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Portal Exclusive: How critical thinking can influence learning outcomes

Source: Education Times

Critical thinking cannot be acquired and deployed at will. It needs to be learnt and practised with certain prerequisites: a familiarity with the context, strong domain knowledge and mastery of metacognitive strategies, writes Deepali Dharmaraj

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,’ said John Dewey, the famous 20th-century philosopher. This was true during his lifetime, and it is true today. Critical thinking, which includes reasoning, making judgments and decisions, and problem-solving has long been considered an important aspect of education. It is not surprising, then, that India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recognises this by placing critical thinking as central in research, curriculum and pedagogy, and assessment.

Prerequisites

Critical thinking cannot be equated to another skill, for example, like riding a bicycle. Due to its cognitive nature, it cannot be acquired and deployed at will. It needs to be learnt and practised with certain prerequisites: a familiarity with the context, strong domain knowledge and mastery of metacognitive strategies such as planning and reflection.

Using the English language classroom as a case study, let us consider how the teacher can develop critical thinking to improve speaking skills. In the first stage, awareness-raising activities develop familiarity with the components of speaking such as contextual appropriacy, paraphrasing and features of connected speech without having learners produce any language. The teacher can do this by using an authentic conversation and setting a task like highlighting phrases, for instance, giving opinions. The second stage involves noticing and paying attention to form, meaning and use. For example, students might make an error in subject-verb agreement, for example, he talks not he talk. A noticing task could include one where students listen to a model and then complete a prediction task. Finally, scaffolding through practice activities such as simulated role-play can help students become more confident in speaking. At each stage, the student is aware of success criteria, has sufficient planning time and reflects on his performance. When supported by peer feedback, this is even more impactful.

Critical thinking for teachers
By conducting action research, the teacher can develop their own critical thinking. The process involves a continuous cycle of examining their practice, identifying a need for change, planning, and executing the change, observing and analysing results and reflecting on the effects. For example, a teacher might be interested in developing students’ writing skills. Background reading supported by a student survey determines that one underlying reason could be that students are unmotivated as there is no real audience (apart from the teacher) for their writing. This might lead to starting a peer-reviewed blog which could be either on an online platform or simply a designated area in the classroom. Based on feedback and assessment, the idea can be refined to creating content for a wider audience such as parents and other stakeholders.

The teacher can then share their results and learning from the action research with peers thus facilitating adaptation and improved practice in the teaching community. My work enables me to support educators in becoming reflective practitionersto be better able to meet their students’ needs. Critical thinking can help this in two ways: by balancing personal critique to identify both strengths and areas of development and by identifying concrete steps for action.



Benefits to learners

There is a realisation that current models of learning need to be upgraded. Rote learning and memorisation, despite their place in education, are not sufficiently preparing learners of today for the world of tomorrow. The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined this need and it is crucial to respond rapidly and put measures in place to arrest any further decline. Critical thinking helps us to understand problems or points of view, analyse them and consider the merits of different approaches to address them. In addition, it is often associated with social change as it encourages students to develop empathy and question their unconscious biases. With the prerequisites of domain knowledge, guided practice and a supportive teacher, students can become independent lifelong learners. As the
NEP 2020 states, ‘children not only learn, but more importantly learn how to learn.’

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Education

There’s a long road ahead for the digital transformation of schools, but the best is yet to come

By Michael Oakes, Product Manager at RM plc

Just as technology has evolved and modernised throughout the years, so too has our approach to teaching. After all, traditional ways of teaching are becoming harder to sustain in a digital-first world and the onus is on the sector to keep pace with those changes – and not risk lagging behind.

The pandemic was a key driver in the push for digital transformation certainly, but it’s important to remember that lockdown simply fast-tracked the digitally inevitable. Rather than push back against that positive change, now is the time to embrace the new, as well as the successes of the tried-and-tested models of teaching, to strike a balance for a better educational future. 

Crucially, all aspects of our lives are now influenced by technology and to make our education sector a success, it must effectively prepare students for the future economy.

Empowering educators

Digital transformation isn’t a definitive result but more so a cultural shift for educators.

For schools, colleges, and universities, the first step towards success is by auditing their current infrastructure and beginning to make improvements where problem areas are highlighted. Even minor tweaks can contribute to increased productivity among teachers.

This new digital infrastructure will empower leaders and teachers to think more creatively about how they interact with their students. It allows them to tap into the less prescriptive side of their role and opens the door to how the education sector can be changed for the better along with many other businesses who are also shifting their plans to enter and remain in the digital world past the pandemic. The Department for Education is, after all, also on board in supporting schools on their journey of digital transformation.

It all begins with a strategy and doesn’t have to happen immediately. Staying aligned to your schools’ overarching mission means you remain on track but evolve your priorities and the needs and wants of your users. It is also essential that you represent all perspectives, including pupils, staff, the SLT, and parents, and manage expectations of using the technology itself.

According to research carried out by RM in 2019, 39% of teachers described themselves as ‘not confident’ using the technology provided by their school. However, a DfE research report published in 2022 describes several ‘unexpected positives’ that emerged from the pandemic. And one of those were the rapid skill development of staff and pupils in using digital platforms, software and of resources. The more that you build confidence and expose staff to these new strategies, the better it will work.

Recruiting a technology partner here to incorporate their expertise means you can build an affordable, tailored and comprehensive solution that will evolve with your goals.

Making use of the cloud for collaboration

The initial shift to the cloud, the introduction of interactive whiteboards and projectors were always going to be the foundation on the path to digital maturity – but with the pandemic and the introduction of remote learning and digital assessments we have realised that the potential is endless, and resources are almost infinite. It has been an unpredictable yet exciting time for the education sector in recent years.

Cloud computing brings benefits to schools and trusts over running traditional server-based networks. Applications that are being developed in the learning space are cloud-ready and allow students to learn wherever they are, giving them the same experience, they would have in school, at home. Cloud-based apps also improve collaboration between teachers and students as well as schools and parents, this is all down to the ability to access work and resources wherever you are – something that has been critical to many businesses during the remote working period.

The barriers to digital maturity

We should also consider the challenges that come alongside a digitally ready infrastructure. The areas in which leaders have queries are usually; lack of access for some students who may not have access to the same tech at home, financial barriers that prevent being able to afford a wholesale change of technology and safeguarding concerns that relate to online safety whilst using IT based applications each day. As with anything new, there are issues in the beginning, but this should not stop the innovative shift to digital transformation.

This gives students time to strengthen their digital literacy skills that they can utilise in school and beyond into the working world.

However, this is the future, and we should be acknowledging that it is inevitable. We should explore the numerous pathways for students to learn to the best of their ability. It goes without saying that the positives are a major catalyst for the adoption of new technologies with  84% of teachers indicating that technology had or would contribute to improved pupil attainment and 65% indicating that technology already had, or would in the future, contribute to reduced workload.

We are lucky as a sector to have these brand-new resources at our fingertips, and we must explore putting them to good use, the future outcomes will highlight the brilliant work that has taken place in education.

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Business

How are Businesses in the Education Industry Benefiting from using the Metaverse?

The concept of the Metaverse has been around since the early 1990s but has never been close to becoming a tangible reality for most internet users. Recently Facebook has announced it’s rebranding to Meta to focus on bringing the Metaverse to a reality.

Experts are arguing that the Metaverse is still pretty far away for most people, but in the next few years, we may start to see the integration of the Metaverse into many industries worldwide.

The Metaverse concept has huge connotations for businesses around the world. If the Metaverse becomes the primary way consumers interact with the internet, this could provide countless business opportunities. Furthermore, businesses would have to adapt to accommodate changes brought by the Metaverse.

Some industries are already adapting to the Metaverse and using it to their advantage. One of these industries is the education industry. Companies such as DAN.IT have capitalised on the development of the Metaverse to improve how they give clients lessons.

Read on to learn more about the Metaverse and how it affects the education industry.

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse can be complicated to explain and difficult to understand at first. The Metaverse doesn’t just refer to one piece of technology but refers to the overall interaction of users with the internet. Different technologies from multiple industries facilitate this.

Currently, we interact with the internet in a 2D format, using search engines and websites to extract information, communicate with friends, play games etc. The Metaverse concept is an internet where we do all these things in a 3D immersive world instead. 

In this Metaverse concept, internet users would be represented by avatars who can directly interact with the 3D world and other users. 

As you can tell, for this concept to become a reality, it involves the collaboration of many different technologies, such as virtual reality headsets and augmented reality. This is why the Metaverse is quite complex and will take years of development.

Large companies such as Facebook and Google have recognised the opportunities that the Metaverse may bring. Facebook has already poured over $10 billion into bringing the Metaverse to a reality. 

How would this affect the Education Industry?

Over the past two years, many countries worldwide have experienced Lockdown. With students unable to go into institutions to do their regular lessons, many were left with logging onto Zoom or Microsoft Teams for online lessons.

This has led most of the world to get used to studying online and minimal face-to-face lessons.

However, if you talk to students, you will quickly find many problems with online lessons. Many students struggled with the lack of in-person interaction and felt the lessons lacked in detail. Learning from purely online lessons through a webcam can be pretty challenging.

The presence of the Metaverse can change how online lessons are viewed and potentially fix these issues. If students are represented by avatars and can be taught in an immersive 3D world, this can better simulate lessons in a classroom.

This means there is little to no loss in detail in online lessons, and students can feel some form of in-person communication. 

Being able to improve online lessons has multiple benefits. If a situation such as lockdowns was to happen again, students would experience much higher quality virtual learning.

It also brings the possibility of setting up well-established learning institutions without even needing a physical building. Therefore, students from all over the world would be able to learn without worrying about finding accommodation next to a university, for example.

This would lead to top-level education being accessible to more people across the world and higher demand for education for businesses.

What Education Businesses are focusing on the Metaverse already?

Focusing your business on the Metaverse is quite a big step as it’s still in development, but if the Metaverse does boom, there will obviously be quite an enormous reward.

One company focusing on Metaverse education is DAN.IT. They offer detailed education and qualifications in popular IT roles. This training is purely based in the Metaverse, so it invites students from all across the world. 

As Kseniia Stolbova, the CEO of DAN.IT, says, “The metaverse opens new opportunities for studies, and students get a new interaction experience – very close to real communication.” 

This allows students to interact with each other effectively and improve their learning experience no matter where they are in the world. DAN.IT’s ultimate goal is to provide equal opportunities for people to gain IT roles and build a strong IT community worldwide.

Kseniia Stolbova states, “Our global mission is to create a professional and ethical IT community that brings together industry experts, recruiters, newcomers to the field. We see that the Metaverse with its capabilities allows us to create a transnational, global platform for communication and professional development of IT specialists.” which shows her belief in the future of the Metaverse is bright.

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Education

University students hold the keys to ‘level up’ the esports industry

Written by Tao Martinez, Head of University Esports Development at GGTech

For many students, getting in from a class or lecture means jumping onto CS:GO or League of Legends with their friends to pass the time and have a laugh for a few hours.

Climbing the ranks may spark conversation about “going professional” one day but forging a career in esports has never been more accessible for students, with the industry growing by the day.

The total revenue of the esports industry in 2021 was estimated by Newzoo to be $833.6 million, and this is enhanced by a rising number of jobs, university courses and opportunities, making it one of the fastest growing and desirable sectors to lead a career in.

The opportunities

The most obvious route into esports is through being the best at a given game, with teams willing to sign players up on a contract to represent them at tournaments and online leagues. And whilst this is desirable, there are actually a whole host of other careers within the industry.

With Covid fears beginning to fade, in-person gaming events are returning with competitions such as the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters, hosted by GGTech in collaboration with NUEL, bringing together the best university talent across Europe to face off.

Beyond the players, these events require event organisers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming, tech support, and that’s before even getting to the participants which involves players, coaches, and team organisations.

There are so many aspects to a successful esports competition which in turn creates a wealth of jobs and opportunities – which are growing all the time. And these opportunities are also available through online esports leagues as well.

We are in an era where traditional television is being taken over by Netflix, YouTube and Twitch, creating new mediums for viewers to engage with esports, which is reflected by a growing viewer base.

Research from VentureBeat estimated that in 2021 there were 234 million esports enthusiasts, up from 197 and 200.8 million respectively in 2019, highlighting a stark growth. What’s more is that by 2024 there are expected to be 285.8 million enthusiasts and 291.6 million occasional viewers. Esports is a rapidly growing industry that people want to be involved with, and it’ll only get bigger in the coming years.

This is supported by an increase in job awareness through sites like Hitmarker, a dedicated jobs site for advertising esports opportunities.

University courses

The esports ecosystem supports universities through the development of teaching, facilities and opportunities in the industry which helps to focus on student’s interests whilst developing their core skills in preparation for a career in the industry.

For example, Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, as part of Nottingham Trent University, offer a BSc in Esports Production which teaches students about the global esports industry, the principles of esports, production and technology, as well as broadcasting and management. This will be delivered in Confetti X, a £5 million dedicated esports complex due to open ahead of the upcoming academic year.

Universities such as Sheffield Hallam offer courses in esports management, whilst Chichester has its own esports degree. This is supplemented by universities such as Warwick who have large student esports communities who come together for competitions and tournaments.

The importance of good training in developing the esports industry is being increasingly recognised by universities who are creating new courses each year as a result. Courses involving business, management, events, marketing, journalism and design all offer unique skills which match up with a plethora of new jobs emerging in the esports scene, and with the industry growing at the rate it is, the number of these jobs will only rise.

Moving forwards, the onus is not only on the esports industry supplying opportunities for university students, but also on the university ecosystem to provide the highest-quality education and training in order to fuel the integration of new talent into the dynamic esports workforce.

In order to assist students who are pursuing a career in esports, GGTech works with university students to run and produce the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters competitions, giving them vital first-hand experience at casting, broadcasting and event management.

Part of the fabric for the future development and growth of the esports industry is putting faith in the talent of university students, being willing to innovate courses, equipment and opportunities, and supporting students every step of the way to help turn their hobby into their future employment.

That’s why university campuses are the best testing space for evolving equipment, products and services whilst allowing students to gain valuable experience, especially through internships and competition management.

Opening people’s eyes to the vast array of opportunities and careers that the esports sector has to offer will fuel the next generation to become the core of the industry during its rapid growth.

Now is the time for a career in esports

In the esports industry revenues are growing, viewership is growing, the number of participants is growing, and this is creating more and more opportunities all the time.

There is no better time to pursue a career in esports, and education is at the forefront of attracting prospective students into the industry. As the sector grows, we will see an increasing number of universities offering esports related courses and follow in the footsteps of Confetti in building dedicated facilities for students to gain the best first-hand experience for running tournaments.

Students should be encouraged to take the plunge, and universities and esports professionals must provide the best assistance possible to welcome in the new generation to help the entire esports industry grow.

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