Technology in the Future of Education

Fostering child-centred learning

The future is exciting. The advent of new technology opens up many avenues in education, allowing us to reinvent how content is taught.  

This is a collection of some of these groundbreaking technologies, and how they’re changing education.

A hybrid approach

Perhaps the thing that bothers me most about school is the inefficiency. Physical constraints, such as moving between classes, constant interruptions, large classes, noise levels and having to wait for the whole class drastically slow down progress. I can’t help but thinking that I am wasting a lot of my time. But there is a better way…

Online schooling was absolute bliss for me. Since we got all our work at the beginning of the week, I could finish it all in the first two days, and have time to work on other things (like starting this blog). Sure, I sacrificed some understanding, and yes, this doesn’t work for everyone. But I still believe that a hybrid approach works the best.

What working at home allows for is short sessions of high-intensity deep work. You can sit down, know what you have to do that day, and just get it done. I therefore advocate for this hybrid approach, where actual work and learning is done at home, and in-person schooling is for collaboration and discussion.

This is how I imagine it in our ‘perfect school’: Sound-proofed pods where students go to get their work done. These feed into a central classroom, which students re-enter after finishing. The classroom consists of a round table, with 12 students facing each other. A teacher walks around the periphery, facilitating the discussion.

What do you think? Is this hybrid approach valid? How else could the structure of classrooms be improved? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

An adaptive system

School should be about a child-centred approach. The development of the student is the end of education, rather than only a means to produce capable workers.

If this is to happen, schools must become adaptive and dynamic. Students should not adapt to the education system, rather the system should mould itself to fit the child . Simple stuff really.

Students should not adapt to the education system, rather the system should mould itself to fit the child. Click To Tweet

Already in progressive centers algorithms are being used to tailor the education experience to the individual. These can be used to construct a detailed understanding of the student: learning goals, how they learn, interests and skills as well as gaps in their knowledge. This information is then used to create curriculums that are both challenging and rewarding.

This gets truly exciting with this idea of micro-lessons. These are short 10 minute sessions that focus on a small topic or skill (and can be presented in different mediums). Each lesson includes a list of lessons that should be viewed before, 10 minute content-packed session, an exercise, and recommended lessons to continue to. 

An algorithm (or the student himself) can simply rearrange these lessons to form a new curriculum, tailoring it to the students needs and interests, encouraging a child-centered approach. These lessons would serve to supplement the ‘virtual environments’ discussed later.

A global initiative

Imagine hundreds of organizations working together to build up a bank of such lessons, governed by a central selection body and strict standards. Hundreds of thousands such lessons, freely available to supplement an education, or provide a full one.

Such an initiative could be a truly powerful global force, transcending geographic and socio-economic barriers. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect such a high level of cooperation, but this is how I imagine the future of education.

Rich school, poor school - the great divide persists - The Mail & Guardian

You’re probably tired of hearing about covid, but unfortunately this is relevant here (but I promise to be brief). The virus has shown us the flaws of traditional education, and the fragility of education in developing countries. Covid-19 has only underlined the need for such an education initiative as proposed.

Virtual environments

Technology may greatly diversify the way things are taught. Already this is being done with video games like Minecraft, which has been adapted as a tool for teachers. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) only adds another layer of immersion to the experience, potentially making it more powerful.

How Minecraft Education Edition is helping students worldwide | The  SportsRush

Technology such as this allows teachers to create, or download, virtual environments. Instead of presenting content in a traditional classroom, children will explore these tailored environments, and learn for themselves. It is an education of curiosity.  The role of a teacher becomes to facilitate discussions and provide the necessary stimuli to provoke discovery and learning. They shape the environment to subtly guide the curiosity of the child.  

Such an education fosters the independent thinkers, creatives and innovators we need, and does not impose ideas on children. It prevents the fatal flaw of modern education; teaching children what to think, instead of allowing them to learn how to think.

The fatal flaw of modern education is that we teach students what to think instead of how to think Click To Tweet

The gamification of education

Play is not a break from learning. It is endless, delightful, deep, engaging, practical learning. It’s the doorway into the child’s heart!” ~ Vince Gowmon

A concept being explored by organizations such as Astra Nova (Elon Musk’s school of the future) and Synthesis School is the gamification of education. This involves putting students in virtual situations which mirror the real world (using technology discussed above), and attempting to find solutions.

For example a child, instead of learning accounting in a traditional setting, could be put in charge of a company with a financial crisis. They make decisions, and see how they pan out, without all the risk associated with the real world.

This comes with many learning benefits. Children are more engaged because the content has been related to a real world situation (if you’ve ever seen how absorbed children become in video games you’ll get this). They learn more effectively as the information is embedded in a strong emotional context. In short, children begin to care about their learning, apart from the external drive of being successful.

Play is the highest form of research. ~ Albert Einstein

Another interesting idea is virtual currencies that incentive children to participate in school. The idea is that students are engaged and rewarded by schoolwork to the point where they do it willingly, rather than being forced. It becomes more similar to the playing of a child, than the education of an adult.

This has the (huge) added benefit of creating an insulated economy within the school. As a result students learn about money management and entrepreneurship as they spend and save their currency.

These are interesting ideas, but will they work? Is it possible to get students to love learning on a large scale? I believe so.

Wrapping up

It is fascinating to see how technology is changing education. In the near future we will begin to see more child-centred approaches, where the education system adapts itself, virtual environments allow students to discover things instead of being taught them, and the process is gamified; made more challenging and engaging.

The future is indeed exciting. The scary part is that this ‘future’ is already being realized. These technologies exist, and all that remains is their implementation and distribution. We may be on the cusp of reinvention of traditional education.

‘Technology in the future of education’ is part one of three in a series on Building the ideal education system from scratch’ . The next entry, on What should we teach students’ can be found here . The last entry, on ‘Rethinking how students are taught’ can be found here.

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Brian Scoles
1 year ago

You might be interested in a blog by Alan Jacobs: Snakes and Ladders. Jacobs is my favorite living intellectual; he is an educator who frequently writes about technology and it’s impact, positively and negatively, on society.