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Teacher Spotlight: Digital Tools in Upper Secondary Education

NUITEQ Snowflake is an award-winning educational technology software platform that supports remote and blended learning while also fostering student engagement and collaboration. Snowflake lesson activities are standards-aligned, can be sent as personalized homework to allow students to continue their summer revision and are also designed in accordance with the Universal Design for Learning guidelines.

Curious to learn more about how digital tools are used in education, NUITEQ spoke to David Fahlesson, a social studies and history teacher in a upper secondary school; David also works as an information and communications technology educator for the upper secondary schools in Skellefteå Kommun.

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Q: How often do you use digital tools in your existing curriculum and for what purpose?

A: I use digital tools to increase my teaching efficiency, but the main benefit is that digital tools allow me to adapt my teaching methods for different students. I use digital tools every day!

Q: How would you rate your comfort level using digital tools?

A: Very high, since I, as part of my job, have plenty of time to familiarize myself with different tools. I think that being comfortable with digital tools is a key aspect when using them in a teaching environment, but the only way to reach that level is by taking a chance and actually working with them.

Q: Have you seen any changes in student engagement when digital tools?

A: The novelty of working with computers is gone for my students since they have had personal school computers for a couple of years. Now their engagement comes from the tools and a different way of working that can help them in their studies. If I show them a way of working that they feel will help them, they adopt it. But it’s important to remember that one way of work might not be right for all students and that is a challenge for me as a teacher to find the right balance in a class and my own workload. 

Q: Are some students reluctant to use digital tools? How have you dealt with this?

A: It happens that students get tired of using computers and digital tools and that’s totally natural! We shouldn’t use them all the time, there is no end in itself to use computers and digital tools. Instead they should be used when they make things better for both teachers and students.

Q: How did students react / what did digital tools do for them after a while of using them?

A: They see the opportunity to get faster feedback as they are working on assignments and better opportunities to cooperate, but students are also able to find ways of studying that are better for them. Students in upper secondary school have hopefully already good study skills but with the aid of digital tools, they can be even more efficient.

Q: How do you deal with personalized learning and meeting different student needs? 

A: That’s one of the main reasons why I’m so excited about digital tools. By using different tools and different ways of work supported by a computer I’m able to help students reach their goals in a way I wasn’t able to do before. A simple thing as a digital textbook where the student can change font and text sizes or have the text read aloud can be a game changer for a student. If you then help the student to find other ways of studying (with or without digital tools) they can reach levels they never thought possible.

Q: Do you think digital tools can help with offering personalized teaching and increase student engagement?

A: Yes, and I think it’s a necessity for the future. As a teacher I have limited time that I can use for personalized teaching, especially in classes with more than 30 students. Digital tools help me offer personalized teaching in an efficient way.

Q: What are you struggling with the most right now as a teacher?

A: COVID-19, teaching isn’t the same when you can’t meet the students in person. We sent our students home more than two months ago and even if we are managing to keep the quality of education rather high, it’s difficult and takes lots of energy, both for the teachers, but also for the students. I really hope that we can start schools in a more conventional way this fall.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected you and your teaching?

A: It has affected me a lot, but I also hope that we will learn from this experience. For example, I hope that more people will understand that digital tools and distance learning can never replace the classroom. I also hope that teachers and students that have been reluctant to use digital tools can also see the benefits of those now when they more or less have been forced to rely on them.

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