Technology is not the answer, learn
Technology is now seen as a basic classroom need in today’s schools, across the globe, and educators are working to incorporate the advanced uses of technology into their teaching practices. What’s more, we are seeing an increased emphasis placed on the potential of technology in achieving The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
For success in the pursuit of this goal it is imperative that educators ascertain how best to implement learning strategies supported by technology, and not simply technology, with relevance to local contexts – whether in disadvantaged areas in the developed world or across the developing world – and that their focus is on what they can do because of technology, rather than on what technology they WANT.
When looking specifically at the developing world, there is little questioning that the blending of technology with education has the potential to enable the learning opportunities of millions. However, a large number of technology initiatives have failed to yield the expected results in rural communities, because the focus has been on providing hardware, without consideration of the local context, or how it benefits the learner. For instance, providing a class of 90 children with 90 laptops benefits no-one in a school which has only a basic, unreliable electricity supply, and teachers who are not digital natives and who have minimal experience and understanding of the technology, let alone of the subject matter.
The focus needs to a dramatic shift. Instead of concentrating on hardware and the technology, emphasis should be placed on how teachers inspire learners by teaching with the tools the audience already uses, and has access too, whilst at the same time developing their own subject knowledge and understanding of the new teaching and learning theories and strategies. We are already seeing developments aimed specifically at aiding and improving the education sector, across Africa and the developing world. Education apps, increasingly focussed on the appropriate regional curricula, and function without the need for Wi-Fi, are helping provide structure and recognised qualifications to classrooms that previously followed basic programmes created by local teachers.
Cloud-based technologies, accessing of resources such as subject matter experts and content, and collaborative tools, open up opportunities for teachers and students alike. With these technologies individuals across neighbourhoods, or the world, are able to create learning partnerships, and collaborative opportunities. Students can connect with other students, peer to peer, sharing different ideas, cultures and experiences. These cloud-based solutions can also bring the world’s best teachers, to students in underprivileged communities and areas of social deprivation around the world, solving the ever growing global teacher shortage.
This use of technology, to a generation of students who are always on, passionate, independent and motivated to grow and collaborate will have a far greater impact and shape the way they learn, than a one-off donation of laptops.
Education of the future will be shaped by teaching with the tools the students already use, and the students should own and control a rich collection of learning moments in and outside of school.