Education: In the Process of Transformation or Turmoil?


New technologies have profoundly changed many aspects of daily life. One industry, EdTech, has seen incredible growth and is now being used to motivate and engage students and is facilitating teacher's ability to provide efficient training. The sanitary emergencies and lockdowns caused by the global pandemic forced the educational system to quickly reinvent itself and offer online education. How these new techniques will grow and change once schools fully reopen is yet unknown, but shifts will continue.


What is EdTech, and why should it matter?

Education Technology (EdTech) is a broad concept that integrates different learning experiences. According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), EdTech is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Richey et al., 2008). EdTech can involve learning management systems, digital tools and media, information and communications tech, and even school infrastructure like WIFI or hardware devices.


EdTech has been heralded as a potentially game-changing "disruption" for school systems during the last decades. Recent advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the novel coronavirus have only intensified calls for increased technology use in education (UNESCO, 2021). By continually improving educational technology, educators have begun transforming instruction, assessments, and the classroom's overall concept. As a result, EdTech uses digital technologies to rethink models and education processes to enhance students' learning.


School as an ecosystem

In the case of the U.S., the Office of Educational Technology was established in the National Education Technology Plan (NETP), a national vision and plan for learning enabled by technology through building on the work of leading education researchers; district, school, and higher education leaders; classroom teachers; developers; entrepreneurs; and nonprofit organizations (OET, 2021). Sharing various studies' visions, the NETP sees in school an institution that can provide new means of more competitive and accessible education to teachers.


However, it is essential to understand that it is not digital technology that will transform education, but people using digital technology as a tool to create a learning culture. Only if the educational ecosystem of policymakers, institutions, students, parents, and teachers embrace the new technologies can a systemic and institutional change occur (K12 Blueprint, 2017). The focus is then not to increase technology but to have a real educational ecosystem alignment where everything works together.


Technology integration and EdTech intervention

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 mandated an emphasis on technology integration in all areas of K–12 education, from reading and mathematics to science and special education (USDE, 2002). Yet, just because technology can do something does not mean it should work by itself (Ganimian et al., 2020). During the global pandemic, the U.S. public education system was forced to shift almost entirely to a virtual model overnight, sparking debates over the future of assessment, teacher burnout, recruitment and retention, online learning, and more (Riddell, 2021).


Considering U.S. diversity, each school has different needs and infrastructure, and capacities to establish a practical educational intervention model regarding the impacts of COVID-19. A recent study by the Center of Universal Education of the Brookings Institution (Ganimian et al., 2020) suggested that the first step every school might undertake to determine their stage of technology adoption is a diagnosis that identifies:

  1. The specific needs required to improve student learning.

  2. The infrastructure needed to adopt technology-enabled solutions.

  3. The capacity to integrate technology in the learning processes.

With the results, decision-makers can assess the potential investment in technology required to enhance teachers' work and improve the quality and quantity of educational content (Ganimian et al., 2020).


Changing classroom experiences

Given the vast number of resources that countries spent last year to transition schools to digitalized models, the pieces that worked well are likely to stay—those that didn't have the opportunity to adapt by having a better EdTech intervention. Nevertheless, as a significant and diverse industry, EdTech is in constant movement. Online learning and emerging technologies will continue to improve educational outcomes. Therefore, some advances in technology that will change EdTech experiences are:

  • Gamification: Digital game-based learning is not new and simulates real-life experiences; it could help improve students' reading and comprehension; connect abstract thoughts; encourage critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving; teach programming, among others (Market Line, 2018).

  • Virtual reality: thoughtfully developed tools such as Google Expeditions and Nearpod VR allow teachers to guide their students through rugged pre-created immersive virtual reality environments. As a result, anyone with a smartphone and access to a laptop can create and share V.R. experiences (Kulowiec and Byrne, 2021).

  • Augmented Reality: For example, students can see the topic's insights with the A.R. apps on their phones (Ilyas, 2020).

  • Artificial Intelligence: Software can automatically fill out forms (or provide menus of potential responses); maintain inventories of materials, equipment, and products, and even automatically order replacements (Bryant et al., 2020).

A lucrative globalized business

In the age of digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence (A.I.), EdTech is increasingly penetrating the education sector. A recent study maintains that the global education technology market size is expected to reach USD 285.2 billion by 2027 (Grand View Research, 2020). A report of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF, 2020) suggests that 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change in the next two years. About one-third of all jobs worldwide are likely to be transformed by technology. Nevertheless, global digital spending in education is grossly underfunded, representing just 4% of global expenditure. (Holon I.Q. 1, 2021).


While the COVID-19 has reshaped the learning ecosystem to cope with remote learning's diverse challenges, the global pandemic has created increasing international digital solution options. Nineteen EdTech Unicorns worldwide have collectively raised over $13.7 billion of total funding in the last decade. They are collectively valued at more than USD 64 billion (Holon I.Q. 2, 2021). The first top-five companies are lead by Chinese companies (Yuanfudao USD 15.5B, Zuoyebang USD 10.0B, VIPKid USD 4.5B), in second place the famous Indian company ByJu's (USD 12.0B) and in the fifth-place the U.S. company Udemy (USD 3.3B).


Challenges and opportunities

As previously explained, EdTech will provide global citizens a digitally and universally connected future. However, millions of people are digitally divided by not having equal access and the possibilities for a better education. As a result, the Biden Administration will require a lot of investment and other efforts to push for a system that allows all students to access digital resources. With Miguel Cardona's appointment as Education Secretary, there will be a serious investment in K-12 schools. He will listen to educators' and students' needs to help them better succeed.


At the same time, there is a chance for the K-12 industry to become more collaborative, student-centric, and data-driven (Kontsevoi, 2021). Leaders in the technology space, especially those who offer EdTech solutions, stand to play an essential role in making remote learning easier by confronting three main challenges:

  • Integrating new solutions into existing platforms to provide more individualized instruction from educators and integrate more functionalities.

  • Helping to migrate from obsolete software by making budgeting a focal point to provide more affordable platforms.

  • Implementing more transparency, accountability, and I.T. compliance.

COVID-19 has pushed us to the limits; however, EdTech solutions have become part of the strategy that the educational ecosystem (policymakers, institutions, students, parents, and teachers) can use to reduce the impacts caused by the current pandemic. There is also an opportunity to see EdTech solutions as tools to teach future generations to become more resilient by personalizing learning and improving learning solutions with adaptive technology.


What do you think? Do you believe EdTech can improve learning for all? What are the main roadblocks and risks to incorporate this paradigm in our schools?

As always, I will like to read your comments.

Stay safe and healthy!

Sources:

Bryant, J., Heitz, C., Sanghvi, S., and Wagle, D. 2020. How artificial intelligence will impact K-12 teachers. Mc Kinsey & Company. URL: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Public%20and%20Social%20Sector/Our%20Insights/How%20artificial%20intelligence%20will%20impact%20K%2012%20teachers/How-artificial-intelligence-will-impact-K-12-teachers.pdf

Ganimian, A., Vegas, A., and Hess, F. 2020. Realizing the Promise: How can education technology improve learning for all? Brookings Institute. URL: https://www.brookings.edu/essay/realizing-the-promise-how-can-education-technology-improve-learning-for-all/

Grand View Research. 2020. Education Technology Market Growth & Trends. URL: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-education-technology-market

Holon I.Q. 1. 2021. 10 charts to explain the Global Education Technology Market. URL: https://www.holoniq.com/edtech/10-charts-that-explain-the-global-education-technology-market/

Holon I.Q. 2. 2021. Global EdTech Unicorns. URL: https://www.holoniq.com/edtech-unicorns/

Illyas, R. 2020. Top Edtech Trends in the 2020s – A.I., AR, V.R., Gamification, more. Inside Tech World. URL: https://insidetechworld.com/featured/top-educational-tech-trends-in-2020s/

Kontsevoi, B. 2021. How Tech Leaders Can Help Shape The Future Of K-12 Education With Edtech. Forbes. URL: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/01/25/how-tech-leaders-can-help-shape-the-future-of-k-12-education-with-edtech/?sh=44023a9341b5

Kulowiec, G. and Byrne, R. 2021. Virtual Reality in Education. Edtech Teacher. URL: https://edtechteacher.org/vr/

K12 Blueprint. 2017. Digital Transformation in K-12 Education. URL: https://www.k12blueprint.com/toolkits/digital-transformation

Market Line. 2018. Digitization of Education. Lucrative business opportunities abound in a race to the classroom of the future. MarketLine Case Study.

OET (Office of Education Technology). 2021. Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. U.S. Department of Education. URL: https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf

Richey, R., Silber, K., and Ely, D. 2008. Reflections on the 2008 AECT Definitions of the Field. TechTrends.

Riddell, R., Modan, N., and Arundel, K. 2021. These 8 trends will impact schools in 2021. K-12 Dive. URL: https://www.k12dive.com/news/8-k-12-trends-to-watch-in-2021/592006/

UNESCO. 2021. Global Education Coalition. URL: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/globalcoalition

USDE (U.S. Department of Education). 2002. Part D-Enhancing Education Through Technology. URL: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg34.html

WEF (World Economic Forum). 2020. We need a global reskilling revolution – here's why. URL: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/reskilling-revolution-jobs-future-skills/

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