Technology's Role in the Education Revolution

Education needs to be revolutionised. But we haven't got long to make that revolution happen before we start to harm the prospects of young people everywhere.
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Education needs to be revolutionised. But we haven't got long to make that revolution happen before we start to harm the prospects of young people everywhere.

There, I said it. Education is a thorny subject and I know there are daily battles taking place on the future of it: funding; curriculum; teacher pay; academic versus vocational and so on. Let me set my stall out now - I have strong views on how technology can shape the way we learn and how it opens up the opportunity to inspire young people, even those who don't thrive in the system today.

The fact is that technology is changing our lives at hyperspeed and education is falling light years behind. It has the potential to support hard working teachers and make their lessons exciting, fun and more effective. It has the potential to hyper-accelerate learning for the most gifted students and give hard-to-reach students skin in the game by creating learning tools that engage young minds.

Imagine a group of school kids in London taking their history lesson on a bus wearing Google Glass. They're learning in real time about the history of landmarks, buildings and famous people. At the same time, there's a group of kids in Rome doing the same and they're chatting to the London group in both English and Italian about the relationships between what they see in both countries. This 'lesson' would be structured as a game, making it fun, and bringing together history and languages.

It sounds crazy but we are not very far away from this being a reality, at least in technology terms. Most people learn more through stories and experience rather than knowledge transfer - technology enables kids to find their own information and teachers become facilitators and guides to shape and enhance the learning experience. Technology can harness the physical world and human nature to make learning more personal and, therefore, more effective.

The old model of knowledge transfer via a narrow curriculum from teacher to student is well and truly broken. Kids have access to billions of resources on any given topic. Older may be wiser but not necessarily more knowledgeable and this means education is the in the middle of being turned upside down.

If you buy that technology has the ability to change education, you need to understand the exponential drivers of technology to piece together what education 2.0 may look like.

Processing power doubles every 12 to 18 months so stuff gets easier to make, meaning there will be more platforms and tools available to young people to make their own games, apps and platforms related to learning topics.

The 'Lego brick internet' means that you can remix the rapidly growing number of web platforms. In a music lesson you might use Popcorn Maker to remix YouTube videos with your interest graph from Xen and sound samples from Soundcloud to create music personal to you.

The 'internet of things' means that the number of network-enabled devices is growing each month. You could imagine the social sciences using wearable tech devices like arduinos linked to an online tracking system to measure behavioural patterns around a piece of art work, for example.

The explosion of real-time data from consumers, government and companies means that students can learn about statistics, maths and social trends, to name just a few, real-time.

Finally, there is an ongoing eruption of content created every second. The internet means that you can keep up with events as they happen. Students can publish their work and get an immediate response from a global community.

Just taking these five drivers you can imagine education being more personalised, based on using these devices and in an environment that changes around you.

This is why there has been an explosion of EdTech start-ups. There's online learning (although those who simply publish recorded lectures are missing the point), gamified learning on devices, and formal learning with a face-to-face curriculum. Informal learning channels, such as code and hack clubs, are gaining in momentum as they take learning outside the classroom format into a structured and peer influenced "club" for learning.

It's those organisations that focus on problem solving around tech and using tech for a purpose - and not tech for tech's sake - that will grow and have real impact.

Educational campuses will be at the centre of learning of the future. People will come together to socialise, create learning clusters and communities that learn together.

You can imagine a world of widely distributed campuses - picture the educational equivalent of NCT groups or Weightwatchers - where socialisation and inspiration is paramount and finding people who are only one step away from you to pull you along is crucial.

The question is, who is ready to seize this exciting opportunity and help young people learn faster and inspire those who currently don't do well in the education system?


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