Education reimagined: The current future of the classroom

Charlie Harrington

Charlie Harrington is Director of Business Development at Knewton and Co-Head of the Knewton London Office. Knewton personalizes digital courses for students so every student is engaged and no student slips through the cracks. Charlie is responsible for Knewton's international expansion throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), developing partnerships with leading publishers, universities, startups, and governments. Previously, Charlie worked at Morgan Stanley, providing corporate finance coverage for global transportation companies and infrastructure public-private-partnerships. Charlie holds a BA from Georgetown University.

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Edtech is a truly exciting place, giving brilliant opportunities to teachers and pupils both. Charlie Harrington, Co-head of Knewton’s London office, examines how technology is fundamentally changing the way we learn

While we might not be able to teleport yet, technology has touched almost every part of our lives – from the way we shop, communicate with loved ones, listen to music, search for information, and more. Now technology is making waves in the education sector. Since January, edtech start-ups have raised more than half a billion dollars to fund the “next generation of education”.

What exactly will edtech’s impact be? How will we see education change, and what will new innovations mean for teachers and their pupils?

Right now, classrooms are making a historical shift from print to digital learning materials. The shift will enable greater access to materials for students around the world. But edtech is more than just MOOCs or iPads in the classroom. There is great potential to use technology in other ways beyond digitising textbooks and exam papers. Rather than acting as a replacement for existing tools or assuming the role of the teacher, technology should augment and ultimately empower educators to help students become the very best that they can be.

But how can technology do that? The answer lies in analysing the data that is generated through digital coursework. In the same way that Apple iTunes and Google use data to personalise your music playlists or search results, businesses today are leveraging data to benchmark performance and improve everything from internal processes to customer service, and the education sector is no different; data is being used to better serve both students and teachers.

Imagine if a teacher could instantly assess an individual student’s knowledge of curriculum topics at any given moment. This would help educators to more easily and quickly identify areas where skill gaps were beginning to emerge and tailor tutoring accordingly. Teachers would have more time to do what they do best – inspire and teach.

This isn’t wishful thinking. Adaptive learning technology available today can make this vision a reality. Publishers around the world are already leveraging this technology to personalise digital courses and textbooks so that they cater to the individual needs of every student.

As students work through lessons online, adaptive learning technology analyses the anonymised data that their activity generates – using it to figure out what a student knows and how they work best, and provide recommendations for what to study next. This technology also generates actionable analytics for teachers, who use these metrics to detect knowledge gaps before they become problematic and provide the tailored support each student needs to fully master concepts.

Growing class sizes mean teachers are under more time constraints than ever. Access to data about student proficiency helps free up educators’ time, allowing them to focus more on inspiring class discussion, encouraging critical thinking, and diving into creative projects, rather than burning the midnight oil marking work or spending too much class time focusing on test prep for exams.

Such technology enables teachers to continually assess how their students are progressing on a day-to-day basis, rather than relying solely on high-stakes exams and assignments to test students’ knowledge. Rather than discovering challenges at the end of a term, teachers can offer more personalised support on an ongoing basis, and adapt their lesson plans continually to meet the needs of the class.

This is not all that education technology can do. The impact of applying data insights into education go way beyond providing insights to make it through a term. Technology has the potential to change the very way that we understand how students learn and shape how we approach learning in the future.

Adaptive learning technology can create a longitudinal learning history for each student – connecting the dots from pre-school to employment. All too often, students sail through school while still missing prerequisite knowledge. These holes in knowledge persist and get worse over time, potentially haunting students across grade levels and subjects. For example, if students lack core English grammar skills they may struggle when learning to speak a new language or trying to read a complex word problem in math. A student lacking key algebra skills may have trouble balancing equations in chemistry later on. Imagine a future where teachers could more easily identify and close these gaps early on – helping more students reach their full potential.

Outside of the classroom, technology-led insights put students and parents firmly in the driving seat, they provide a 360-degree view of each student’s learning “journey,” so that students can track their own progress, identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, and work towards goals at a pace that is tailored to them.

Image Credit: Flickr

How has edtech changed your teaching methods? Let us know about it in the comments.

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