7 Key Technologies Transforming EdTech
Education Technology (popularly referred to as EdTech) has come a long way from the simple use of computers to teach mathematics to the sophistication of online submission of homework, online degree platforms, mobile learning applications, use of gamification, and virtual reality techniques.
Started as an experiment in education delivery, the EdTech industry is now being transformed by a whole host of cutting-edge technologies. This piece reviews the seven potential technologies that make learning exciting and customized for learners.
Technologies with Impact Potential for EdTech
1. Enhanced Video and Rich Media Technologies
The digital learning content is all-pervasive, a vital concern that content developers face is how to make sure they produce engaging content. Unlike the traditional textbook, digital content lends itself to much easier distraction and therefore, it is important to embed hooks to keep users engaged.
Rich media technologies help in making digital content hold students’ attention. With the advent of interactive videos which require responses and actions during the learning process, this can be achieved. For further engagement, embedding discussion forums in content with a response mechanism can be useful.
Another area that institutions must look into for making interactive videos useful for their learners is to:-
Add a fully integrated video plug-in to their LMS
Enable video education with course materials and assignments
Power their LMS with advanced video authoring tools
2. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality (VR / AR)
VR/AR technology applications in education could perhaps replace textbooks with interactive educational experiences. For materials such as History, Geography, Social, physical science, this medium could prove to be much more suitable than printed books or even today’s audio-video materials. VR/AR technology enables learners to immerse themselves in foreign places and contexts without having to visit. They could find themselves exploring the ocean beds or lost inside the human body or in a blood cell, a beehive, or plant cell.
Using this technology, students interested in those disciplines that require eye-hand coordination (mechanics, medicine, etc) can carry out the real time experiments necessary for professional application. This is in stark contrast when in the past they needed to wait for a long time. VR/AR applications provide unlimited capacity for a virtual operation theater or automotive workshops for students of these disciplines to practice. It is this ability to share numerous experiences in a ‘real-life’ kind of simulation that makes such applications exciting.
3. Learning Analytics and Machine Learning (ML)
The ability to deploy predictive data analytics gives better accuracy to learning analytics. This can be utilized by Institutions to understand how learning analytics can enable instructors, teachers, and advisors to customize their interventions according to their students’ requirements.
Analytics facilitates to get insight into how students use and interact with different learning tools and content. End-to-end data management integrates purposeful data across EdTech systems and delivers actionable information that drives learning. Also, the advances in ML can improve education in multiples ways, such as:
Content analytics that organizes and optimize content modules
Learning analytics that tracks student knowledge and recommend next steps
Adaptive learning systems
Grading systems that assess and score student responses either automatically or via peer grading
Process intelligence tools with analytics capability to visualize workflows and identifying new applications
4. Growing Power of Mobile Devices
Smartphones are now ubiquitous on most campuses. Thus, mobile devices will impact teaching and learning in several ways. The use of mobile for off-campus work (home, community, study abroad, research, etc.) is now becoming increasingly popular.
The widening gap between the post-mobile Web (designed with handhelds in mind) and the software that typical universities rely on (ERP, LMS, library tools, etc.) can only be closed by the mobile-first design of later to meet the needs of the student population.
The applications of smartphones in classrooms or off-campus can be such as:
Use of Audio Recording Feature: Teachers can make use of the audio recording feature built into most smartphones to provide these personal and yet quality feedback to students. Research shows that students preferred feedback given this way on the work they submitted.
Development of Videos: Instead of making students write a few thousand words essay after researching on a topic, where many would simply ‘copy and paste’ paragraphs without necessarily imbibing the content. Now, teachers may ask students to research and create five minutes or less video or audio recording of what they have researched.
Chat and Online Discussion Forums: Teachers can utilize the group chat features of mobile devices to create an online discussion forum to encourage class participation on content topics, even outside the classroom. Students can chat and discuss a subject while off-campus.
Use of QR Codes: Quick Response codes are another way to use mobile technology in the classroom. Links to further resources, complex diagrams, and images, solutions to tasks could be coded and made available to students.
5. Wearable Technologies (WT)
Many of the innovations and advantages wearable devices can bring to the learning environment are at the nascent stage. It hasn’t reached academic use in large numbers. As the technology becomes more commonplace and early adopters continue to establish and share their best practices with others, student learning in the classroom may become more engaging than it has ever been.
The WT has the potential to engage students; for example, wearables like Google Glass, Go Pro Cameras can enable students to not only create first-person videos but also engage in unique point-of-view experiences.
However, the challenge for teachers and developers is to select specific wearable for curricular and pedagogical purposes. The growing complexity for campus IT is to support an ever-growing number and variety of devices, with their own ecosystem and connection to the world.
6. Internet of Things (IoT)
Information provided by IoT empowers educators to deliver improved education. EdTech companies are using applications of IoT to relieve administrators in mundane tasks so they can focus on their core mission. It provides the opportunity to revisit their strategies, understand students’ perspectives, and other aspects of their performance.
Educational institutions are comprised of various moving parts. The important areas where IoT helps are:
Leveraging the power of IoT to keep track of students by using traceable ID cards /wearable devices to know whether students are in the right areas of campus and what was their last known location.
Automated attendance systems in the classroom by triggering sensors at the entrance of the classroom through embedded chips in ID cards or wearable.
Monitoring the usage of a bus by appropriate students through tracking devices (such as RFID) built into the backpacks of students
Tracking school buses and other permitted vehicles by deploying GPS devices
Visitor/employee management by issuing low-cost wearable like wrist bands to know whether they are in authorized areas or not.
7. Maker-space and 3D Printing
Although the Maker-space began as a part of the DIY (Do It Yourself) trend, it has certainly established a presence among the academic fraternity to promote experiential learning. These are spaces with tools and materials to invent, tinker, and construct. A maker-space mindset allows educators to shift away from ready-made knowledge to a classroom environment to prepare for exploration, creativity, innovation, and collaboration with hands on materials and real world problems.
An area where some EdTech companies are playing a role is to make 3D printing an integral part of such tinkering labs on campuses. Essentially, 3D printing helps learners to translate ideas and designs into reality quickly. Due to its multiple and flexible characteristics, the technology can add value to impart real world application and practical knowledge in numerous areas of study. It promotes creativity, problem-solving, and logical reasoning and develops design thinking capabilities.
Some of the benefits that can be realized are,
Making Learning Interesting
Propagating STEAM Education
Developing spatial cognitive abilities
Developing “Hands-on” skills
Impact of key technologies on various EdTech categories
The recent surge in the EdTech space has spawned many categories, which taken together, form the canvas of EdTech. In this section, we will review the usage of the new technologies by various segments of the EdTech industry.
The future of EdTech would be impacted by the seven key technologies that we previously discussed. Analytics and Machine Learning will make learning algorithmic. This would enable customization and personalization of content for each learner possible. The advent of the Internet of things, Wearable Tech, and the widespread of smartphones will connect multiple sources of learning and academic administrative tasks on the go. Virtual and Augmented Reality along with interactive videos will bring richness in audiovisual effects will enable learners to experience in near real-life terms, various aspects of the learning. For hands-on experience and creative learning, the advent of makerspaces with omnipresent 3D printing devices will be enriching.
The table below presents the impact of these seven key technologies on the categories of EdTech to summarize our understanding.
The future of EdTech will be algorithm-driven. Teachers will not only know how students learn best but various applications of emerging technologies would let students know what they need to study next. This makes the idea of personalized learning even easier. Teachers will become less “givers of knowledge” and more “facilitators of learning.”
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Pic Source: Clow, D(2012).The learning analytics cycle: closing the loop effectively. In Proceedings of the 2nd Int’l conf. on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, New York