Change almost always breeds fear and fear is almost always caused by ignorance and misinformation.
Take AI for example. Artificial intelligence has long been associated with talking robots and notions of a supernatural force that will end up replacing the human workforce. The reality is not even close to that as AI is a powerful tool that works in conjunction with human intelligence, not against it, enhancing the capabilities of the workforce, not replacing it.
The same paradigm applies to educational technology. Since the introduction of tech in the education space, the fear of change has brought about loads of crazy scenarios and assumptions. Classrooms and teachers would become obsolete and microchips would be installed in people’s minds to “download” knowledge.
Putting aside the sci-fi craziness, edtech works under the same principles as AI: a new breed of technology that aims to supplement, enhance, elevate and develop the current educational environment.
Edtech covers a wide range of applications and use cases. From online tools and software, to augmented and virtual reality, both the spectrum and potential are endless. Today, we’ll have a look at some of the predominant educational technology trends, what they mean for the space and what is their projected route.
We are well aware that AI is starting to become that annoying friend that keeps popping up everywhere you go but there’s a very good reason for that. Artificial intelligence, especially machine learning, are so uniquely engineered that have the ability to significantly influence any and every sector that employs tech in some fashion.
Edtech is not immune to the charm of AI. On the contrary, the educational space has a lot to gain from artificial intelligence as the technology can gear the next ed generation towards a more personalized and streamlined offering.
Let’s start with the simple admin tasks that take away time and effort from teachers. Grading and correcting homework can be taken on by AI algorithms, allowing teachers to allocate their time in more valuable undertakings. Just think of substituting long hours grading tests with one-on-one time between teacher-student or allowing more time coming up with more interesting subjects and tasks.
This might just be the most important and interesting development. The traditional classroom setting has always adopted a “one-size-fits-all” process allowing little to no room for individuality. One teacher, more than one student and an expectation for knowledge to be transferred and instilled in people’s minds.
The obvious problem with this approach is that not all people learn at the same pace and using the same medium. Some people respond better to video content, colours and movement, others are great listeners whilst a different demographic absorb information when they read it. How can a teacher accommodate all these different learning styles? By leveraging and harnessing the power of AI.
Machine learning has the ability to firstly digitise and secondly personalise content for students. What happens when a student interacts with an AI algorithm is that the information they provide is stored and compared with a pool of preloaded datasets to identify similarities, differences and patterns.
Companies like Content Technologies, Netex and Carnegie Learning are already putting these ideas to the test by developing digital platforms that use AI to provide learning, testing and feedback to students. AI’s ability to manipulate large data sets in short periods of time and provide reports, predictive analytics, and visualizations can take the learning experience to a different level.
Each student will essentially have their own individual profile with results, performance, interaction with subjects and study habits. What all of this achieves is not replace the teacher, but rather help them create a roadmap with very specific checkpoints and milestones on how to approach the learning curve of each student.
Educators are now better positioned to attack the learning deficiencies of each student instead of spending weeks trying to identify them.
Creating a judgment-free environment
One of the biggest hurdles in the learning process is the fear of failing. Students with a diminished sense of confidence can often find themselves being tentative or even scared to express themselves in a classroom environment.
Being asked a question in front of a class creates a scenario of pressure and the fear of giving the wrong answer can hold students back from speaking their mind. Implementing AI creates the perfect format to combat this situation. Artificial intelligence can offer a more private learning experience where the trial-and-error process won’t be as intimidating. The student will be able to “fail” in their own privacy, learn from their mistakes and move forward with more confidence.
Educators have been trying to gamify education since the beginning of time. Whether that’d be by using props, music, or role-play, making the learning process fun and game-like is not really a novel idea.
What tech has managed to do is take this idea and elevate it to new heights. Apps and on-screen games are the most common ways in which gamification has entered the classroom. Millenials are so used to using these avenues in their spare time for entertainment that making them part of the educational cycle is seamless.
The core principle of gamification rests on the idea of aligning the objective of the student (points, rewards, medals) with the objective of the teacher (curriculum).
Apart from the obvious element of fun, gamification brings a lot more to the table. Real-time feedback is one of the strongest gamification points. It increases engagement and adrenaline levels. Partakers don’t need to complete an entire test and wait whole weeks for results. The feedback is immediate, giving them food for thought and the incentive they need to keep on going.
A Promethean report on “The State of Technology in Education” recorded that “almost all educators (94%) now recognise that edtech can improve engagement levels and the majority (72%) think that behaviour could be improved with technology.”
The next major benefit is progress tracking. Through a gamified learning experience, the user can track their own progress and assessment of their performance, gaining a feeling of command and authority. Playing a game gives you a sense of purpose, a feeling of steady progress with a visible finishing line and reward. Traditional studying is more abstract, a scenario where your responsibility and duty to study overpower any feelings of achievement for fulfilling the task.
A very interesting and insightful report by the World Government Summit reports that one of the most important benefits of gamification is freedom. The report categorizes freedom in 4 parts:
- Freedom to explore
- Freedom to fail
- Freedom of effort
- Freedom to assume different identities
These notions expand the role of the student and untie them from the restrictive classroom chair. Digital games open doors to alternate ways of learning that are aligned to the lifestyle and habits of our times.
The “virtual classroom” has been around for a long time but the more edtech gets engraved into the educational system, the more it will become its own separate entity. Providing high-end remote learning opportunities has become an essential offering for many institutions and its evolution is reaching impressive heights.
Video conferencing, live and recorded webinars, 5G networks and digital libraries are all tools that create a sustainable remote learning environment. Just think of the multitude of applications and use cases that remote learning can fulfill in 2019.
People in rural and secluded areas. People with part-time jobs. People with children. People with health issues. The examples are endless.
Remote learning offers these people with the opportunity to enroll, learn and acquire a qualification from an educational institution without the need for their physical presence. Just contemplate on the time and money you need to invest in order to physically attend classes at any level. It’s a commitment and an investment not all people are capable of.
That shouldn’t be a barrier to entry. Education should be made accessible in spite of location, or life circumstance. Edtech, and more specifically remote learning, gives everyone the gift of choice.