The role of technology in engagement, memory retention & exam success

Exam results are just as important for teachers as they are for students. 

An educator's ability to help their pupils pass an exam is often — though not always — a reflection of their capabilities in the role. Undertaken a few years ago, a survey of 400 teachers found that 83% experience stress related to the exam period. It isn’t just a presumption that educators are affected by this time of year, then. The figures back it up.

Of course, much of what happens is down to the pupil in question. If they don’t take in the information you provide, they cannot hope to succeed. However, that does not mean teachers have hit a brick wall. It has long been known that different teaching methods impact the way a pupil learns and that moving away from some of the more traditional models can yield impressive results. 

Employing technology in the learning environment is one such way teachers can hope to boost the prospects of their students. Studies have shown that technology has the ability to increase pupil engagement, resulting in better information retention and, therefore, greater results accuracy in a testing environment. Simply put, more goes in their heads and stays in their heads. It’s not just the studies that back up the idea, though; many teachers themselves are advocates of tech in the classroom and its effect on exam results. 

But how can technology be utilised to improve exam results and help a few more teachers sleep better during the months of June and July? It all comes down to the question: what is the right tech for the job? brain jigsaw - memory retention

Advanced audio-visual technology

Audio-visual learning aids have been around since the dawn of modern education. The blackboard has had, perhaps, the longest reign. Popularised in the early 19th century, it continued to dominate the teaching world right up until the late 1900s, with the advent of the whiteboard. But the whiteboard hasn’t held superiority for very long. 

The digital age has brought with it a range of advanced audio-visual technology — technology that puts the whiteboards and blackboards of the past to shame. 

Standard audio-visual learning techniques have been used so successfully in education for centuries, thanks to their ability to combine the two most common learning styles: audio and visual. Adapting learning to suit both methods of teaching has been highly successful, hence the proliferation of the technique. As 65% of people are thought to be visual learners and 30% learn better through auditory methods, almost the entire student population is covered by this basic methodology. 

However, just because almost all students can learn effectively from the audio-visual method, it doesn’t mean they will.  

Using audio-visual learning tools isn’t going to reach those 95% of pupils if they aren’t engaging with what is being put in front of them. Whiteboards and blackboards took great strides in engagement, creating focal points, but they weren’t the perfect answer — limited only to what you could write, draw and say. As the tools for audio-visual learning have evolved, though, new technologies have emerged that mean engagement can be effectively driven up to new levels. 

Those that utilise the latest developments in audio-visual solutions, including new software, immersive sound systems, interactive whiteboards, touch screens and smart projectors, have the potential to crank up engagement, which means a more successful learning experience. The new technology allows for the use of all kinds of media; from videos and sound bites, to animated learning aids, music and more. 

The inclusion of such audio-visual tools means educators can grab the attention of their pupils in new, innovative and creative ways. They can see and hear how things happen, rather than just being told about it. 

The limitations of how you can engage a student, without having to exert a massive amount of energy or resources, are constantly shrinking. 

Touch screens in particular have made great strides in recent years where engagement is concerned. The interactive nature of audio-visual touch screen technology means educators can not only use it to offer dynamic teaching led by themselves, but also encourage pupils to actually get involved. Nothing is more engaging for a pupil than having them physically or vocally influence how the learning moves forward. 

The growth of flexible teaching 

Technology isn’t just making learning more engaging. It is also making it more adaptive.

Flexibility in the classroom was not always practical, or even possible. You had limited resources available to you in the form of textbooks and your own education — and that was it. Now, technology puts an almost limitless amount of knowledge and learning tools within easy reach, such is the power of the “Internet of Things” and computer drives packed with resource after resource. 

This allows teachers to follow a relatively new model of teaching: the flexible teaching method. Instead of following a lesson plan, you move and adapt to the thoughts and ideas of the room, guiding the pupils to where they need to go, rather than rigidly following a pre-planned lesson structure. The benefit of this method of teaching is that it ensures maximum involvement from the classroom, developing the learning environment around their questions, strengths and weaknesses. 

Technology enables this kind of learning, offering the flexibility to switch between different resources, without disrupting learning. 

For example, if an educator is teaching a classroom about DNA and genes, yet the pupils are seeking more advanced or simplified information, they are able to use technology to find and display materials relative to the needs of their audience, rather than sticking to resources that aren’t providing the optimal learning experience.

Improving revision through technology

It is this combination of flexibility, interactivity and engagement that leads to improved memory retention of exam-related studies. By integrating tech into the learning environment, educators can expand their teaching platform and diversify the way they impart information, providing their pupils with better learning prospects. 

Most schools have some form of this technology, which means they are often available to teachers for use. If not available, having these tools is something worth pushing for. In any case, once the tech is available, all it comes down to is the creativity of the teacher; using it to help engage pupils, giving them more of a reason to get involved in learning.

By James Berger – the founder of Netcom92, an ICT company that provides technology solutions to schools, colleges and businesses. Through his work, James has worked with numerous educational establishments, helping to improve their ability to educated pupils through technology.