There was a thought provoking article about educational technology in a recent edition of The Economist called ‘Together, technology and teachers can revamp schools’.
The article suggested that up until recently the relationship between technology and education has been tenuous. And that technological advancements, programmes and innovations, which seemed at first to be an exciting leap forward, often became a disappointment in practice. This has mainly been because of professionals’ reservation about using it and lack of necessary skills, as well as scepticism about its benefits.
But new supporters are keen to promote another side of edtech that has remained fairly untapped in terms of what it could provide; its potential to personalise learning and make it more readily accessible to all.
We are still ingrained with the traditional model of education as being associated with teachers, schools, prescriptive curricula and generic testing and anyone trying to initiate alternatives to that familiar approach have tried and failed. It seems everyone wants to stick with what they know, even though it’s continually apparent that many youngsters do not reach their potential within this system, despite the introduction of huge amounts of technology that’s supposed to enhance achievement.
The fault seems to lie in the way edtech is used. And the view parents and educators have of technology’s role.
There is still much deliberation about that. About its role in replacing the need to learn facts for example when you can Google them! Or whether it replaces the need for teachers and tutors when virtual ones are accessible. And whether edtech could exacerbate the educational and financial divide, separating the have-edtech from the have-nots.
But despite these reservations one thing is very clear; where learning, knowledge, and access to higher academic resources were once only accessible via teachers, tutors, institutions and the well off – and everyone remaining dependent on them for provision – edtech has the power to change that, both nationally and globally.
It has the potential to provide opportunities for everyone to learn, for everyone to access knowledge and learning for themselves independently of the control of institutions, and to view the variety of ways in which others learn thereby offering alternative approaches, like for example the more visual than academic based.
And maybe it even has the potential to help people come to realise that schooling in the sense that we know it, along with similar establishments, does not necessarily have the monopoly over learning that it has been traditionally credited with.
This will require a huge mind shift – culture shift in fact – in teachers, parents, educational institutions and the learners themselves. A mind shift especially with regard to the way we view the whole structure, and delivery (and even that may not remain relevant), of education now that everyone has this technological access to learning for themselves. Independently.
And it might even provoke the exciting question; in the light of edtech, what now is the best role for our teachers, schools and learning institutions?
Edtech could not just revamp schools, perhaps it could also revamp our whole concept of learning and education and how we go about it.