Why Edtech?

With a definition for edtech more clearly established in Part I of Zipprd’s series exploring the impact of technology on learning, we now turn our attention to its effective implementation.

In understanding education technology and its benefits, most important is understanding the need it satisfies.

Generations of marketers have articulated a fundamental question for bringing any product to market: what customer need will this satisfy? Answers are not always obvious, which is why one clever phrasing of this question still helps us understand the exercise, more than 100 years after it was first introduced:

Nobody wants a drill bit. They want the hole it creates.

Educators, like customers in any other industry, look for new products to alleviate challenges. And while those challenges are both many and diverse, they can be grouped more broadly by the following underlying drivers.

Leveraging resources to teach and learn better

Whether in person or through asynchronous digital content platforms, edtech includes the many ways that teachers, parents, and students collaborate with one another and their peers, interact with content, and support one another to make learning more effective.

As the first generation of digital education tools was adopted over the last twenty years, schools have gradually incorporated digital solutions to replace commonplace tasks. Shared documents have replaced the pen and paper. Web searches have replaced the card catalog. Projected videos have replaced film strips.

Unlike the examples above, the next twenty years of digital education tools, when deployed thoughtfully, promise to extend and enhance both teaching and learning. Artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and machine learning are already simplifying tasks by highlighting a clearer path to take toward any learning goal.

Efficiencies are created with shared work spaces while interactivity, and a heightened subject awareness, are generated with models and simulations. As emerging technologies continue to develop, their applications will only increase, and the number of classroom resources to broaden learning will increase.

Greater Focus on Learning

The successful application of education technology incorporates effective teaching practices to support students as they learn more, and better. With the proliferation of platforms that create individual learning plans and provide adaptive instruction as students progress, innovation will increasingly impact learning.

It is not uncommon to read about a more personalized, engaged (and therefore more effective) learning environment for students. Less often extolled is how technology improves the routine tasks that otherwise take weeks of effort over the course of a school year.

With mere keystrokes, teachers can collect tailored formative assessments or provide scaffolding for upcoming readings in ways that didn’t exist just a few years ago. The once laborious jobs of assessing student progress and personalizing a learning path, now are done effortlessly.

Put simply, learning improves when we increase teachers’ capacity for fostering a student-centric approach. And with the right tools in place, it is no longer a herculean effort to work consistently, and effectively, as a teacher-facilitator. 

Ensuring Teachers Do More of What They Do Best

Students get more, and better-quality time from the people who impact their learning most when the mundane tasks draining teachers’ energy and taking up the time in their schedules are done instead with intelligent automation.

Perhaps to the contrary of what we imagine, the future of education will see teachers focused on teaching students, not managing mundane tasks. Our technology will only get smarter. Yet leaving out teachers when discussing how “smart” technology will impact learning outcomes is a mistake. Truly smart school cultures will include not only outstanding teachers but also intelligent automation.

As the technological landscape continues to evolve, we cannot predict exactly how forthcoming changes will affect teaching and learning. By thinking through what purposes are served by technology within the learning process, however, we can also understand the steps necessary to making the best use of the tools we deploy.

Look next week for the third and final installment of our series on education technology’s impact on learning. If you would like more information or have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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