Is edtech functioning as it should in the classroom?

March 22, 2019


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A new generation always gravitates towards technology. Remember when we used to wait for computer class, just to get to tap a few keys while sharing a device with three other students?

Technology in education has come a long way from then, with third and fourth graders submitting their homework via email, or taking online tests.

Over the years, education became serious about its partnership with tech, dead serious, in fact; and with reason. It is wise to prepare students for a world that cannot function without the internet anymore.

Read More: EdTech: Should tech really teach our kids?

School and college students already have access to some form of technology in the form of smartphones and laptops. Still, they can learn how to put these to good use.

Is edtech really working?

Is it enough to just invent technology and infuse it into an existing educational system? Is edtech really working?

The motive of big organizations like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are market share. In 2017, Frost & Sullivan said that the educational market made $17.7 billion in revenue for technology vendors; 83% of that went to Google, Microsoft, and Apple.

Read More: How EdTech Innovation from Tech Giants Could Make a Real Change In the European Refugee Crisis

Apple has products like iPad, Classroom, Schoolwork, and Pencil. Google has Chromebooks, Google Classroom, and G Suite for Education. Microsoft has Sway, an application for interactive class materials and sharing, OneNote, for note taking, and Minecraft.

“Tools merely offer potential, the hard work of implementation and teaching still needs to be done”

Are we just starry eyed consumers handing over our students to addictive products of these influential organizations?

Also, is edtech another way of imposing the will of parents on their children’s education? While on one hand, we limit the use of smartphones and tablets, on the other, we encourage them to use the same devices for education? Is edtech then just another way for parents to feel better about themselves by exposing children to what is trendy?

Is it also a way of subjecting teachers to stress out about upping their game as educators? They must constantly upgrade to new technology as and when it keeps flooding the market?

As Mike Silagadze, the founder and CEO of Top Hat Monocle, said in a Beta News post six year back, “Tablets are not an end in themselves. Good pedagogy is hard and doesn’t just happen by accident. It doesn’t automatically improve with better tools. Tools merely offer potential, the hard work of implementation and teaching still needs to be done.”

The survey by The Edtech World also found that the most persistent challenges faced by the edtech industry in 2018, apart from funding, were, teachers finding the technology too baffling. It also revealed that user experience of many edtech solutions were not engaging and that the pedagogy aspect of some products were weak.

There are questions that we must seek answers to before blindly exposing students to edtech.

Is it really cost effective?

Schools are not only buying hardware equipment like tablets and laptops, but also the software that goes into them. Effective training of teachers also hikes the budget, which is essential if the edtech system has to succeed.

Do governments understand what they are implementing?

The US is at the forefront of edtech, with teachers, students, and parents successfully integrating technology into their educational systems. The UK too is ramping up its edtech game. Last year, Japan distributed electronic blackboards and tablets to public institutions, including elementary and junior high schools, in an attempt to introduce effective use of IT and AI in the field of education.

However, are we sure that our governments are in sync with what they are implementing with such gusto? Are they considering the pedagogical practices associated to produce learning before introducing a software?

Does the use of technology leave some students behind?

Students might have equal access to technology in a classroom, but we cannot ensure they have equal access after they go home. Many homes lack internet access in several countries. One solution to this problem can be providing free Wi-Fi to students after school hours or relying on offline solutions. Still, in developing countries like India, edtech is only available to students in private institutions.

Does it make ‘cheating’ worse?

While academic dishonesty has always been around, edtech could be encouraging it. Instead of whispering answers or writing formulas on their sleeves, K-12 students now just check it up on their smartphones. The ethics of such behavior is not entirely clear either.

Is it making things too easy?

While it’s good to facilitate learning, edtech should not be handing things on a platter to students. They must learn to research on their own and know how to find out things from a mass of scattered information, which might not always be available on the internet.

They must also learn to create their own answers and not just curate from what is already available. Encouraging students to gather information from the real world and form original content should accompany edtech assignments.

Introspecting the methods of change

We have been whining about the stagnant education system for ages. Now, when we finally have governments and organizations taking notice, we are finding fault with it. However, the intent of this article is not to criticize this much needed change. Instead, it just wants to introspect on our methods of change, so that we don’t overlook any mistakes; mistakes that can be irreversible for some.

After all, edtech is about building students, the future inventors, work force, and artists of the world. The idea is not to make life easier for students, just better.

What is edtech?

Edtech or education technology is making use of technology to facilitate learning among students. It is an educational design that ties up with the social reach of the internet as well as other aspects of technology, such as AI, AR, and data analysis, to deliver learning that is personalized and current.

By breaking the old system of education, edtech has the ability to increase efficiency, while bringing down costs. As long as we don’t lose sight of the objective, ‘facilitate learning among students’, we should we fine. So, are we on track?

Pros of edtech

Edtech is profitable for businesses. We can infer this from the fact that tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, have been pouring investments into this industry for years. While they do get to secure their futures with more tech-addicted individuals, they do get credit for trying to bring change to an industry that could have benefited from technology sooner.

There are definitely benefits from this long awaited change to our education system. Following are some pros:

Improved communication

Tech is bringing the whole world closer; surely it can bring students, teachers, as well as parents, closer too. This should result in clarity among students about what is expected of them and higher awareness among teachers and parents regarding the needs of the student.

Beyond school support

Tech enables students to take the classroom with them even after school. Accessing documents and materials, asking questions and doubts via learning platforms or mobile apps can benefit students, especially those located in rural areas.

Making content engaging

Tech is always attractive for students. Gamification, VR, AR, etc. can spice up lessons that are traditionally considered boring, making any kind of content more engaging. Imagine a history lesson conducted through VR.

Personalized learning

Teachers can gauge the calibre of each student and customize their approach with them effortlessly with the help of educational software. This can help bring students struggling with lessons at par with others.

Lessening the carbon footprint

Edtech leads to lesser use of paper, printouts, at times, even textbooks. This is a big argument in favor because of lesser deforestation and waste management.

Popular edtech software solutions

Use of computers in education can be traced to the mid-1960s, when Stanford University psychology professors Patrick Suppes and Richard C. Atkinson used Teletypes to teach arithmetic and spelling to elementary school students in the Palo Alto Unified School District in California. This eventually led to teachers having to learn how to handle technology during the 80s and 90s.

Teachers are using various software tools to make their tasks easier, which are revolutionizing classrooms. Let’s look at the most prevalent software solutions in use today.

Student Information System (SIS)

Also known as a student management system (SMS), student record system (SRS), or a student information management system (SIMS), this software helps oversee various tasks such as, student inquiries, admissions, enrolments, attendances and absences, grading, assessment, and evaluation. Popular examples of SIS solutions are Banner by Ellucian and PowerSchool.

Learning Management System (LMS)

An LMS can be referred to as a central platform that faculty members can create to keep class materials, which students can access. Blackboard Learn, Google Classroom, and Canvas are popular LMS solutions.

Classroom Management Software (CMS)

CMSs aim to better in-class experiences for students while aiding teachers to monitor student progress through means other than grades. Prevalent CMSs in the market are Kahoot, ClassDojo, and McGraw-Hill Connect.

According to a survey done by The Edtech World, the hottest edtech trends to be expected in 2019 are Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), MOOC (massive open online course), and offline solutions.


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