Digital Education is Already Here
Schools are in the midst of a digital scramble. In 2016, there were already 20 million students and teachers using Google Classroom and 350,000 education apps in existence. Schools are looking to augment teaching strategies and the classroom environment with technology that is already part of our daily lives. Education remains one of the last industries to avoid experiencing significant digital disruption.
The reality, however, is that digital learning is already happening. In order to stay relevant and deliver the best possible outcome to the greatest number of students, schools should look at what some parents and children have already begun. Teachers are optimally placed to direct that progress.
Technology Being Used By Parents and Children
Deloitte did a series of surveys in 2016 of American teachers, parents and children that have interesting implications if the findings hold true in the UK. 90% of American children are already using digital learning material at home, and 64% started to do so by the age of 5-years-old.
75% of students are interested in learning more about subjects studied in school outside of the classroom. 73% of children say that improved access to digital learning materials would increase the amount of time they spend learning over the summer.
The number one reason parents choose to acquire digital learning materials at home was to develop the skills they believe their children need. This not only highlights the potential of technology to deliver educational outcomes, but the perceived deficiencies in schools.
There exists a gap between the recognised benefit of technology and action. For example, 74% of teachers think technology provides opportunities to learn outside the classroom, but only 33% use technology 3-4 days a week to accomplish this task. Similar numbers are reflected in the identified and actualised ability to let students learn at their own pace and create a customised learning experience.
88% of parents and 84% of teachers are interested in delivering more at-home digital educational content. To make this happen, it is important to build a strong business case in order to secure IT funding. The bulk of doing that is providing a good return on investment (ROI) for devices, software and infrastructure.
Digital Autodidacticism and MOOCs
Online courses truly indicate that technology is going to change education no matter how schools react. These are online learning resources that range from lectures, tutorials, reading lists and review assignments, to fully structured and accredited courses with professional feedback. They vary in credibility and cost but can be engaged on-demand and cover a staggering number of subjects on levels from primary school to postgraduate accessibility.
The most reputable of these are a collection of university-sponsored courses that make up the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) network. These classes are free for students and relatively affordable for adults. Some universities offer credit for particular MOOCs, although the whole range of classes vary in nature and credibility. In 2015, Enrolment in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) surpassed 35 million people. This was a near doubling from the year before. There are now over 4,200 such courses offered by over 500 universities.
There are a number of other online courses available. Some focus more on ad hoc usage, like Khan Academy, or user-driven content like Peer to Peer University (P2PU). Others are paid platforms such as Udemy, Alison and Skillshare. These vary in academic and vocational focus with different levels of accreditation, rigour and feedback.
MOOCs are decentralising the availability of education and enabling a flexible and self-paced learning experience on a customisable range of subjects. This possibility has been around for a while, perhaps starting with the release of Rosetta Stone in 1992, but have continued to grow. Their use in school can help instil a practice of continual self-education throughout life. Teachers, themselves, can use these programmes to further their own digital literacy or learn about new teaching strategies. The classroom opportunities are wide-ranging, but particularly applicable to developing a ‘flipped classroom’.
Summary: Education Has Changed and Teachers are Well Placed to Direct Development
By wide margins, both parents and teachers see other teachers as the most trustworthy source of information about the best types of devices and education learning material for children to use at home. Teachers who are younger and grew up with technology are significantly more likely to view technology as delivering positive educational impacts. 61% of teachers see classroom integration as a key barrier and 87% see funding holding development back.
The UK is a world leader in education technology, ‘EdTech’. The UK has the highest European figures for venture capital and angel investment in the sector. One-quarter of European EdTech firms (approximately 1,200 businesses) are based in the UK. The sector is growing at an average rate of 22% per annum. By 2020, the global EdTech market is expected to be worth nearly £130 billion. London, specifically, is a focal point of this growth. 20% of UK EdTech firms are located within the city. Striking up partnerships is something that some schools are already taking advantage of.
Empowering teachers who are confident with technology to help ensure the proper utilisation of existing resources and guide further investment seems critical to success. In undertaking this journey, schools need to remember 4 things:
1) develop a plan before investing; 2) ensure IT infrastructure is sufficient for requirements; 3) avoid compromising child safety; 4) remain focused on student educational outcomes. Schools should then look for specialist partners to help create the digital school of the future.
Schools are looking to augment teaching strategies and the classroom environment with technology that is already part of our daily lives. Education remains one of the last industries to avoid experiencing significant digital disruption. Interestingly, schools should look at what some parents and children have already begun as digital learning is already happening at home."