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How Technology Is Revolutionising Adult Learning

25/08/2016 11:11 | Updated 25 August 2016

Co-founder of language learning app, Memrise, and Grandmaster of Memory, Ed Cooke, discusses how technology is completely transforming the way we learn.

Edtech, it's the new tech buzzword, and it's growing - fast. According to a new report by Edtech UK, the global education technology sector was worth £45bn in 2015 and poised to reach £129bn by 2020. There are a lot of UK companies tackling digital education, and more specifically in our case the online language-learning space, and you can see why - technology offers us a completely new way of learning and exploits the brain's capacity in a way that is far more fun and engaging than reading a textbook.

Edtech is moving education out of the classroom and onto our mobile phones, making it accessible to anyone and everyone, and for little or no cost. With companies setting up new apps to help you revise and massive open online courses that allow you to complete an entire university-level course digitally, the possibilities for learning are now endless.

At Memrise, we've embraced technology to combine the best knowledge from the science and practical arts of memory into a language learning system optimised for efficiency and power. As we've developed, we've recognised that the emotional and imaginative elements of learning are as important as the cognitive, helping us to steadily improve the enjoyment, as well as the effectiveness, of the education experience.

Learning through technology offers many other benefits too. Firstly, it allows us to be more productive - we can practice on our commute to work, we can practice from the comfort of our sofa on a Monday evening or we can practice with friends in a study group. It makes the whole process more appealing and a lot more achievable when you give people the chance to learn in a time and way that suits their lifestyle. In a world where we're all overstretched and overscheduled it's crucial to make the process easier for would-be students.

Learning online is also well suited to the way the mind works - memory is generally most effective when we give it a little to do often, while learning in different contexts makes your memory more robust because you don't associate information with any one place in particular.

We've seen an increase in learning being gamified over recent years, which is great for tapping into the power of emotions in memory. A playful approach to learning helps us to remember information more vividly, while of course making the experience more enjoyable. By gamifying education, people become addicted to the process and end up retaining information a lot faster.

In our case, we are currently creating an immersive natural language mode to expose users to native speakers. People like to learn through video as well as directly from native speakers - so we are combining the two, and have a team on tour in Europe as we speak collecting micro-videos of locals using their language in context to compile the world's largest video dictionary.

With smart start-ups creating visual, imaginative and engaging ways of learning - the edtech sector is accelerating quickly and I'm looking forward to watching the traditional methods of learning change as they continue to be challenged and improved upon with new offerings.

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