education technology trends
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” These words by John Dewey are an insight to the emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming years in education around the globe.

Teaching students of 

millennial generation requires eminent changes in teaching methodologies & classroom environments rather than being luddites & providing them with facile knowledge.

Focussing on, trends in technology use in education, in developing countries like India, this article is an aggregation of projections from leading forecasters such as Horizon report involving culmination of personal observations & critic reviews.  Following are the various emerging trends of the era along with an analysis of possible roadblocks:

1.   Mobile-Learning: The smartphone world is expanding at a rapid pace. This gives an insight into the developing scope of education via Mobile-Learning. M-learning focuses on the mobility of the learner, interacting with portable technologies, and learning that reflects a focus on how society and its institutions can accommodate and support an increasingly mobile population. Just as cell phones have leapfrogged fixed line technology in the telecommunications industry, mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will soon prove their efficacy as an appropriate classroom device.

If raw statistics are to be believed, 80% of the world’s population now has a mobile of which mere 1.08 Billion, own smart phones, out of which, 91.4 million are from the United States & Indian users are less than 50% of this number. It can be thus inferred that though prevalent, the technology is yet to gain momentum among various sections of the society in developing countries.

2.  Tablet-Computing: Tablets or mini mobile computers have captured imagination of the educators around the world in the recent years. Immensely portable, tablets are already a significant distribution element for magazines and e-books. Generally using a virtual keyboard, it’s a light-weight portable package, supporting wireless internet connection, thus catering to all needs of students & making it a choice of GenNext people.

Tablets are yet to make their mark in developing nations as a study tool owing to its high cost &  non-availability to all sections of the society.

3.  Cloud-Computing: Wonder why venture capitalists invest money into software outsourcing these days? The answer is Cloud Computing. To explain in a simple way, Cloud Computing is like the conception of purchasing a land, building infrastructure and then leasing the flats. While the investor bags in big profits, customers access the benefits in small expenditure. Similarly, students & educators all over globe can reap benefits of the low cost server farms accessible through net which can store huge amounts of data, thereby making the use of expensive storage devices redundant.

What sounds the knell of approaching disaster to this concept is the challenge to provide ubiquitous net connectivity specially when Bandwidth is too expensive & infrastructure not well established.  

4.   Peer to Peer Computing: The global trend today is to focus on OLPC ie. One Laptop Per Child or providing common learning appliances to students to enhance learning environment & enable universal access of technology. The tablet ‘Aakash’, an anticipated low cost computing device, announced by India’s present Human Resource & Development Minister, to compete with OLPC initiative is a live example of this.

Personal Learning devices though seem to provide an exciting & apt methodology, pose the difficulty of availability to all & rely greatly on wireless connections once again.

5.  Personalized & Ubiquitous Learning: Personalized Learning technology allows us to amp up instruction for those who find school most difficult, effectively supports “ the middle”, & challenge & enrich the “RHS of the Bell Curve”. This is believed to be achieved via use of better technology to understand a student’s prior base. Further Ubiquitous Learning basically emphasizes the use of cheap wireless services to provide information anywhere-anytime with the help of Virtual Classrooms & virtual mentors.

Critics believe that shift to more individualised learning will result in instability to adapt socially. Further, many teachers from conservative/traditional sciences, may find it hard to adapt even when technology & other tools are available.

6.   Game-Based Learning: Game-Based-Learning has found consideration in the recent years owing to the realization by the researchers that it is helpful in Cognitive Development. With focus on active player participation, built-in incentives & interaction suggest that educational games attract the interest & attention of learners. Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills.

Gaming is useful but much of achievement would depend on types of games used. Further, concept of game-education is new to developing countries like India & will take its own time to evolve as a full-fledged learning technology. 

7.  Gesture-Based Computing: Gesture Based Devices are a commonplace nowadays. Millions of Mobile users use gestures like Tapping & Swiping to interact with the mobile screen. Some devices react to shaking, rotating, tilting, or moving the device in space. Over the past few years, gaming systems have increasingly incorporated new gesture-based technology. Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii, for example, continue to explore the potential of human movement in gaming. Gesture-based computing is changing the ways that we interact with computers, both physically and mechanically. The technology has greater potential borders apart from gaming. Software that relies not on specific languages, but on natural human movements common to all cultures has a compelling utility in countries such as India, which has 30 native languages with more than a million speakers.

It definitely assists the differently abled or those with special needs, yet its full potential is yet to be realized.

8. Teacher Generated Open Content: This technology focuses on empowering teachers and networks of teachers to both identify and create the learning resources that they find most effective in the classroom. Teachers can edit, add to, or otherwise customize material for their own purposes, using various online tools so that their students receive a tailored copy that exactly suits the style and pace of the course. These resources in many cases complement the official textbook and may, in the years to come, supplant the textbook as the primary learning source for students. Such activities often challenge traditional notions of intellectual property and copyright.

The drawback to this technology is that not all teachers may adopt the methodology which would result in loss of a standardized curriculum.

 9.  Redefinition of Learning Spaces: The traditional ordered classrooms may quickly become a relic of the industrial age as schools around the world are re-thinking the most appropriate learning environments to foster collaborative, cross-disciplinary, students centered learning. Concepts such as abundance of light, colors, circular tables, individual spaces for students and teachers, and smaller open learning spaces for project-based learning are increasingly emphasized. The concept is already in use in well to do colleges & schools. Slowly & gradually this concept is disseminating in India & other developed nations.

10. Smart Portfolio Assessments By Mentors: Tools are increasingly available to students to gather their work together in a kind of online portfolio; whenever they add a tweet, blog post, or photo to any online service, it will appear in their personal portfolio which can be both peer and teacher assessed. This will help teachers to collect & prepare better content & get an insight into student’s personality. Further, role of a teacher as a font of knowledge is transforming to that of an instructional manager who guides students during various difficulties.

This shift is easier said than done. In practice teachers don’t wish to relinquish this role of head in classroom & the success or failure of technology projects in the classroom hinge on the human factor and the willingness of a teacher to step into unchartered territory.

From Smart-Phones & Laptops to social networking & alternative world, individual choices & activities are transforming society irresistibly. But it is very difficult to integrate technology into an operating model of education designed in 19th century. Teachers are the frontline of any ICT investment & so their proper support is desirable. Role of educator is most challenging as many teachers are reluctant; some because of skepticism, some because of fear, some because of inertia & some because of lack of appropriate incentives. Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an after-thought or an event. However, It is important to remember that educational software like textbooks, is only one tool in the learning process. Neither can be a substitute for well trained teachers, leadership & parental involvement.

There are other trends that we expect to see in developing countries in not too distant future, but haven’t included here, as where they exist at all, they are still largely in very embryonic stages.

Let’s wait & watch how these trends pan out in 2012 & beyond!!

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