The most high-tech thing I used in school was a recorder that captured the lesson material for future playback. Now, the possibilities for merging education and technology are substantially more extensive. They’ve sparked an entire educational technology — often abbreviated as ed-tech — industry.
What is ed-tech, you ask? Let’s explore what it is, plus the benefits and potential disadvantages.
What Is Ed Tech in a Nutshell?
Ed-tech is any method of combining technology and education to help people learn. Sometimes, ed-tech solutions directly assist learners, such as when they use apps to grasp the essentials of math or a foreign language. In other cases, ed tech helps teachers become more productive. For example, they might communicate with students through a specialized platform or depend on data analysis to see which learners need the most help.
The Potential Benefits of Ed Tech
Implementing ed tech could bring a host of advantages to the people using it. Many apps make learning fun and more immersive. Other ed-tech promotes learning for people with attention difficulties or reduces barriers for people with physical disabilities.
Another perk of ed-tech is that it can cater to teachers managing the challenges of educating people of many different ability levels in the same classroom. A French startup called Lalilo focuses on that. It provides more than 30,000 adaptive lessons for reading students. There’s also a data analytics component that enables teachers to track progress.
Online courses also represent what’s possible with ed-tech. They let individuals study anywhere. One startup assisting the Indian market is ThinkZone. It targets children in rural areas and offers an app that uses a “school in a box” approach. The goal is to reduce the learning gaps that youngsters in low-income communities often experience.
Ed-tech can streamline the necessities of lesson planning for teachers, too. For example, they might use cloud-based platforms that allow them to get work done from wherever they are. Or, they could post assignments on a shared platform and have students submit finished work there. Then, it’s easier for educators to review the content later.
Types of Educational Technology You Might Encounter
Now that you can competently answer the all-important “What is ed-tech?” question, you might wonder what gets categorized as technology to facilitate learning. Many ed-tech solutions feature virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) to supplement conventional content. Instead of merely learning about the human body, students may don headsets or download apps that let them look inside it.
There are also dedicated social media platforms, such as Edmodo, that bring students, parents and educators together. Such solutions can foster connections and spread information, keeping everyone on the same page. They’re especially helpful if someone is recovering from illness or an operation and doesn’t want to miss what happens with classmates and educators.
Ed-tech can include apps that decrease language barriers that could slow down the learning process, too. Some applications give real-time translations. Others let people check out distant destinations without traveling to them. Then, users have chances to explore different places and cultures in interesting, enriching ways.
What Is Ed Tech Missing?
Despite the advantages mentioned here, ed tech is not a solution for every situation. Negatives aspects also exist that make some schools hesitant to adopt it. Some students lack home internet access, which could put them at a disadvantage. Also, if ed-tech solutions use artificial intelligence (AI), the algorithms powering them may include biases.
Some schools also lack the resources to implement ed-tech. Even when teachers can use ed tech for free or at deep discounts, such as is the case with Google, analysts are suspicious about why the company would make its tech so easy to get.
In other cases, educational institutions balk at incorporating ed tech because they want a guaranteed return on investment. But, ed-tech developers often don’t test their solutions in real classrooms. A government-funded initiative in the United Kingdom aims to change that. It involves 329 schools acting as ed-tech testing sites where developers can gauge the viability of their products and make tweaks as needed.
Teachers may also worry that learning to use ed tech would add yet another thing to their already-packed schedules. That, too, can keep schools from investing in ed-tech. But, if more initiatives let schools take part in educational technology trials, some of those fears become less prominent.
Educational Technology: Potential With Precautions
You now know why many people around the world are excited about what ed-tech offers. It’s already a game-changer, but we must all keep in mind that educational technology doesn’t fix the problems associated with poor teaching skills or inadequate content, and stay aware of the potential downsides above.
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