Education is seemingly one of the major industries that has not yet been exploited by technology. Formal education, to this day, still remains relatively traditional. A teacher stands at the front of the classroom and pupils listen. With technological disruption in so many sectors, education is mainly untouched. There is, however, a drive to get tech gear into schools to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Is there a reason tech hasn’t managed to tangle itself into education or is it taking time to find the correct way of doing it?

Tech in today’s education

Schools take a myriad of different approaches to integrating tech into their systems. Without a doubt, schools need computers, but spending loads of money on new tech seems redundant.

Technology changes so rapidly nowadays that investment in that kind of tech will be outdated in a matter of years, months even. However, investment into infrastructure has far better value. By this I mean high speed internet and strong use of the cloud.

The cloud provides accessibility which is key to learning as well as future proofing a school’s investment. It also makes the flipped classroom concept easier to achieve as students have more control over their learning. This also provides a platform for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Applications such as Google Apps make team work outside of school possible. Collaborative learning could become a global phenomenon – although, if documents were to be collaborated on internationally, the teachers would need to coordinate this perfectly. Deadlines across different time zones could be difficult in a school environment, but these are skills that are relevant in an increasingly more connected world.

If the cloud is in place, you’ll need technology to access it. Many schools are adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). However, students from varying backgrounds will have different types of technology. This could lead to potential bullying, creating an elitist group and identifying less wealthy students in the schools. Mr Schleicher, education director of the OECD, says “one of the most disappointing findings [in the OECD report] is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified.” This seems very contradictory to the concept of school uniform and could create uncomfortable environments for select students.

In juxtaposition to tech in schools, homework is becoming increasingly tech based too. With the cloud in place, students can access content from anywhere as long as they are connected to the internet. Moreover, this could help students improve through independent learning – a skill that is vital in higher education.

The role of the teacher

So independent learning could become a main priority in schools, but where does that leave teachers? It has been long said that teachers should be guides in a student’s learning. Implementing their knowledge where needed and supporting students through their studies as opposed to talking at students lesson after lesson.

However, a teacher can only be effective when teaching with tech if they have had the proper training. If they are uncomfortable with the technology at hand, they won’t be able to deliver an engaging and useful lesson. This could also mean that they are not creating effective content for their students and they themselves may become frustrated.

Another issue is teaching styles. When it comes to creative subjects like art, drama or English, technology could actually hinder education. These subjects are physical and require experimentation and creativity. Communication is key in these lessons, but more importantly, the teacher’s energy is vital.

Here’s an example. Having studied English Literature with a teacher that overflowed with enthusiasm, she got us involved by making us read aloud, spurring on discussions and allowing us to go into a deeper understanding of the literature and its context. We shared ideas in safe environments which allowed us all to excel. Technology would’ve been futile. In fact, she only touched tech because our school encouraged teachers to do so, but its presence added nothing to the class.

A teacher must guide, but no school should throw technology into a classroom where the teacher’s pure skill can rapture a class.

As stated in my example, teachers should be able to provide safe environments for discussion and questions. Being able to take constructive – or not so constructive – criticism face-to-face is a life skill that will help students in the office and in the streets.

Effects on the child

Technology may have its advantages, but it has been proven to have effects on a child’s brain. These include memory related issues, emotional engagement and creativity.

Studies have shown that gaming allows children to pay attention to multiple stimuli, but also leads to being easily distracted and decreased memory. Similarly, the increased use of search engines make a child incredibly good at finding things, but decreases their memory too.

Emotionally, the increased use of technology inhibits a child’s ability to empathise. This is due to less physical contact with other children which also leads to difficulties in developing social skills and emotional reactions.

Technology creates limitations. These limitations have a direct impact on stunting creativity and a child’s imagination. I do believe that some tech can enhance creativity, but as a means of execution and display as opposed to idea generation.

There is also a physical element to this. Although, obesity is primarily linked to a child’s diet, decreased physical activity also adds to the rise in child obesity in the UK.

Unfortunately, increasing tech in schools will create lifestyles in which students are surrounded by technological devices for most of their waking hours. This could directly impact their emotional and social behaviour. In fact, even Sinead McSweeney (Senior Director for Public Policy at Twitter) believes that social media has damaged our way of communication; making people more prone to violence as opposed to defusing situations with words in hostile situations (Women of the World Conference, 2016).

Far afield

There have been arguments stating that implementation of technology in education in remote areas or in developing countries would be beneficial. As previously stated, infrastructure and maintenance is paramount to the success of technology in the classroom. This all comes with costs.

Ultimately, connecting remote schools could help in terms of keeping educational literature – such as text books – up-to-date, thus enhancing their knowledge based on current facts. If the cost of maintenance outweighs that of bringing in printed books, then it may well be worthwhile.

 

So does technology have a place in schools? According to a global study by OECD, the best performing schools are those that use computers moderately – once or twice a week. Those that use it intensely actually get worse results in the Pisa tests (taken in over 70 countries). The top schools for digital skills are in Singapore where the technology is only used moderately.

I think it is safe to say that computers are a must in schools, but preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet make some believe that increased tech use will be beneficial. Schools are investing heavily into technology which seems like a waste of money considering how fast things develop now. I believe that a good education lies in the hands of excellent, engaging teachers that not only guide students through educational hoops, but develop a student’s curiosity to look outside of the tick boxes. This can only be enhanced by good infrastructure, ways of sharing engaging material and optimising workflows.

Entrepreneurs, I think there is an untapped tech industry here. Make sure you truly understand what you’re trying to achieve though.

Any thoughts? Share them below.


All ‘Opinion’ pieces are the opinions of the author, not Quick Formations.