Technology in Education

On Tuesday this week I was in London at a meetup that I regularly attend called Future Thinking in Digital Marketing. Previous meetups have covered topics from MOOCs and the future of elearning to big data and innovation. This week’s meetup was about ‘The Internet of Things

This week, we have a guest blog from Jez Harley. As a teacher, Jez has been acting as an advisor to Yoyo regarding the developments of Technology within the Education sector. Here, he shares some of that insight. 

As a parent, teacher and former school-goer, I have an understanding that the three words ‘technology in education’ have the explosive potential to invoke volatile chocolate/vanilla style debate amongst the most mild-mannered of us.

People feel compelled to either rubbish the idea or to fight for it’s honour. Why does it inspire this reaction? Or perhaps more importantly, why, in 2015, are we still debating whether technology has a place in education? Of course, it does.

In schools, more ‘academic’ students have traditionally excelled in the ‘read-write’ format that we all know, whilst research shows that a large proportion of students are not being adequately catered for. Technology allows the teacher to provide a learning platform that can easily follow a learner’s depth of understanding rather than compliantly delivering information for a specific test/curriculum that more accurately represents parrot-like dictating skills.

Firstly, the concept of ‘assessment’ is a major feature in education that can now be re-contextualised. The emergence of VLE’s (virtual learning environment) has provided us with the opportunity to track and understand more accurately where the individual is struggling or excelling – this is not an opinion of the school, the student, the parent or the teacher at a 10 minute parents’ evening slot nor is it a subjective, biased view influenced by the nature of the relationship between student and teacher, student and parent or teacher and parent.

It is objective fact.

Firefly Learning, one of Yoyo's educational sector clients, provide a ground -breaking VLE (virtual learning environment) that connects teachers, students and parents to a centralised system. Registers, homework, timetables, lesson plans, schemes of work, past and present marking are all integrated on to one easy-to-use and visible platform that can be accessed 24hrs a day, 365 days a year from anywhere in the world. What’s not to like?

VLE’s reduce the needless and cumbersome (not to mention, distracting) paperwork that teachers are inhibited by, so that both student and teacher can focus on the job in hand – learning at school. Other benefits include: 

1. Energy-sapping staff meetings can be more concise (please!)

2. Parents’ evenings are no longer entirely necessary (PLEASE!)

3. Upsetting miscommunication between school, parent and student will be reduced to a mere dot on the horizon.

Perhaps we can even be rid of the industrial revolution era, factory inspired ‘bell’ that inexpressibly organises children into lines of different age groups and alphabetical orders at certain times during the day? No?

In short, VLE’s enable transparency and fluidity - no more useless shaming and blaming: students hiding behind dog-eaten homework, teachers copy-and-pasting school reports at the end of term and parents avoiding teachers in fear of ‘that conversation’.

The result is a more user-friendly education system where teacher and student can all focus on whether students are learning or not.

Secondly, technology is allowing us to more effectively simulate real-world environments, immersing learners into deep, multi-dimensional ways of learning. For example, Geniverse, a new program created this year by the Concord Consortium, has been developed to help school children understand genetics.

In the game, the students are required to ‘breed’ virtual dragons and give them specific attributes. Teachers can track how each student worked to reach their end result and understand whether the student has used trial-and-error, or whether they possess a grounded understanding in genetics.

Thirdly, a growing concern of parents over the last ten years, perhaps since the ubiquitous nature of undergraduate degrees (and the price of them), has been the lack of real-world experience that students receive during their education – a very real and understandable concern.

The Epistemic Games Group has created many real-world environments ensuring that the learner uses innovative thinking in real situations. The ‘games’ place students in professional roles such as engineer, journalist and a wide range of other professions, and asks them to solve problems in a professional environment - meaning the student who excels, will be the one with high standards, professional values and real-world skills rather than purely ‘academic’ traits.

Universities and schools have traditionally separated IT, Economics, Business Studies, Mathematics and English, when expertise such as account management, communication skills and business understanding are all required to be orchestrated to perform effectively in the real-world.

Technology provides an accessible medium for which linear, text-based schools can be reformed in a powerful, inclusive and cost–effective way. It is about facilitating the user experience so that we can concentrate on deeper concerns.

The future is already here. We are just not using the full potential of the technology because, quite simply, we are scared. This is okay. But let’s face up to facts, unless you are planning on selling your fridge, oven, washing machine, not to mention tablet, mobile phone and laptop, the only way forward is to bravely put one foot in front of the other and see what happens, it might just be an improvement on what we had before. 

Here at Yoyo, technology and education are both subjects close to our hearts. For us, if technology has a chance of breathing new life into an archaic educational system, surely it is worth embracing it. Get in touch to continue the debate.