How EdTech is Re-Shaping the Education LandscapeBy Trevor McCready on November 12, 2018
There's no denying that the landscape of education is changing. With the advent of computers, the internet and mobile phones, there are so many technologies available today that were not present in the 1950s, or even five or ten years ago. A decade ago, the iPad didn't exist. Now you'll find them in millions of classrooms around the country.
These new technologies are completely altering the education landscape, from the way students learn to where they are physically located when they consume educational material.
In this article, we're going to give you the what, why, and how regarding the ways education technology is reshaping the education world, including both the pros and cons.
What is Education Technology?
At a high level, education technology is any kind of technology that is specifically used to promote or enhance education. This could be software, hardware, devices, online programs, servers, cloud storage and so on.
Education technology, often referred to as "EdTech" for short, can be used in many different schools and locations and has been a growing force in education for years.
What are the Advantages of Education Technology?
It's an understatement to say that education technology has produced a great many benefits to education. Whether educators are using technology in the classroom or through online education, technology has radically changed everything from teaching methods to the number of degrees a university is able to offer.
A few of the many benefits include...
Organization and Efficiency
One of the benefits of technology in education is the ability to easily organize and distribute information and assignments.
Instead of keeping paper records of everything, teachers can catalog their students' progress digitally. They can also list everything that is expected from students online. If a student loses a paper assignment, or if she fails to write something down, she could easily access an online copy of the expectations.
By putting everything in a single, central location, EdTech can significantly increase the overall efficiency of educators and institutions.
Communication is a big way that technology helps educators, students and parents. In a K-12 setting, teachers can communicate with parents through email or forums like Google Classroom. Parents can also be given access to up-to-date grades and assignments.
Students in K-12 and college also have the potential of contacting a teacher or professor without necessarily having to see them in person. Faculty at schools can also relay important school-wide information that might be lost in a pile of paperwork.
Online resources give students the ability to work together, even if they are not able to meet face-to-face. This simplifies things like group projects or assignments that might require participation outside of the classroom.
Through chat programs, collaborative creation tools like GSuite and other collaboration tools, students and educators can work together on projects like never before.
Technology can also be a very valuable resource for work outside of the classroom. Not only is there a wealth of information available to anyone with internet access for things like research, but it can also be extremely helpful for people who may not be keeping up with the class.
For example, if a person is having difficulty understanding a concept in math, there are programs available to help tutor them. Resources are also available for topics like literature, grammar, history, science and more.
If someone needs extra guidance, a tutor in another physical location can provide one-on-one lessons to give them the help they need.
Whether you're talking about a traditional classroom setting or an online course, technology has opened up the doors for stunning visuals. Where past generations may have only had a single picture to describe a concept in education, we now have detailed videos, graphics, images, tutorials and more ... all at the touch of a button.
This is of particular advantage to visual learners, who, in the past may only have had access to still images. Now they can learn about subjects through a combination of photos, videos, infographics, etc.
One of the benefits that may not be directly related to education, but still worth noting, is the environmental impact associated with technology.
When papers can be sent to a teacher or professor digitally, there is a significant decrease in paper resources. This helps reduce our overall carbon footprint and the amount of paper clutter that most people don't know what to do with.
While using education technology can help people grow in main subject areas like math, science and English, it also helps people grow in another area: technological proficiency.
Never before have general technological skills mattered so much in the workplace. Whether it's something as simple as a chat tool like Slack to much more complicated task management software, new technologies are constantly being adopted by companies.
Because technology is a growing force in the workforce and daily life, it's important for younger generations to understand how to use it. Technology is used in almost every field of work, and understanding how to use it is a valuable skill.
Disadvantages of EdTech
While EdTech has undoubtedly ushered in numerous benefits, not everyone has a positive view of the increasing amount of technology that has entered education in modern times. And there certainly is validity to some of the criticisms.
Some of those criticisms are...
One of the biggest criticisms of EdTech is the cost to introduce technology. The cost of a marker board is insignificant compared to the cost of a smart board. Equipping each student in high school with a laptop or iPad is no small expenditure, not to mention the costs associated with software and updates.
Another concern is that students may lose or damage equipment, such as a take-home laptop. Multiply that by each classroom and student, and the costs can be quite high.
There is growing research connected with screen time and unhealthy results like an addiction. Excess screen time is associated with a host of problems in areas like overstimulation, vision problems, and tech addiction. Educators are asking themselves if technology could contribute some of these unhealthy results and if it should be limited in any way in education.
While technology can be an incredible resource, it is not without difficulty at times. Because devices, servers and software are sometimes prone to dysfunction, they can interfere with education.
This may come into play during a digital presentation or accessing online tests or forums. When technical difficulties strike, there is the potential to lose valuable class time.
The Internet is not Always a Reliable Source
The internet is a wealth of information. Today, instead of lining our bookshelves with encyclopedias and textbooks, we now have unlimited information available online. This is truly a remarkable resource, but it is not without its downsides.
Unfortunately, because there's no requirement for information on the internet to even be true, there is a lot of misinformation out there. This makes it extremely important for educators to teach students how to recognize information that comes from accurate and reliable sources and to disregard information that comes from unreliable or questionable sources.
The Connection Between Empathy Technology and EdTech
Education technology can and has helped in major fields of study like math and science, but there is a growing understanding of another way that technology can contribute to education.
There is a type of technology known as "Empathy Technology," which is created to help deepen our empathy for other people. Just as literature has long shown many different perspectives to people, so educators today hope to broaden people's ability to understand one another.
Division is no stranger these days in the United States. People are increasingly more politically, locationally, demographically and ideologically divided. While social media was once thought to be a source of unification, it is often the opposite that is true.
In light of this, educators are taking it upon themselves to instill a sense of diversity in their students. Recently, this has been achieved through programs like "Outschool," which is a marketplace for live online classes for students K-12.
Because the classes can involve many diverse groups of children, it is a good opportunity to help them understand many different perspectives. What makes it even more helpful is that it offers live interaction with other students and teachers in a small group setting.
Another way to include Empathy Technology in the classroom is through programs like PenPal Schools that connect kids around the globe. And, live guest speakers can be brought into the classroom from different parts of the world.
Is Online Education the Future of Education?
Online education has been alive and well for quite a few years and can be a reasonable alternative for students, especially non-traditional ones. For years, people, colleges and universities have experimented with online education. Some have offered free online education, and others have offered paid courses, with varying success.
Some startups have created platforms known as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) or, often free self-paced courses that anyone can take. Some of these have struggled to gain footing because of two reasons.
For one, many people who begin the free courses fail to finish them. Second, they have had trouble gaining recognition by companies hiring who are looking for more traditional accreditation.
Additionally, many people trust and follow online programs that follow a more text-based operation, mirroring what they might use in a traditional classroom, as opposed to more advanced technological capabilities.
While it isn't likely that online education will completely replace traditional classrooms, there are of course many advantages to online education. Instead of entirely replacing the traditional classroom, it is more likely that technology and traditional education will continue to merge and create a more diverse educational experience.
Education technology has become an incredible resource for educators around the world. What was once difficult to explain or show to a group of students is now simple through technology. Technology has increased our ability to connect with people from many backgrounds, broadening the classroom experience and further developing our empathy. New inventions have also increased communication between students to teachers, parents to teachers and students to students.
Are there negatives to education technology? Of course. Any time a new technology is introduced to a group of people, there will be, at least initially, drawbacks. But we can expect these drawbacks to be slowly, yet steadily mitigated as educators learn the best ways to use technology in the classroom.
What is most clear is that education technology will continue to thrive for many years as it morphs to meet the needs of the global community.
Embrace Online in Your Degree
At PGS, our degrees are offered one night a week or 100% online to help you learn in the way that's most convenient for you. Check out our online degree options to start embracing education technology in your own experiences.