From ancient gurukuls to blackboards to Virtual Reality headsets, the way education has been imparted has transformed drastically over the last few decades. Globalization and Technology advances over the last decade have significantly altered the landscape of the education sector. The growth in the edtech sector is most pronounced in the entire Asia-Pacific region which is predicted to become 54% of the global edtech market by 2020. The potential of education technology is the biggest in Asia due to the sheer number of students enrolled in schools across Asia (600 million in K-12 schools) and the premium that Asian culture places on education. The number of startups investing in the edtech sector and technology releases by players like Microsoft , Google have given the necessary boost for educators to look towards technology to impart education for the future. Technology adoption will be the key differentiator to develop future ready generation and the earlier educational institutions adopt this view, they will reap the rewards sooner. Across the globe, some key disruptive technology trends which are impacting education are:
Artificial Intelligence has penetrated every aspect of life now and education sector has been equally impacted by it. AI and Machine Learning together can create powerful applications that will prepare students and teachers for 21st century curriculum. The ability to be inclusive and make education approachable to students of all abilities make it one of the most impactful technology trend in the field of education. Some areas where AI applications can be seen across the globe are:
Personalizing learning: Based on a student's learning, AI and ML algorithms are able to understand and customize needs of a student and provide appropriate learning resources. This helps set a learning pathway and ensue each child is able to deep learn a concept and be on par with the rest of the class. For students struggling with a concept, it can help the teachers provide intervention and guide the student well. Technology platforms like EdSense provide AI assisted recommendations to personalize learning pathways and perform comprehensive profiling of students and teachers.
AI Driven Assessment: Artificial intelligence-based assessment provides constant feedback to teachers, students and parents about how the student learns, the support they need and the progress they are making towards their learning goals.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Learning is the focus area in schools these days and programs which motivate and encourage students to perform project-based activities to deep learn a concept are mushrooming everywhere. Programs like YouCode which run in India's rural areas, teach AI to school children of classes 6 to 8. A full suite solution like EdSense seamlessly combines project based learning with robotics, math lab, soft skills lab, AR/VR Lab, programming, design thinking tools and proper maintenance support.
This is an educational approach which enhance learning outcome by using video game design, game elements and interactive features in learning environments. It increases the human engagement and makes learning more fun. It is a reward-based system where a students earns a badge or a sticker for every school activity that they do correctly. Minecraft, Mathletics are some of the popular gamification apps that are in use across many schools.
Immersive Experiential Learning
Mixed Reality tools like Microsoft's HoloLens, Google Expedition and Windows 10's mixed reality viewer blur the lines between real and virtual worlds and provide experiential learning to students sitting in the classroom. Many mobile educational AR apps are being developed which is especially useful in a country like India which has around 29 million smart phone users already. Apps like Google Expedition takes the user on a virtual tour across the world and provides multi disciplinary learning to students.
The blockchain technology is new in the space of education sector but will soon become a key technology aspect especially in terms of digitally storing certificates and diplomas and personal data of applicants. The Indian government is pushing for this through Niti Aayog's project IndiaChain.
With the world working towards being more inclusive, schools are investing on assistive technology to provide learning that is accessible to all students like those with learning disability or physical impairment. Companies like Microsoft are developing apps like Seeing AI ( to help visually impaired learn), real-time translators , alternative keyboards and others. For children with Autism , speech assistive apps like Avaz help to alleviate behavioral issues and interact better with the world.
The Road Ahead...
In the context of Indian educational sector, there are myriad challenges that need to be addressed before the above disruptive technologies can really be integrated into 21st century curriculum:
Inadequate Infrastructure: In countries like India, Internet penetration, access to 5G speeds, cost-effective Mixed Reality devices and improving the access to smartphones will need to be addressed by governments and education community before the potential of technology can be realized.
Government policies: Though the newer government policies on digitizing education are encouraging, it is necessary that the plans for "Digital India" don't just remain on paper , but are implemented well. In this process, the support from non government groups and educational sector are equally crucial.
Resistance to change: It is tough to change thought process of teachers, students and parents to use newer forms of learning like blended learning or new technology like AR devices. There is a rigid notion in India that scores are the ultimate way to classify the intelligence of a child and tuitions and traditional practices are the only way to achieve that. Schools will need to emphasize on the benefits of focusing on learning outcomes rather than standardized test scores only.
Need for Integrated solution: The digitalization in the education sector is fragmented and predominantly limited to Supplemental interactive content, ERPs, GPS tracking, MOOCs or smart class boards. An integrated end to end platform like EdSense could provide a one stop solution which blends latest technology together with the curriculum needs of an academic institution.
Continuing Teacher education: The continuing education of teacher to keep abreast with latest technological advances will be crucial for success of educational institutions. Student learning outcomes are a direct function of a teacher's knowledge of a subject and their teaching as well as technical capability. Building an effective support systems for teachers should be a key aspect of the 21st century curriculum.
Keeping pace with technology and yet achieve the best learning outcome for students remain the main goal that the EdTech sector is working for. If we can overcome the challenges and find a cost effective and efficient way to integrate technology with the curriculum, we will be able to tap into the immense potential that the EdTech sector promises and build a productive, creative and employable generation.