Education, meet Technology

  • Posted by: Nidhi Shetty

Like the title says, we are going to dig a little into the beautiful confluence that is Education Technology. But first, let us go back to the basics and understand ‘What is Technology?’

technology

noun | tech·nol·o·gy

The making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function.

Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.

Kevin Kelly (founding executive editor of Wired magazine) in his book ‘What Technology Wants?’ exclaims “Technology is a fabulous exoskeleton that turned man into superman” and truer words couldn’t have been said. So if technology has been such a boon in all other aspects of life for human kind and other species alike, how have we garnered this amazing concept in the field of education? To answer this question, let us first understand what is Educational Technology.

Larry Cuban, (professor at Stanford University) in his book, ‘Teachers and Machines: The classroom uses of technology since 1920’, defines Educational Technology as “any device available to teachers for use in instructing students in a more efficient and stimulating manner than the sole use of the teacher’s voice”.  This ‘device’ has meant different tools and enablers at different points of time in educational history. Which brings us to the Evolution of Educational Technology.

Thomas Edison had a vision about the future of Educational Technology, which was quoted in an interview published in The New York Dramatic Mirror in July 1913:

“Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed inside of ten years.”

Though the evolution in the field of Educational Technology has not been as accelerated as Edison envisioned, we have come a long way from the centuries of using papyrus and cave paintings to slate and chalks. Next came the books, pens and chalkboards. At the turn of the previous century, radio schooling and using films/motion pictures in classrooms, as a medium of learning, became a reality. This was soon followed by introduction of television as a revolutionary tool for learning. Sesame Street, a long-running American children’s television series, is a prime example of instructional education through television. Ford Foundation played a major role in financially backing up this initiative by the founders of Sesame Street. The 1980’s saw the introduction of teacher and student machines on campuses. Today with the initiation of mobile content, interactive boards, online learning and webinars; products and services like the Mobile Learning Institute by Nokia & Pearson, DreamBox Learning, Edu-tainment, the face of Educational Technology has completely revamped.

Now the classroom sizes are getting bigger everyday as the learning readiness of the students gets broader and broader. With the advances in Educational Technology and keeping up with the growing number of impressionable minds, the question to ask ourselves is ‘How much technology is adequate?’.

This question leads us to ponder over how much of the traditional teaching methods should be retained and which parts should be fused with modern Educational Technologies. It is essential that we capitalize on the available technologies and integrate them with every space and sphere of education – into the classrooms and homework – and not just limit it to the supplementary Computer Labs.

While we talk about ‘replacing’ traditional teaching methods with modern tech, we need to understand another crucial aspect of involving technology as an enabler in education: Technology does not replace great teachers, but it can supplement great learning. The general feeling around Educational Technology is that it depersonalizes the learning experience. On the contrary, technology enables teachers to personalize teaching and cross the bridge from being a ‘sage by the stage’ to a ‘guide by the side’. With the help of the right enablers in technology, teachers can now move on from being content masters to learning masters/coaches.

The answer to the debate over traditional teaching methods versus utilizing technology in education brings us to the concept of Blended Learning. The idea of blended learning comes from providing the learner the best of both worlds – teachers and technology. Blended learning involves intelligent adaptive learning techniques with the use of technology. The technology is adaptive as the program learns the learner as the learner learns. Through adaptive techniques, the system defines the learning experience, course path and pace most suitable to the learner’s capabilities.

The learner is, thus, supported in an environment highly personalized in their own unique needs. Blended learning techniques encourages learning through gamification and is evolutionary as it moves away from traditional teachings; it prepares children to think out-of-the-box and brace themselves for jobs and career paths of the future that might not even exist today! Blended teaching methods enable teachers and students alike to progress at own speeds with interactive flash games, simulations and group activities. It provides for collaborative learning thus increasing student-teacher engagement.

With all these amazing advances in Educational Technology it becomes even more imperative in today’s day and age to ensure that along with improvising on education techniques we also make sure that outreach of such technology is wide spread and everyone bears the fruits of this boon. Accessible technology leads to accessible learning, which in turn raises the awareness and intelligence of the community. There is a clear achievement gap owing to the digital divide purely based on the accessibility factors. The proliferation of technology and the way it has made education fun for a certain set is leaving another set behind. We need to rearticulate the supply versus demand in the education space so as to ensure we do not head towards complete educational inequity.

A low cost pervasive technology available to the masses will lead to better learning environment and even better learning achievement. Available and handy technology in classrooms and involvement of easy accessible technology in day-to-day learning will lead to universal connectivity through collaborative learning. Technology opens up a whole new world of possibilities in learning and growing with the times. Let’s consider an analogy of an event in 1825, Louis Braille invented the Braille Printing language of reading for the blind.

This event meant a whole world of content and literature was now accessible for the blind to assimilate independently. Making accessible Educational Technology available to all will make content and teaching non-restrictive to a large mass. By walking on the paths of the likes of Wikipedia and Google, information at the tips of your fingertips, imparting education and learning through accessible technology will lead to the ultimate goal of universal connectivity.

At ET Marlabs, we have partnered with a renowned education solution provider company who are frontrunners in setting examples for imparting education through use of innovative technologies. In helping them reach out to their customers, through a Salesforce implementation that enables their product experts to promote their solutions across the country, we are doing our bit in contributing towards universal connectivity.

Author: Nidhi Shetty

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