The events of the last few years have imposed unprecedented challenges on the international education sector, requiring schools to respond with innovative approaches to learning and nimbleness in the face of adversity.
Technology has been one key solution to those challenges, with leading schools embracing online education and other advances which simultaneously help to make their students more tech-savvy and prepared for tomorrow’s world.
Malvern College Tokyo
“Covid-19 presented significant challenges for educational institutions worldwide,” pointed out Mike Spencer, Malvern College Tokyo’s founding headmaster. “Malvern College Hong Kong [which will have a similar curriculum and practices to Malvern College Tokyo when it opens this fall] used a ‘flipped learning’ approach to deliver interactive, engaging, remote learning. Students received materials before class, which ensured more in-depth discussions were possible during lessons, while staff created instructional videos to support students in understanding new concepts before attempting home-learning tasks. Teachers then gave personalized feedback in writing, via online chats or in video conferences.
“Learning is essentially a social activity, which explains why some students found online learning challenging. While face-to-face learning remains the most effective way to develop essential interpersonal skills, children need to understand that, when used skillfully, ever-evolving technology can enhance their learning experience. Malvern College Tokyo will offer opportunities to harness the benefits of various technology tools, but never at the expense of student well-being and development.
“As born learners, it is vital that children use technology from an early age. We believe that AI and complex technologies will be increasingly prevalent in students’ future careers and, therefore, appreciating the power of such tools while young will be invaluable.
“We want Malvern College Tokyo students to embrace learning and become independent, forward-thinking individuals who inquire, question and engage with the world as global citizens, both within and beyond their classrooms.
“While we value strong academics, equally important are those qualities which will enable students to contribute to the betterment of their communities and to lead healthy, happy and fulfilled lives beyond their years of schooling.”
Aoba-Japan International School
“The biggest challenge that the pandemic introduced for us was an interruption to the natural flow of communication between members of our school community: teachers, students and families,” said Chasen Stahl, group director of innovation at Aoba-Japan International School. “We had to fundamentally reimagine our protocols for communication in order to address this challenge.
“This reimagining centered around leveraging cloud-based learning management systems, which provide functionality for making real-time learning data available to parents at all times. Post-pandemic, these changes are still in place and being strengthened every day.
“With the recent proliferation of technologically driven access to education, students have an expanded awareness of what's possible and their expectations have risen. Traditional education models no longer make the cut.
“The education of tomorrow will be characterized by flexibility, personalization, modularization and an emphasis on combining self-paced, technology-enhanced skill development with peer-to-peer learning and expert teacher support. The role of teachers will change: when an AI can teach students how to do long division, teachers will be able to focus on higher-order, conceptual development and working with students to put skills and knowledge into practice.
“All the approaches to learning, collaboration, creation, and problem-solving which we focus on in school and which prepare students for success in their post-secondary lives are facilitated and enhanced by technology. Students who not only understand how to use technology, but how to leverage it in creative and innovative ways, will be ready to lead and succeed in their future endeavors.”
The American School in Japan
“The pandemic was a challenge for everyone, but especially for teachers,” explained Warren Aspel, director of technology at American School in Japan (ASIJ). “So much of the most important work that a teacher does is best done face-to-face.
“We were able to provide students with videos that they could watch asynchronously and we also held live video calls using Google Meet. Luckily, all our students already have their own technology devices, so the software and hardware that we use every day was also available during distance learning.
“One of the primary long-term changes to education is a shift in focus away from ‘teacher-led’ instruction. At ASIJ, we are moving towards ‘student-led, teacher-framed’ learning. This empowers the student, provides more agency, and results in more meaningful learning.
“Technology helps with this. For example, instead of assigning students a task that has to be completed with a certain app, a teacher might discuss the goals of the project in general and allow the students to select the most appropriate software tool to accomplish that task. When they're done, they also reflect on why they picked the app that they did.
“During the pandemic, we all learned how powerful video conference technology is. I think one of the long-term impacts that distance learning will have on the classroom is that we will keep using conference tools like Google Meet to bring experts into the classroom and to connect students together with other learners—perhaps in different schools or different countries.”
The British School in Tokyo
“Throughout the pandemic, the school continued with in-person lessons as much as it was possible,” said Ben Loran, director of operations at The British School in Tokyo (BST). “However, there were short periods of time when certain year groups or classes spent time learning online.
“The greatest problem presented by online learning during the pandemic was the social impact caused by students not interacting and socializing with each other. Learning is a social process and this cannot be understated.
“Technology brings many new opportunities to the field of education and, in turn, presents new challenges for educators and students alike. It is pervasive and holds infinite possibilities for improving access to information. Additionally, technology can provide authentic learning activities and enrich the students' educational experience.
“However, it is important to ensure this is balanced. Students are easily able to use devices and programs but they need to be supported and guided to use them appropriately and safely. Similarly, it’s important that students and young people enjoy well-rounded lives and experience the world around them first hand, rather than always through a device.
“At BST, the use of technology and the type of technology used depends on the age of the student and is only used if it enhances their learning. It’s important that it is taught on a continuum, so each year builds on the last.
“We look to nurture each student’s unique potential and strive to help them create a strong sense of self, built around purpose and passion. Based on the English National Curriculum, BST provides students with a balance between structure within lessons and opportunities for students to follow their interests within the subjects.
“Furthermore, teachers design engaging, creative and active tasks, ensuring students can learn in ways that they find exciting and inspirational. We aim for students to leave the school confident in themselves and confident with their own interests and abilities.”