Almost as old as the classroom itself, the textbook has provided a means through which one teacher can deliver a standardized set of content to an entire room full of students. When it was created, it enabled teachers to focus more on a student’s grasp of the content, rather than the content itself. It was an innovative solution for the problems that arose when education transitioned from a teacher to student ratio of 1:1, closer to 20:1 or more students to teachers. In the present day, content delivery in the classroom has reached another watershed moment. In justifying the Obama Administration’s commitment to going completely digital within 5 years, American Secretary of Education Anne Duncan, poses this question, “Do we want kids walking around with 50-pound backpacks and every book in those backpacks costing 50, 60, 70 dollars and many of them being out of date? Or, do we want students walking around with a mobile device that has much more content than was even imaginable a couple years ago and can be constantly updated? I think it’s a very simple choice.” As technology brings the classroom into the future, it is poised to put the nail in the coffin for the traditional textbook publishing industry.
The Republic of India is geographically the 7th largest country in the world and the 2nd largest by population. Nearly one third of India’s 1.2 billion people are currently under the age of 14, which means the country has the largest youth population in the world. The immense task of effectively educating this population has become a recently invigorated project of the Indian government, who realizes that a proper education for their citizens will translate to improved economic and social development. Due to government measures, the number of out of school children decreased from over 25 million to just over 8 million between 2003 and 2009. While student enrollment in secondary school still tends to be low, elementary education has an enrollment rate of over 95 percent. Private schools also play a massive role in India’s education system, making up nearly 60% of the nations’ secondary school institutions. “While more modest in rural areas, the recent growth of private schooling in urban areas has been nothing short of massive, raising questions about growing inequality in educational opportunity.”
When it comes to our education system, the concept of reform figures prominently into any current dialogue on the subject. The prevailing sense among those discussing education is that that the modern system is in serious need of an overhaul. However, some of the most marked resistance to recent policy reform has sprung from a somewhat surprising source – teachers themselves. While the resistance coming from teachers seems surprising at first, given that they stand to benefit from an education system that is overall improved, it makes sense as you begin to look at the ways in which reform is being implemented. The overall course of modern policy reform identifies teacher inefficacy as a major contributing factor to the diminished quality of education. “Revamping the makeup of the teaching profession through tweaks such as altering tenure and teacher evaluations has become a policy debate-du-jour, one that has riled many a state house in recent years.” Continue reading
When looking toward the future of education and technology, one of the largest emergent topics for discussion is the integration of technology into the student assessment process. The method by which student knowledge and progress should be assessed is one of the most contentious among educators. What role should assessment play in the educational process? Which method of assessment gives the clearest picture of how well students have comprehended material? How should the assessment process be coordinated to give a clear picture of student understanding while at the same time maintaining a grading process that is logistically feasible? Evaluation of students typically occurs on two levels; the first is the day-to-day evaluation of student comprehension, while the other is the actual examination process. Education technology (edtech) is able to assist educators on both of these distinct levels.
Before the advent of the public education system, student motivation was not a big concern for educators. In order to learn, students actually had to seek out their education in the form of tutoring or apprenticeship. Logically, any student who would take the time and effort to do so already had a great deal of motivation to learn their chosen subject. As modern policy makers introduced compulsory education as well as a predetermined mandatory curriculum, student’s motivation became one of the most critical issues facing modern educators. Whereas before, students chose when and what they learned, the modern education system forces kids to learn about subjects toward which they may have no natural inclination. Continue reading
There is a growing trend of fear and anxiety among educators, regarding the role educational technology will play in the future of their profession. This stems from the perception that technology is being sought out and used to replace teachers altogether, enabling school systems to function entirely without them. In a recent post by popular education blogger Tim Walker, he articulates this view, expressing the fear that the “‘miracle of technology’ [will be used] to cut teachers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class size.” Believing that technology, at its core, is unable to adapt to the individual learning styles of students, underpins his argument that the “benefits new technology may bring would then be overshadowed by the damage done to student learning.” The concern that he, teachers, and the unions that represent them share is the fear that technology will be employed by lawmakers as a cheap way to bring relief to budgetary bottom lines, supplanting human teachers altogether – a real fear for many teachers around the world. This must be addressed by those in the education technology field before it solidifies as the prevailing opinion among teachers about edtech.
In its earliest forms, the endeavor of education was created on unequal terms. Education functionally developed as a means to maintain social class – the upper class education was focused on academics while the lower class education was geared toward the acquisition of skills for a specific trade. Since that time, one of the great narratives of education has been the gradual but progressive turn toward an equal education for all – the ultimate goal being an education system free from the strictures of class distinction. In a battle that is far from over technology has come to play a critical role in modern times. The rise of education technology provides key opportunities for undermining the inequality inherent in the system while at the same time highlighting some of the worst incidences of that inequality. Continue reading
In the mid 1980s, the course of longtime educator Roger Schank’s career changed forever. A professor of computer science and Artificial Intelligence (AI), he radically shifted focus when his own children began their careers as students. His professional work up to that point had been devoted to developing a successful system by which computers could be programed to learn. When his children entered the education system he noticed that, while he was trying to teach computers how to learn, the schools were merely teaching his children how to pass. Schank became increasingly horrified with how little learning actually occurred in these supposedly “educational” environments and devoted the rest of his life to correcting this fundamental problem. The solution, he believes, is learning with computers.
2011 was a big year in the advancement of technology with consequences, intended -or otherwise- impacting the educational sector with ripples quickly becoming waves. The Ipad tablet has transcended being the plaything in bourgeois households of the upper class and are now making their presence -and more importantly utility- in schools a thing of the present with every passing day. Take the Eufala primary school in Alabama, USA as a prime example, where children at the pre-Kindergarten level have access to and learn interactively through Ipads which as Tiffiny Woo notes
“prepare(s) students to (be able to ) navigate (through) a technologically centered society”.
Kindle, like the Ipad has also revolutionized the consumption of books through digital formats, with Amazon.com noting for the first time “in July that the sale of digital books outpaced that of traditional hard copy publishing, selling 143 digital books for every 100 hardback from May through July -the rate reaching 180 e-books for every 100 hardbacks in the last four weeks (of July) alone“.
With January nearly half finished, I thought it was time I contribute my two cents on upcoming trends in education, technology and how their deepening relationship would come to impact classrooms this year. These are trends and stories I’ll be returning to and fleshing out further, but I thought I’d get my ideas out there while they’re still hot!
1. Regulatory regimes to govern the emergence of Virtual Schools.
As the United States moves inches closer to the upcoming 2012 election, expect education reform to make a return of sorts to the national spotlight. Nearly two years ago Florida became the country’s first laboratory for education reform, making 2011 the year for virtual education. Unfortunately, while the fight for education reform is pitting proponents of blended/hybrid education against teachers unions, what is resulting is a greater array of educational tools available to the student. As this market grows, so too is the inexorable march towards a concrete set of regulatory rules for a massive and largely untapped market that’s worth billions.
The Colorado board of Education has already voted on instilling a set of educational regulations, which traditional brick-and-mortar schools currently face. This is but one example of how government regulations are beginning to codify a set of standards for student learning in virtual schools. This is a sign of the times, with necessary rules in place to ensure students receive an education that is comparable in the least, to traditional schools within an industry that has virtually -pardon the pun- exploded.
2- Open Source University Programs
Late last year the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that the university was expanding the array of open source courses it was providing, courses that are free and available for anyone interested in the classes offered- with a certificate of completions provided to any enrolled MIT student who completes a number of courses. This comes on the heels of news that Stanford University has provided similar courses – such as Software as a Service,Computer Science 101, Machine Learning, Cryptography, Natural Language Processing, Human Computer Interaction, Design and Analysis of Algorithms I, and Probabilistic Graphic Models, which are both free and open source.
3- Apple readies their foray into Digital Textbooks
The internet is already abuzz in anticipation of what exactly Apple has in store with news of their upcoming announcement. Early reports “by sites such as Ars Technica hint that Apple will unveil a textbook version of its Garageband music software – a ‘book creation kit’ that will make it easy for publishers, or teachers, to add video, music and images to text.” This may do what Garageband and Pro-Tools did to the production of music- made it accessible to the public. In doing so, Apple is ready to “disrupt” an $8 billion dollar market, one Steve Jobs said was “ripe for digital destruction”. I don’t want to place too much of a weight on Apple’s share of the market, but news of technology that would empower educators, at the expense of traditional publishing, is news that will definitely make waves. We’ll know definitively what Apple is up to when their plans are finally unveiled at the New York Guggenheim on January 18th, 2012.
4- Move to Cloud Computing
In the same vein a Dropbox changed the way information is stored or how SoundCloud forever altered the way music is heard, disseminated and experienced, Cloud Computing is set to alter the educational landscape in a way that is set to bring educators, students and administrators together like never before. The concept of “clouds” is well elaborated on in the YouTube video Cloud Computing Explained with the Shankerblog delving deeper into what this might mean for educational institutions in general. Consolidating the information students need through “clouds” would facilitate students’ ability to learn anywhere, providing students and teachers the ability to interact and collaborate in ways that will enhance learning.
While troubling to some, cloud computing would also contribute to the development of “learning analytics”, qualitative metrics taken from student activity, time spent on work, and student grade outcomes in ways that could help us understand the process of learning in ways we haven’t be able to before. This does present questionable issues, consolidating student information at the expense of student privacy. However, just the possibility of what cloud computing presents is an exciting prospect for researchers of education pedagogy helping further understand how best students learn.
5- Handheld Mobile Devices will Democratize Advances in Education Technology
For those of you who follow MathQuack on Twitter, you know how excited we were for UNESCO’s “Mobile Learning Week” seminar in New York earlier in the year. For nations in the developing world, governments often don’t have the money to invest in infrastructure like telephone lines -let along broadband- that are critical in allowing citizens a means to access the educational tools the internet has helped to disseminate. The UNESCO Mobile Learning Week website has a great collection of the presentations that seminar played host to, giving you a good idea of how much of an impact the use of mobile devices have worldwide; “Mobile Technologies, Education and Socio-Economic Development by Stephane Boyera” in particular.
Stephane Boyera of the World Wide Web Foundation, a participant of the “Mobile Learning Week” notes that in “the mobile is often referred to as the computer of Africa”. This was at the heart of what made Mobile Learning Week so exiting; increased access of learning applications that expand. This isn’t as critical of a medium in learning as it is in the developing world, however attitudes are quickly changing with regard to their utility in the classroom, with many schools becoming increasingly accepting of students who “Bring Their Own Technology” or BYOT. Take the Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City as an example of how school attitudes are changing, making 2012 a year for greater integration of education technology in and out of the classroom.
And so we keep a keen eye to developments on the horizon of 2012, with ones we listed as those we think will be shaking up the industry. Think we left some out? Let us know which developments you’ve got your eye on and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!