardless of age. In Africa, where accessibility to the internet and technology are not a given, Google has shown it is the first choice for learners needing to focus on their studies and academic progress and not on the technology needed to make that work in a post-pandemic world.
Erasmus notes Google for Education addresses the question of accessibility in a number of ways, including aids for visually-impaired learners and offline modes for learners who don’t have reliable access to data.
The teachers and students of Prinshof school for the Visually Impaired use accessibility features such as visual aids, text magnification, voice typing and Braille support in Google Workspace for Education to overcome barriers to learning. By enabling offline access, schools can allow learners to view and interact with education materials and complete their assignments offline.
“Google has made digital learning easy for IT and teachers to manage, and accessible and enjoyable for learners,” says Erasmus. By using Google Classroom, Care and Cuddles School in Abuja, Nigeria achieved a 90% student completion rate last year, despite the pandemic.
Completing the picture with Chromebooks
Chromebook devices, typically priced lower than other devices, complete the Google learning environment. Harnessing the Chrome OS, Chromebooks are easy for IT to administer, secure and simple to use, and are available in a range of shapes and sizes – including tablets, convertibles and laptops.
With features such as touchscreens, long battery life, rapid bootup time and offline access, Chromebooks have security built in, and can also share files between nearby Chromebook and Android devices.