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The Long Road to EdTech Excellence

There was a time when education was the preserve of a regimented set of traditions and tactics, largely based around reciting facts from textbooks and following a teacher’s instruction. But with the rise of EdTech it has become big business. A recent report from IBIS Capital estimated that the global EdTech market will be worth $252 billion by 2020. But what does this boom in the EdTech industry mean for those who should be benefitting most, the students in classrooms? Have educators lost sight of its real purpose, if it is even being utilised correctly in the first place?

Arguably, there is nowhere in the world where EdTech is bigger business than South East Asia. The Asia-Pacific region alone is projected to make up 54% of the global EdTech market in just 2 years, with Indonesia at the forefront of the race for EdTech supremacy.
Indonesia Leading the Charge

The demographic and topographical make-up of Indonesia makes it the perfect place for education technology to be successfully implemented and flourish. Indonesia’s Minister of Education asserts that there are more than 50 million students but only 3 million teachers to teach them. Not only that, but it’s made up of thirteen thousand islands with much of the population living in isolated rural communities. The shortage of teachers and rural make-up of the country are issues that the government are looking increasingly towards EdTech to try and solve. Traditional textbooks are not readily available to rural communities and are an expensive commodity for schools to provide. Initiatives are already underway in the country to replace textbooks with tablets and ebooks, as well as greater collaboration between government, schools and EdTech suppliers.

Another factor enabling Indonesia’s EdTech consumption is its ever-growing internet and social media penetration. The percentage of the population with access to the internet has been steadily rising over the last few years, from 35% in 2015 to 42% in 2018. Social media usage in the country is also on the rise, predicted to reach 45% by 2022. This has contributed to public spending on mobile learning apps reaching $7.7 billion, the third highest in the world behind China and India.

The Digital Native

The term Digital Native was popularised by the education consultant Marc Prenksy in his 2001 article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, in which he identifies those who have grown up in the digital as being “Digital Natives” rather than “Digital Immigrants” who have acquired the familiarity with technology and digital appliances as an adult. It was this growing gulf in digital awareness that led Prensky to call into question the effectiveness of the American education system, where educators, still focussing on traditional methods were not understanding the changing needs of modern day students and their relationship with digital technologies.

Of course, a lot has changed since 2001 and while the gap between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants may well now be closer, there is also clearly an acceptance by the wider education community that there is a place for technology in the classroom. That much is clear enough just by looking at some of the figures quoted at the start of this post. The debate around the use of technology in the classroom now seems to be along the lines of making sure the balance between technology and tradition is correct, and not just throwing EdTech at kids for the sake of it or in order to spend budget. There are of course also online safety concerns as the threat of cyber-bullying mental health issues become more important to parents and educators as technology plays a greater role in all aspects of our lives.

The Long Road to EdTech Excellence

The chances of technology beeping and vibrating its way into classrooms was never really in doubt. 67% of children aged 8-18 years old now have a mobile phone and of those, 27% are smart devices, putting more information at their fingertips, faster than ever before. As Craig Hansen, Education Transformational Technologist and GESS Indonesia EdTech In Action speaker asserts, “Edtech allows students to experience the entire world, underwater and in deep space, right from their classroom". The opportunities that it presents both educators and students are incredibly exciting, and hopefully, we are on the right path to mastering its implementation. But there has definitely been some trial and error along the way…

A great case in point can be found in the University of California Hybrid High College Prep Charter School.  Opening in 2012, Hybrid High did so with a promise to, “redesign the learning environment” and to, “create a space where students could move at their own pace and be engaged in self-discovery activities that would allow them to gain a higher level of understanding.” It was decided that in order to give students the opportunity to engage in self-discovery activities, they would be given Macbook Air laptops and spend 90% of their class time using an online digital curriculum platform. It was not until the end of year reports were issued that summer that school administrators realised something wasn’t quite right. Across the board, students who had been using the latest EdTech resources & encouraged to explore areas of interest at their own pace had achieved lower marks than at the start of this new technology focussed dawn at Hybrid High.

At this point you will probably be rolling your eyes, having seen this coming a mile off when you read that a class of teenage students were given a laptop, told to spend most of their time using it in an unmanaged way and guess what, the results sucked. But this approach of simply throwing technology at the problem without thinking about the wider implementation is an all to common problem at schools all over the world. Luckily for the students at Hybrid High, the corner was turned when incoming CEO Oliver Sicat, found that the missing piece of the puzzle had been at the school all along – teachers. Once the teachers were put back in charge of the EdTech being used in their classrooms and create engaging projects for their class to follow, result started to change. Teachers were given $3000 at the start of the year to spend on the software licenses and tech that they felt would be best to suit their needs and get the most out of the students. Since the implementation of a blended learning structure (combining online digital tools and traditional classroom methods, ensuring the presence of both teachers and students), it’s safe to say Hybrid High’s students have seen an upturn in their results.

Positive or Negative?

There can be no doubt that when used correctly, technology has a place in the classroom, its benefits far outweigh the negatives. There are some out there who believe that using technology can lead to a, “just Google it approach”, implying a lack of patience by the students or the inability to go the extra mile and discover more around a subject. There is far more to EdTech than asking Google, but even at this ground floor level, David Eagleman during his keynote presentation at ISTE 2018 last week saw the positives calling it, “just in time knowledge”, meaning that learning is taking place within the context of the question being asked. Therefore reinforcing the learning through real-world application. Here is some of the positive feedback we have had from educators about using EdTech in class – can you think of any others?

Engagement

Today’s student’s brains are wired differently to previous generations, with shorter attention spans and the ability to multi-task. This should not be seen as a bad thing. With the rise of new technologies like AI /VR in education, lessons can be made more engaging than any textbook could ever hope for.

Collaboration

Collaboration through cloud-based software means pupils can share their work with classmates, encouraging peer to peer learning, but also get instant feedback from teachers.

Digital Literacy Skills

The job market is moving at such a pace that there is no doubt that the jobs some of the youngest pupils end up doing, don’t even exist yet. Even those jobs that we already have more emphasis on digital literacy skills than ever before and the earlier pupils can become proficient with technology the better their chances of excelling in the 21st Century workplace.

Personalisation

EdTech provides the opportunity for far greater personalised learning. With class sizes getting bigger or traditional education tools being too expensive as we see in rural communities in Indonesia, EdTech gives pupils the chance to focus on specific areas of interest or improve weaknesses within a subject like never before.

New Experiences

As younger and younger students are exposed to technology, their ability to pick up new skills is opened much earlier. Coding is a great example of this. Through gamification such as Minecraft young children are able to experience and excel at this increasingly popular and important area of learning.
Of course, as we have seen through the lens of Hybrid High, Education Technology needs to be implemented correctly and this cannot be done without the buy-in, planning and enthusiasm of the teachers themselves. As EdTech Coach and GESS Indonesia EdTech speaker Steven Sutranto emphasises, “It's not about the technology. It's about how you use technology to engage the students to design a relevant and meaningful learning journey."

EdTech In Action at GESS Indonesia

Back by popular demand for 2018, we're working with the brightest minds in Education Technology. Join Google Certified Educators, Microsoft Innovative Educators & TED Innovative Educators who are cutting through the noise and bring you hands-on workshops with the latest EdTech to show you how simple it can be to start incorporating EdTech in your classrooms and take your teaching to the next level. You can view the full EdTech In Action conference programme and register your place at sessions absolutely free by clicking here.