Edu Tech: Do we need it?
EDU TECH – In recent years, we have become familiar with the term “disruptive technology” in retail, travel industry, and transportation. Companies like Amazon or Uber are often cited as pioneers in transforming the traditional business models into highly efficient systems, leading into significant cost reduction and bringing down the prices of goods and services.
This brings us to the all important question. What about in education?
In contrast to goods and services providers, technology in education are currently used only as a support, facilitating the same traditional methods used for decades. The technology that we use in schools and universities are mainly e-books or PDFs, electronic attendance tools, or webinars/video conferencing to replace traditional classrooms. Up to this point, we have not come across any breakthrough technology as seen in e-commerce or digital music and film industry. There is a certain obstinance to stay with the old methodologies, hindering new innovations and keeping technology experts on the outermost circle of players in the education business. This is happening everywhere, even in developed countries that have opened their doors to use technology in schools.
What about in developing countries?
Many schools we observed seem determined to ban electronic devices in their premises. Teachers believe that gadgets are distracting students while they are in school, while at home parents are worried that their children do not get a lot of studying done if given access to phones and tablets. Studying is defined as listening to lectures and repeating lessons to commit them to memory. In contrast, we as educators have no problem with buying goods and services, booking a holiday, or ordering a taxi online. We have adapted to this new way of life. Why is it so hard to accept that our children may have a different way to learn?
Our unwillingness to accept technology in education results in inefficiencies. Tuition fees per person are constantly increasing. There is no school or institution who managed to bring down their cost in the past 10 years. This is especially felt by countries who subsidize or fully fund its schools and universities. Compounded by population increase, education system eats into bigger chunks of the nation’s budget without any significant change in the quality of output.
Let’s compare this to other industries that have fully adapted to technology such as transportation, retail, electronic manufacturing, and fashion. These industries managed to bring down the costs and pass the savings to the end customers. This is the goal that we should be working towards in education. Producing skilled workers through education is as essential as providing health care or maintaining national defense. The government and educational institutions should make finding solutions for effective and efficient schooling their primary focus to achieve their overall goals.
So what can we do? What kind of education technology can we immediately use to increase efficiency in schools?
Have you looked up a how-to video on YouTube recently? It could be anything: how to put together a flower arrangement, how to cook a favorite dish, how to fix a car, how to use a software, how to draw, how to care for a plant. Anything. Unconsciously, our way of learning has shifted from private tutoring or reading a reference book to looking up lessons online. Online videos are easy to understand as most of us learn better when someone shows us how. They are readily accessible anytime, anywhere, through any media – phones, tablets, computers, or smart TVs. However, when it comes to a child’s learning, we insist they learn the conventional way. It does not make sense as we have changed our way of learning for ourselves.
How do we use video streaming for education? It’s about producing quality content and making it available to the students. Educational institutions can produce learning modules as taught in class and put them up on platforms such as YouTube so that students can access them from home. This is useful during study or homework time, as they get to repeat the lessons at their own pace. For a more interactive studying, educators can hold a live video broadcast at predetermined times.
Video streaming appeals to students in terms of accessibility and flexibility. It also opens the possibility of making the lessons more engaging through use of animations to help students visualize the materials.
“Are you serious?”, we hear you say. OK, it is a universal issue among parents that their children spend way too much time playing games on their gadgets. According to parental survey by McAfee, children spend on average 2.13 hours per day. The study also found that 62% of gamers interact directly with other players, compounding parental concern about violence, explicit graphics, or drugs. Then again, let’s ask ourselves, what is the essence of games?
Games essentially is a form of media that is similar to visual, sound, or social media. Unlike the other media, game users can directly influence the storyline – solve a puzzle, win a battle, save a kingdom, etc. This interactive media is not only used for entertainment. Pilots learn to operate an aeroplane using flight simulators. Manufacturing simulations are used to train technicians. Doctors use advanced softwares to train themselves in endoscopy. Based on these examples, we conclude that our issue with games is not with the media itself, but with its content. The interactivity feature in this media is hugely advantageous in learning if we know how to use it wisely. It’s a matter of how we use it.
Thanks to the erroneous stance that games are toxic to learning, there are only few edu tech products available on the market. Imagine if educational institutions collaborate with giant game developers such as Fortnite and PubG to make edu games that are effective and entertaining. Not only this is profitable for the game developers, but that is an extra 2.13 hours of study time for the students. And it is fun. We need to change our mindset about gaming and open the possibility of learning through games. There is no shortage of creative developers that are ready to enter this market as soon as they can see demand.
Internship is a common practice in developed countries with significant education budgets. Having learned the basic theories in formal schooling, internship gives students an insight on how to apply them in the real world. It is way more than making coffees and doing data entry. Internships build relationships between future workers and potential employees, revealing more in-depth view of a person more than a CV and a short interview alone. Good companies need to spend considerable resources such as time to find suitable projects and coach the interns, as well as space for workstations.
However, there are more potential employees than what can be met by employers’ capacity. A valuable step that ideally should be experienced by every student becomes competitive. To get a place in an internship program, the student needs to be good already, which defeats the purpose of learning to become a better worker. This is an inefficiency that prevents educational institutions and government in achieving their goals.
We cannot reduce the number of future workers, so the solution is to increase internship capacity of potential employers. A system, be it a website or an app, will help companies to manage their interns more efficiently. With the help of Artificial Intelligence and/or other online communication, potential employers can distribute work, projects, and directions to the interns faster and easier, without having to provide physical workstations. Online internship significantly reduce the cost of work experience and enable companies to manage a greater number of interns at the same time.
Back to the original question, do we need Edu Tech in developing countries?
The answer is a resounding yes. We are living in the era of democracy and we demand security in health care, education, and economy from our government. With population increase, this demand is getting harder and more expensive to fulfill. In education alone, the state budget keeps increasing yearly, namely for teachers, physical school buildings, and other education materials such as books. There is a dire need for a revolutionary way to produce highly skilled future workers, one that is cheaper, faster, more accessible, effective, and efficient. Governments need to lead in voicing this need, opening doors for innovations in education and investing in hardware and infrastructures. Only with this kind of open-mindedness can education be revolutionized the way it did with other industries.
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