Understand how technology can support students in considerate and deliberate practice in their English learning acquisition, with Mark Anderson.

Pupil practice (like feedback and assessment discussed in the previous Getting Started article) is a cornerstone of all subjects. From PE to Languages, pupils need to practise what they’ve learned to embed it into their long-term memory.

The role of pupil practice in English has always been a key part of learning within the subject. From writing fluency to reading to oracy, its significance cannot be overstated; it is through consistent, deliberate practice that students consolidate their understanding and hone their skills. Two highly effective strategies in this context are spaced practice and retrieval practice but, in English, it goes far beyond these strategies – and, when you add in how technology can support all of these, the opportunities increase hugely.

Spaced practice involves spreading learning activities over time rather than cramming, which helps to embed knowledge more deeply. Retrieval practice, on the other hand, focuses on actively recalling information previously learned, which strengthens memory and understanding.

According to Dunlosky et al. (2013)1, retrieval practice is one of the most effective strategies for enhancing learning, particularly for students with lower working memory capacity.

Research consistently supports the effectiveness of these strategies. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) underscores the critical role technology can play. Its guidance report notes, “To improve learning, technology must be used in a way that is informed by effective pedagogy.”2 This means the deployment of digital tools should be carefully aligned with educational objectives and tailored to meet students’ specific needs.

The EEF also highlights the potential of technology to enhance pupil practice through adaptive learning platforms and spaced practice tools. These tools can provide personalised learning experiences, ensuring that students engage with material at appropriate intervals to maximise retention. For instance, digital platforms like Quizlet and Anki use spaced repetition algorithms to help students review content just before they are likely to forget it, reinforcing their learning over time​​.

Utilising technology for interactive reading and writing exercises

Interactive reading and writing exercises can significantly enhance student engagement and comprehension. According to the EEF, tools that provide immediate feedback and opportunities for practice can lead to significant improvements in student outcomes. The key is to integrate them in a way that complements existing teaching practices and addresses specific learning needs​​.  

Here are some strategies and tools that can be effectively integrated into the English classroom: 

Reading practice 

Reading has so much research tied into it which demonstrates its relevance for learning, and not just in the subject of English. Of course, books are great, but when it comes to teachers checking reading and keeping an eye on the work pupils do, it is time-consuming and prohibitive as an activity. Enter technology. There are some great platforms (such as Reading Progress from Microsoft, or Fonetti) that offer features to support reading and facilitate feedback on a child’s understanding and reading progress.  

Some of the benefits include access to a wide variety of texts and personalised reading experiences, alongside feedback, for both child and teacher. Some tools also offer the functionality to monitor progress over time!  

Writing practice 

Writing requires stamina and fluency, without technology. Practice helps with that massively. However, the process of writing – with or without technology – is an area which also needs to be practised.  

Tools such as Grammarly or other embedded AI tools can support learners with feedback and iterations on their digital writing – in real time and not just on their grammar. Feedback on style and readability is also helpful to help children develop their writing for different purposes. These tools can help students revise their work and develop better writing habits that translate from the digital form to the handwritten form when they move back to paper. Fluency is an outcome of practice and when this is done digitally, it helps the pupil, whilst saving the teacher’s work, whilst closing the feedback loop more quickly for the learner.  

Alongside this, writing on platforms that support collaboration for peer assessment is also very useful. Tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote and others, offer collaborative spaces where learners can leave formative peer feedback – reinforcing their own learning whilst supporting that of others in the class. They also have the benefit of being able to track contributions and revisions made to writing.  

Peer reviews 

Peer reviews are a powerful tool for learning, helping students develop critical thinking and feedback skills. Technology can facilitate the process, making it more efficient and engaging. 

If you’d like to consider more formalised tools for peer feedback, then take a look at Peergrade or Turnitin’s Feedback Studio. Other tools such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams are also useful platforms to help provide structured peer review processes with features such as commenting, video responses and discussion boards to make the feedback process interactive, should that be something you would like to explore for your learners.

Things to consider

While the benefits of integrating technology into peer reviews are clear, it is essential to address potential challenges. Ensuring students are trained in using technology effectively and fostering a supportive digital environment are crucial steps. Moreover, the effectiveness of these tools depends on thoughtful implementation and ongoing monitoring to ensure they are being used to their full potential​​. 

Reaching your goals

Integrating technology to support pupil practice for English offers numerous benefits, from enhancing reading and writing exercises to facilitating meaningful peer reviews. 

By thoughtfully selecting and implementing these tools, you can create a more efficient, effective and, often, more engaging learning environment.

Remember, the goal is not to replace traditional teaching methods but to complement and enhance them with technology.  As we continue to explore and adopt new digital tools, it’s essential that we remain focused on the pedagogical principles that underpin effective teaching and learning. With careful planning and execution, technology can be a powerful ally in our efforts to improve educational outcomes. 

References

  1. Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). “Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4–58. https://pcl.sitehost.iu.edu/rgoldsto/courses/dunloskyimprovinglearning.pdf
  2. Education Endowment Foundation (2021). “Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning.” https://d2tic4wvo1iusb.cloudfront.net/production/eef-guidance-reports/digital/EEF_Digital_Technology_Guidance_Report.pdf?v=1720017015
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Author

  • Mark Anderson

    Mark is a global speaker, EdTech expert, trainer, blogger, author and key note speaker, known as the ICT Evangelist. He has over 20 years of experience in the classroom. Mark is the head of education at NetSupport, an Independent Thinking associate, an MIE Expert and fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. His latest book can be found at edtechplaybook.com.
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