Mobile technology is changing the world. Arguably, the introduction of smart devices and app ecosystems represents the major technology revolution of our decade. Likewise, it’s one of the main drivers of the current information revolution that’s changing entire industries and the world itself.
Education, although often slow moving, political and bureaucratic, is undergoing a major change too, and it’s not surprising. The current education system needs to step up, reinvent itself and adapt to the extraordinary technological changes that are occurring. And with all these possibilities, it’s time we redesign the entire system and prepare our children for life in a rapidly evolving world.
That won’t happen overnight, yet here are some of the trends that slowly, but surely, are changing the classroom.
Democratisation of Education
It’s fair to say that thanks to the internet, the entire world’s knowledge is available to ‘anyone anytime’. Even more so with the progress of translation services burning the communication barriers.
Applications and services, like Duolingo, Lynda, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy and others, take all this access to knowledge and make it usable for everyone. That means, schools no longer have to rely on outdated textbooks, but can deliver the best education pretty much in real time. Naturally, this changes the role of the teacher, and likewise, solves a problem of teacher shortages.
The impact is huge, reaching way beyond the borders of individual countries. There are nearly a billion illiterate people in the world, 250 million of which are children. In other words, 250 million minds are going to waste. Technology today, is on the track to empower everyone to learn skills like basic reading, writing and arithmetic.
Gamification of Learning
As every teacher knows, keeping students engaged is an incredible challenge. In the US alone, 1.2 million students fail to graduate high school each year. Students who are not doing well are not lazy or incompetent; rather they’re disengaged and bored.
At the same time, as a planet, we spend three billion hours a week playing digital games. Obviously, games are engaging by design. No other industry understands engagement and even addictiveness better than game industry.
To translate that knowledge into education can be a major game-changer. According to MIT, “Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail, and problem-solving, all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated in school.”
A great example is Duolingo. The language learning app allows teachers to monitor the progress of their class while students can create leaderboards, compete with classmates, win badges and learn in a gamified way. Studies show that learning languages this way can rapidly accelerate the learning process.
Our education system was built on a premise that our brains are static. In reality, our brains are plastic and get developed just like our muscle (see neuroplasticity – every parent should read The Woman Who Changed Her Brain). Asking all students to progress at the same pace can create situations where you try to lift twice as much as your body allows you and never progress in the long term because you’ll never move the weight.
Right now, most technologies that attempt to personalise learning revolve around tailoring or personalising the reading of texts to students of different abilities. But, in the coming future, personalisation will include activities that provide students with a richer and more meaningful educational experience.
Many universities offer both online and offline education to allow students to adjust. This makes sense as we all have different biorhythms, and similar approaches have been proven to work in the corporate world.
When we hear virtual reality (VR), most of us automatically think of games and entertainment. While the roots of VR are rooted in gaming, thanks to technological advances, such as Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, its potential is being realised across multiple industries.
VR is also highly engaging by design. As engagement is the key factor in classroom learning, VR shows a potential to take it to the next level. For example, astronomy students can learn about the solar system and how it works by physically engaging with the objects within.
The potential is limitless. Visualisation students get involved, do things otherwise impossible and see information from a completely new perspective. Instead, of looking at pictures of the brain, imagine traveling through it, seeing how it works.
More importantly, right now we’re entering an era of cheap VR technology, with cheapest headsets costing tens of dollars. If the trend continues, and likely it will, soon it will become widely accessible to education institutions changing the face of classrooms.
Mark McDonald is the Co-CEO and Co-founder at Appster. Appster is the fastest growing app/software development firm in Australia with over 260 employees. Over the last 36 months, it has grown from a two-person startup to offices in San Francisco, Melbourne and Guragon.
In Mark’s own words, “Our mission and vision are simple: ‘Challenge Assumptions. Disrupt the Status Quo. Build Things That Change The World’. Appster was built to execute ideas.
We partner with entrepreneurs and innovative enterprise to build incredible things. We want to be known globally as the execution partner to millions of game-changing entrepreneurs across many technologies. What Henry Ford did to Cars, and Rockefeller did to oil, we want to do for executing disruptive ideas. In other words: Create the world’s first truly global idea company.”