Digitalisation has impacted every aspect of modern day life, from communication to finance, but there is one sector that has been largely overlooked – education.
For over a century, learning models have remained the same with educators relaying information and ideas to students who sit and listen (one hopes) and then supplement that with information found in physical textbooks.
Thanks to the rise of mobile technology, that learning module is slowly changing with students now utilising tablets to make their lessons more interactive, at least that’s the idea.
The current problem with this structure is the devices being used. Tablets are primarily meant to be media consumption devices, showing you content instead of asking you to interact with content.
Reimagining the classroom: Closing the gap between school and career
What’s making all of this ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning possible?
It starts with a vision. A willingness to think beyond an education system that was tailor-made for the burgeoning industrial age – a system that thrived on conformity.
Today’s schools – just like their industrial age predecessors – must serve the ultimate purpose of preparing our students for the workforce of the 21st century. And it’s a very different workforce indeed.
According to a recent IDC study, the high-growth/high- salary occupations of the future will require a high level of competence in communication, knowledge integration and presentation (CIP) skills. And many 21st century employers specifically require Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office-related skills.
With work and career paths shifting dramatically in the 21st century – and continuing to evolve – so must the classroom.
“One of the reasons for the improvement in workers fortunes in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution was because schools were built to educate them – a dramatic change at the time. Now those schools themselves need to be changed, to foster the creativity that humans will need to set them apart from computers.”- The Economist, 2014 IDC Study: Top Skills Comparison
New tools, new possibilities
Learning is personal, every student learns in his or her own unique way.
That means that delivering learning needs to be personalised and in an ideal world, it would play out very differently from student to student, from classroom to classroom, from school to school and from country to country. Yet in every case, technology plays a central role.
Not surprisingly, ubiquitous technology is the very foundation of the 21st century classroom.
According to the late Xerox scientist Mark Weiser, who coined the term in the 1980s, ubiquitous technology describes:
“The calm technology that recedes into the background of our lives.”
That always-on technology is both affordable and widely available – and is ushering in a new era of learning. But we have to look beyond the devices and the Internet to see what’s really enabling 21st century learning. In fact, you need to look up to the Cloud.
A Cloud has no ceiling
Cloud computing has virtually eliminated restrictions on where students can work, and how they access resources and information. With tools like Microsoft OneDrive for Business, files and notes can be accessed and shared anytime, from anyplace and from any device.
EduShare by ITWORX Education allows teachers – in fact, entire school programs – to host an e-Learning content repository in the cloud.
The Cloud opens up new opportunities for rural students who are geographically distant from a physical school, or students who simply prefer to learn at home. Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOCs) are attracting students in significant numbers. Platforms like Desire2Learn’s Brightspace place entire courses online, along with discussion forums, course content, quizzes, surveys, calendars and other materials.
While Massive Open Online Courses are primarily the purview of higher education, the trend toward online instruction is impacting students of all ages.
Resources like Khan Academy, for example, provide invaluable help to students who are struggling with Math and Science.
Devices drive change
If the cloud is the playing field of 21st century learning, then devices – especially mobile devices – are the star athletes.
School systems and even entire countries are investing in 1:1 technology, where every student in every classroom has their own device. That device may be a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone. It may be a device the school has purchased, or it may belong to the student (Bring Your Own Device – or BYOD). But whatever form these devices take, they feature powerful software and apps that can be accessed from anywhere.
When devices are portable, traditional classroom boundaries cease to exist – and schools are embracing them in a big way. According to Jonathan Bishop, Head Teacher at Broadclyst Primary School in the UK (Students] might be working on a project at their desks, but then they want to go and conduct some market research…they will take their device with them [to other parts of the school] or outdoors into the forest school or the allotment.
We’ve got a ruggedized device so it’s waterproof and drop-proof, and having the array of different devices that meet the needs of the task makes it really powerful”.
Combining the functionality of laptops with the ease and increased mobility of tablets, today’s powerful 2-in- 1 devices have been a game-changer, even in traditionally high-performing schools.
When one Finnish school realised its students weren’t fully engaged and excited by their lessons, they added these versatile tablets to the mix and quickly saw a sea of change in student attitudes.
Technology may be the foundation of the 21st century classroom, but it’s the work of innovative school leaders and teachers that is truly transforming teaching and learning.
Personalised learning, project-based learning and distance learning are all redefining how students learn and how their progress is assessed.
These trends are also shifting educators’ priorities, and providing new ways for them to engage and inspire their students.
With the global education technology market expected to grow 17% per annum to a whopping US$252 Billion by 2020, isn’t it time that more was invested in local EdTech?