I had my first class at Polish Public School in 1997. In fourth grade, desperate teacher of Information Technologies tried to teach us how to use Microsoft Word on a chalkboard (a few weeks later the school purchased first four PC’s, thanks to an ad-hoc donation from the city hall). Today, in 2019, my nephew just took his first programming class, at the age of 8. Hopefully, the course will encourage him to spend less time with his smartphone ;)
The tech revolution in education doesn’t seem to wait for schools and universities to welcome digital transformation (although let’s be fair - they do implement digital solutions in learning with a dose of caution).
A rich and broad EdTech landscape contains numerous areas in which leveraging technology fuels the growth and innovations. This prosperous industry attracts VCs - the investments made to learning technology companies in 2018 soared past $16.34 billion. And they will probably skyrocket from this year on.
Under conditions of social isolation, remote classes became a must-have solution not only in the public sector. For companies from education industry that didn’t manage to introduce technology prior to 2020, lockdown turned to be a crash course of digitization. That concerns mostly bricks and mortar schools running a range of different classes - from languages through handcraft to yoga. Some of them due to pandemic switched online using the popular and widely available tools and platforms, others decided to invest in their own custom solutions.
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The Edtech players that had developed their products and gained users before coronavirus outbreak experience the boost of high demand for their services and have to immediately scale their apps to cope with tremendous traffic. But even without these special conditions, digital transformation in education was flourishing as it is rooted in social trends and progressing changes in the way people want and are able to learn.
EdTech driven by lifetime learning?
Scientific research performed by the World Economic Forum points such skills, as complex problem solving, judgment and decision making or negotiations as the most desired of the modern labour market. The assumption is, that the average employee will be using multiple tools during his or her career, switching them frequently. Hence, the ability to adopt new software tools relatively quickly has become very desired, just like soft skills.
Lifetime learning is now the norm. (...) We are witnessing the development of bite-sized learning and micro-degrees, as people are continually learning but may not have time to consume large or longer courses at any one time, so they are looking to take on learning in smaller pieces at a time. A big trend in education now is very short courses and smaller qualifications, such as 40-minute courses which can now give certification, so people can learn exactly what they want to
Weerada Sucharitkul, CEO of FilmDoo
Each one of us will be changing his role and adapting to the new professions several times. This means that our education will not end up at the age of eighteen, nineteen of even thirty; even middle-age professionals will have to gain their skills, take courses and broaden their horizons.
Tools of modern education
Did I mention my nephew? What hasn’t changed in Poland within the last 20 years is the weight of backpacks of primary schools’ students, which ruin their spines with tons of books carried every day. These books need to be printed every 2-3 years as the Ministry of Education is re-editing every issue, which produces costs, wastepaper and causes bad posture in the later years. The ironic fact in this topic is that kids (and a great part of grownups) don’t consider books as the first and most significant source of knowledge.
One of the key things that I believe is going to change in the next years is the ability to teach using content that kids love instead of trying to force them to learn through media and content that are not as engaging. Being able to conquer kids attention in their territories might be a great way to achieve better outcomes. Technology plays an important role in this trend, but teachers and school leaders have also to embrace a new mindset in learning.
Hugo Filipe Ribeiro , Founder and CEO of Magikbee
Fortunately, students are allowed to do their homework on modern devices; laptops, tablets, and sources; Wikipedia, Reddit, Quora and others. At some point, public education worldwide will be forced to introduce digital devices and touch screens as the classic chalkboard and books become obsolete.
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However, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach has more and more advocates among the innovator’s ecosystem.
We see tons of students and also older people signing up every day on the platform because they are both intrigued and excited about the ability to experiment and have direct sound feedback. The same happens in the classroom for the teacher that already moved to the BYOD world. (...) What's really impressive is that they don't change a lot about the taught knowledge but the tech medium used to empower them to teach more and faster for a lower budget. Even if the music isn't seen (yet) as a core discipline in many schools, it drastically improves students cognitive and learning skills.
Pierre Rannou, Flat.io
Flat.io - a platform for composing music online
And the first device which is considered by default to use to gain information and new skills is, of course, a smartphone.
Asking students to put away their phones in the one situation they instinctively associate with learning and intellectual development will only serve to reinforce the idea that those powerful devices are merely good for playing online games, taking pictures, and social media. Therefore, using smartphones in class is not only beneficial to a child’s learning, but it also serves important educational purposes
Joséphine Misson, Wooclap
Let’s play & Learn - gamification
But Digital Transformation in schools and education industry reaches so much further by delivering truly innovative and cutting edge technologies and learning methods. Adapted to conditions in form and rules it brings a new, fresh dimension and also a meaningful improvement in the effectiveness of absorbing knowledge. Let’s take a look at gamification which is mostly associated with techniques of improving the performance of the teams in such fields as IT, sales, or services. To reach the goals, trainers and managers use solutions commonly introduced in the world of gaming; benefits, points, and gratification. Gamification significantly improves recruitment processes, not only by introducing participants into the game and gaining their skills but also verify their natural predispositions for specific tasks. The great values of this method are becoming more and more appreciated by teachers and Edtech industry.
A major challenge teachers face today is the short attention span of the average student. Whether technology played any part in creating that problem or not, it can undoubtedly offer myriad solutions to help teachers deal with it. Today, gamification is not only a very effective way to draw the attention of students and redirect it to the course material, but thanks to the available technology, it is also a very efficient solution. Since students always have their smartphone with them, those devices represent a golden opportunity for them to learn more effectively.
Joséphine Misson, Wooclap
Educators able to implement modern technologies and new approaches to learning are permanent members of nominees in the Global Teacher Prize and guests of TED and TEDx talks all around the world. Just to set an example - Jelmer Evers, Canadian teacher uses methods like gamification to achieve learning that can take place anywhere and anytime. And there is a great spectrum of other technologies and ready-made tools to implement within lessons to turn monotonous few dozen of minutes into an exciting adventure.
Tailor-made lessons - will machine learning help?
One of those technologies which can definitely improve the educational experience is Machine Learning. Scientists and innovators believe that it will help to measure and predict, in which field students are most talented, and suggest them possibly helpful reads and learning materials. Machine Learning will also help teachers measuring pupil’s performance and monitor their progress in learning.
We can research and try approaches regarding interleaving or spacing, so we can measure how they work to consolidate knowledge in our students. AI can provide the perfect homework for teachers that want students to work in the areas they need and that would give teachers more time to prepare great lessons
Daniel de Vega, Founder, and CEO of Smartick
Customized education introducing Machine Learning might not be available for the whole educational system but with the utilization of existing, well-developed apps and software it can provide a powerful tool for both teachers and students.
Machine learning is certainly becoming a key area to innovate EdTech. At the moment, true ‘adaptive learning’ is still very expensive for the mass market, but technology is starting to allow learning to adapt to the exact learning style and level of the student and identify any points they have missed. At FilmDoo, how we apply machine learning to EdTech is we are able to recommend films to language learning students based on their language level and the latest set of vocabulary which they have come across.
Weerada Sucharitkul, CEO of FilmDoo
A major driving force in education has to be with content adaptation to student profile, performance and learning pace. With state of the art technology, this adaptation can be implemented and increases the efficiency of learning substantially. Technology also provides other means, such as content richness and interaction capabilities, real-time feedback, etc. through which the effectiveness of learning also improves. Finally, technology brings the learning opportunity to places where education could not get through traditional means, making learning more accessible and leveling the playing field. This is a change of paradigm that is arriving and will improve education by orders of magnitude
Daniel de Vega, Founder and CEO of Smartick
It has become a must to provide online courses and classes in a way that will be adjustable to the student’s schedules. Unfortunately, many of them might notice difficulties in maintaining self-discipline. That explains the popularity of self-motivating, time scheduling, and daily-habit apps. So if procrastination is your issue, get sure that one of the available solutions is already downloaded on your phone :)
We don’t need no (tech in) education?
We love this Pink Floyd piece but in the case of EdTech, we can only oppose Green Day’s one - “it’s not a question but lesson learned in time” as education industry welcomed technologies “with arms wide open” (what a tuneful ending, isn’t it?). Digital transformation might be a cure for so many problems and it’s just necessary to fill the gap between the educational system and market realities. So the real question is - how long will it take to learn the lesson?
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