Education Technology

10 ways Educational Technology is changing how we learn

Imagine being handed over two books - one whose yellow papers are filled with long textual paragraphs and another displaying an array of colorful diagrams, interactive side-notes, and fun facts on smooth-feeling pages. Which one would you pick?

Like a well-illustrated book, a scientific calculator, or a slide projector, Educational Technology is a means by which students can learn new concepts in a more fun and engaging way. Think of studying history by standing in a virtual setting of WW2 and watching the events take place as if you were actually there. Or playing Farmville to learn about revenue management. Or participating in a game that uses clues from the curriculum to help you win grades. The possibilities of using technology in education are endless and will invariably transform how students learn and interact with each other in school and beyond.

What is Educational Technology?

Educational Technology is a wide array of tools designed to help educators and students use their time effectively. Consider the most common example - with the use of technology in education, teachers don’t have to spend time writing on blackboards. Instead, they can simply take cues from a PPT while conducting a lecture. This provides a better interactive learning experience and builds a strong bond between teachers and students.

teacher-presenting-to-students-and-interacting-with-them

In North America, data projectors have a more positive impact on in-person educational outcomes than internet-connected computers, laptops, or tablets.

But why limit ourselves to projectors and film-strips? The use of technology in education is drastically evolving, infusing a growing excitement in both educators and students alike. With virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, podcasting, blogging, gamification, game-based learning, and more, teachers can now access multiple tools to help students learn better by engaging with the study material.

But that’s not all Educational Technology is. The field is flanked on both sides by researchers who design and develop it, and the issues surrounding the proper use of this technology, like policy and legal issues, ethical complexities, on-field challenges, and more. When all of this is combined, we can begin to see the pieces that make up Educational Technology, or EdTech.

Why is Educational Technology important?

Technology has drastically changed the way we play, work, and live. It has already started to alter the fabric of how we learn. The latest trends and tools brought about by Educational Technology could not have come at a better time. Here’s why-

Shown below is the brain activity of an MIT student throughout the week, as they slept, watched TV, attended lectures, did lab work, interacted with friends, and worked on assignments.

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A peek into the weekly brain activity of an MIT student.

Notice the brain activity of the student is lower when they attend classes as compared to when they slept.

There is a lot of research and hard data around the positive impact of student engagement on learning from the supporters of interactive teaching. And all of it stands to reason that if used well, technology can pave the way for better understanding a subject. But the benefits of Educational Technology don’t stop there.

Benefits of Educational Technology

According to Education Week, 58% of education professionals now have a more positive opinion of EdTech in response to 2020’s COVID-19 school closures. If you really think about it, Educational Technology was already on the path of large-scale use. COVID has only speeded up what was inevitable. The many benefits of using EdTech stand to support this.

For students-

students-learning-in-class-using-educational-technology

71% of US students claim to use laptops in the classroom.

  1. Increased collaboration. Gamification and game-based learning have transformed how students interact with their classmates. EdTech tools and apps enable them to productively socialize within the classroom, work in collaboration, and help each other grow - all that is necessary for them to thrive outside of school.
  2. Better time management. Educational Technology has made it possible for students to learn from anywhere digitally. They don’t need to be physically present in the classroom and may as well be sitting at home or volunteering abroad while they learn. This makes it much more convenient for them to manage their time and resources more efficiently.
  3. 24x7 support. While teachers can only help students when they’re in the classroom or available to speak, AI teaching assistants can guide students around the clock. This again offers more flexibility to students.
  4. Personalized curriculum. Students are not uniform in their learning abilities. While some have insufficient knowledge, others have above average, or advanced learning skills. As a result, teachers choose to impart average to good teaching to their students. Technology, on the other hand, helps students learn at their own pace. It even learns where they’re likely to struggle and offers necessary aid at the right time. This is the primary reason Educational Technology has been booming at large (well, this, and scalability).
  5. Real-world readiness. Schools, in general, do not prepare students for the real world. Boring classrooms don’t offer them the hands-on experience they need to thrive in their careers. They’re not taught how to socialize, compete in a healthy way, work in a team, or manage their finances. EdTech fills those gaps and makes post-graduate transition much easier for students.

For teachers-

  1. Classroom management. Grabbing and keeping someone’s attention requires immense skill and confidence, especially when that someone is a student. This is even harder when you have to do it day in and day out. Educational technology can help teacher’s tackle this problem with classroom management tools, which can keep kids on task, boost student participation, encourage collaboration, and even monitor noise levels in the classroom!
  2. Going paperless. While edtech allows teachers to not spend time scribbling on the blackboard, it also gives students the opportunity to take digital notes and submit assignments online. This means easy tracking and grading for educators, and perhaps a little less harm to the environment.
  3. Automated tasks. Add AI and ML to the basic Educational Technology, and you can automate tens of tasks that usually claim a lot of a teacher’s time. Like taking attendance, grading papers, and answering commonly asked queries. This gives them time to focus on the more important things.
  4. Student insights. Speaking of ‘more important things,’ Educational Technology not only helps teachers impart knowledge to their students, but also gives them insights into each student’s mind. For example, data analysis of students’ assignments can provide information about how long it took for them to finish the assignment, what they struggled with, and how they got past their hurdles. Using these insights, teachers can schedule one-on-one sessions with students for personalized lessons.
  5. Better time management. With the time-consuming tasks automated and student insights in hand, better time management comes as an obvious benefit of Educational Technology. It helps teachers better plan and manage their time for the benefit of their students and the university.

Types of Educational Technology

According to Dr. Lathan, the Academic Director of Master of Education at an American university, Educational Technology can be divided into two distinct categories-

Tools and media

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Gamification alone can improve outcomes by 45.45%, and 60.67% when combined with reading.

The tools and media aspect of edtech cover different technologies and how they can be used for the benefit of both students and educators. Quoting Chris Meylan, ‘We can put play in three different categories.’

  1. Simulations - On desktop, AR, VR, etc.
  2. Gamification - Reward-based games involving quizzes, finding the right match, filling blanks, etc.
  3. Game-based learning - Farmville, Catan, Scrabble, etc.

Theory and practice

As said before, Educational Technology is a means to an end - creating more effective learning experiences for students. The theory and practice sides of the edtech coin focus more on establishing systems and structures that can help improve the outcomes of implementing Educational Technology in the classroom. These include-

  1. Policy issues
  2. Legal and ethical issues
  3. Profitability
  4. Impact, etc.

Albeit they stand outside the core technological arena, theory and practice play a significant role in solving the challenges edtech is facing today and finding the right way to use technology in education.

Challenges that come with Educational Technology

For years, education leaders have been aware of the negative implications of using technology in the classroom. They mostly root from these four concerns-

  1. Privacy. Students need to be made aware of how institutions are collecting and sharing data around their lives and preferences, and using it to make decisions about their education. To get through this, we need to have policies in place that ensure their data is being used transparently and ethically.
  2. Bias. It’s necessary to make sure the data used to make decisions for one group does not translate to a standard model that gets used for another, seemingly similar group. Keeping bias out of our machine learning models is difficult, but imperative.
  3. Lack of technical skills. In 2020, 9 out of 10 teachers reported told EdWeek that they spent more time troubleshooting technology in response to the COVID-19 school closures. Although this is a positive step, teachers and staff wouldn’t have found it this difficult to use technology if they had the required knowledge in advance.
  4. Access. Another noticeable challenge that institutions and organizations have been facing is equitable access to Educational Technology.

As education leaders from around the world collaborate to solve these problems, it’s important to remember that all the crises humanity has ever faced have helped us evolve. We need only worry about the direction we’re going in.

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