Why we need a more selective approach towards using technology in education

Technology has invaded all spheres of our life – entertainment, medicine, science, banking... The list goes on, but let us go with education. EdTech is one of the biggest trends today that generates much money. According to Stratistics MRC, the Global E-Learning Market is expected to reach $275.10 billion by 2022. Big companies and small startups have understood that it is a gold mine and put much effort into educational projects development. And that is a big step forward, which among other things allows to fill the gap between students from different social layers (at least partially) and gives kids with special needs more opportunities to study.  

However, despite promising benefits of EdTech, there are reasons to be skeptical about such projects, since they often promise a lot and deliver less.

Several hardware manufacturers have addressed the education market. But, are their laptops and tablets affordable enough? It seems such companies benefit more than schools in this situation. A good solution would be the development of cloud-based solutions instead, because they do not have any particular system requirements. As a result, there would be no point in getting a new Mac to replace the one running slow, buying an iPad with an A9 processor, or replacing an old Chromebook with its latest version.

As for the educational software, it is also often not tested and validated by experts before reaching customers and thus, may provide low-quality content. We shouldn’t fall for marketing tricks and think that the more expensive and complicated tech platforms and applications are, the more benefit they provide. It is better to rely on credible sources of information when defining what applications and hardware we really need. You can read this 19th annual report on schoolhouse commercialism trends by faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Kevin Murray. They have concluded that only a few projects bring value for students. For instance, they have found out that ASSITments, SimCalc and DreamBox are really good for teaching math, so is Intelligent Tutoring for developing reading skills.

Of course, there are many articles, reports and scientific studies that speak for the effectiveness of implementing technology into education. Some opinions appear to be unbiased. (For instance, there is a randomized study led by Susan Neuman, an NYU Professor of early education and former US Secretary of Education. She found out that iPad lessons helped kids to improve their skills in print knowledge, phonological awareness and letter sounds in just 6 weeks). However, many of them serve marketing purposes and may be based on far-fetched facts. EdTech companies are striving are to make education increasingly profitable and that is why they translate only optimistic messages about their products. Besides, they get profit not only by actually selling hardware and software, but also by collecting students’ private information. And, unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education supports its collection and use, so EdTech companies could improve their algorithms designed for so called personalized learning.

Moreover, EdTech companies have shortened their way to schools. Now they do not have to wait for a half a year or even more until schools evaluate their proposal. Officials match them with schools, so the latter often have no choice and accept products that have not been tested enough.   

That is why we should defend our right to choose EdTech products ourselves. We should not spend money on something “revolutionary innovative and engaging” just because it is hyped. Being more selective does not mean being conservative. In fact, it is a responsible approach towards teaching.

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Tags: EdTech

Comment by Steve Hargadon on November 27, 2017 at 7:26am

I thought this was quite interesting. I think you might find my www.modernlearning.com report interesting as well. Cheers.

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