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What is the Future of Educational Technology?

Wayan and Shabnam

EduTech Trends in 2014

Over the past 4 years, the Educational Technology Debate had great conversations every month on the major issues in ICT4Edu. From the challenges of 1:1 computing, to the promise of Open Educational Resources, and the reality of MOOCs, we’ve been at the forefront of the major trends facing educators and technologists.

We are now re-starting our discussions with a fresh look at the opportunities and challenges in ICT4D and, we’d like to hear from you.

What are the most important trends and issues facing ICT4Edu today?

Please click here and give us your thoughts and ideas on where we are all headed and who is leading us there. To give you some points to ponder, here are questions we’re wondering:

  • Now that the One Laptop Per Child program is fading, is the 1:1 movement in decline?
  • With a mobile phone in every educator hand, do schools even need to purchase hardware?
  • Where is the digital education revolution promised by MOOCs?
  • Why can’t we change pedagogy as fast as we change technology?
  • What about focusing on supportive technologies, instead of instructional tech?
  • Who are the emergent leaders that are pioneering answers to these questions?

Be sure to share other ICT trends or topics that captivate you. Tell us the education questions you ask, and the answers you yearn to hear. What are the challenges faced by schools and educators in the developing world, and the thought leaders you think may have answers?

Your input will directly improve the Educational Technology Debate, which is our cumulative effort, by driving the topics and educations we’ll engage with during 2014 and beyond.

Your input is not only welcomed – its required!

Wayan and Shabnam
ETD Moderators

15 Responses to “What is the Future of Educational Technology?”

  1. I am a technologist, not an education specialist, so my view is basically a translation of what has happened elsewhere. Traditional approaches will benefit more and more from technology that provides guidance, insight and correction to those approaches. On the other part of the spectrum, non-traditional approaches will mostly fail but every once in a while a truly disruptive approach will emerge and everyone will wonder how things ever could’ve been differently.

    Traditional approaches to education have benefited greatly from data. With tools like Tangerine it is now easy and cost effective to assess early childhood literacy anywhere in the world. The school may consist of just the proverbial mango tree, but simple and well thought out assessments, applied statistics and inexpensive tablet computers enable us to know if kids can distinguish between p’s and q’s. If they don’t, then changes are made, iterations occur and the situation can be reassessed after the changes have been made. Data-driven approaches work, and educators now know what kind of data helps. Not taking advantage of how technology can augment education, everywhere in the world, is inexcusable in this age.

    The disruptive stuff will make all of that data collected to augment traditional approaches seem silly. The thing about disruptive technology is that we know it will happen we just don’t how/what/why/where. We might just be one abstraction away from an unconsidered brain/computer interface. The guys at Spritz (http://www.spritzinc.com/) think they have come up with a brain/computer interface that makes you read 10x faster than how we currently read. The OLPC sorts of thinkers are often wrongly viewed as being driven by a particular approach (1:1 computing) versus what I see in them, which is a drive to disrupt traditional learning because traditional learning was developed to create industrialized factory workers. Entirely different approaches to brain development may result in a generation of creative designers and problem solvers. All it takes is one girl in an Ethiopian village to have a breakthrough gained by growing up reverse engineering Chinese circuit boards and Linux – the next thing you know she has built that human/computer interface from the matrix and in the words of Alice Cooper, “School’s out forever!!”

  2. Educational content needs to redefined and redesigned to fit into the new information management and both available and future technology. Using the technology just ti manage content without getting the best use of the combined information and communication technology will not add big value.

    Therefore, collaboration and portability of education curriculum would help on the move learning.

    Some of the educational institutions are providing smartphone apps that deliver materials and course plans directly on the move among other education process automation.

  3. First thoughts:

    Ref -Now that the One Laptop Per Child program is fading, is the 1:1 movement in decline?

    This weekend I’ve been appreciating great input to the OLPC debate from a recent PhD thesis – see the thesis http://www.laptopstudy.net and the debate http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/academia/a_phd_thesis_about_olpc_asks_what_are_we_doing_what_are_we_bringing.html

    Ref the “the 1:1 movement” My personal response when I see “1:1” in an ICT4Ed context is to think of one person to one person, not one laptop to one child.

    Person to person 1:1 is my experience as an adult learner-and-teacher in the online environments where I learn. I’ve written elsewhere in more depth about learning this way. I describe my experience as learning in “virtual academia” in a self-directed, demand-led, free-ranging way, with peers and mentors etc. I’m not the only person engaged in this kind of learning.

    The learning-teaching interactions are sometimes long-term and sometimes very brief and light touch. Some of my teachers are surprised to know that I have appreciated them as teachers. Equally, people I know sometimes surprise me by calling me their teacher.

    We are involved in education and training – but, from the people I know, when it is training it is usually done is response to need and is embedded in practice.

    Ref – With a mobile phone in every educator hand, do schools even need to purchase hardware?

    “A mobile phone in every educator hand” ??? !!! Who says? And who can afford to use them for that kind of Internet access? Are we living on the same planet? My contacts are still struggling – and they are ICT champions. Are we missing something?

    Where is the digital education revolution promised by MOOCs?

    I’m not sure about a revolution. As an outsider it seems to me that MOOCs are built on a traditional, “industrial”, supply-driven, model of education – but with a different delivery system.

    On the other hand easy, free access to academic resources is revolutionary. I confess I like MOOCs because I can drop in. But MOOC suppliers aren’t providing their MOOCs for people who are drop-ins (or drop-outs).

    Why can’t we change pedagogy as fast as we change technology?

    Hmm – human aspects. Why would anyone expect people to change quickly? ANT (Actor Network Theory) research relevant here – see the OLPC thesis mention earlier.

    What about focusing on supportive technologies, instead of instructional tech?

    Ah supportive technologies – technology supporting learning – that sounds a bit more human – especially if it is a combination of people and tech doing the supporting.

    Who are the emergent leaders that are pioneering answers to these questions?

    Are we looking for “leaders” or “pioneers”? Are they necessarily the same thing? Is there value in looking outside the formal system for emergence (in situations where people are not constrained by any formal structures, systems, and suchlike that were created before digital tech)?

  4. The mobile phone is very common but not in everyone’s hands yet. Some complications we have come across in our mobile learning projects in SSA have been things like data charges, cross platform compatibility on the technical side and attitudes to technology and digital literacy on the human side just to mention a few.
    Why can’t we change pedagogy as fast as we change technology? I expect we could if we invested the same amount of time and energy into developing pedagogical advances as we do technological advances

  5. Hi Wayan!

    It’s been a little while, but I’ve been chewing on the fact that Namibia – the country I expect to die in – has a telecom monopoly which has bluntly informed those of us engaged in ICT4E & D that my notion of free, high-speed broadband *benchmarked* internet for *all* Namibian schools is a *pipe-dream*!!

    So this gloomy news – it was a reaction to my call on the CEO of Telecom Namibia about our Minister of ICT’s earlier promise of free internet for schools in May 2012, at a public forum in June 2013 – got me thinking … what do we do for some 50% of Namibian households which don’t have electricity but have at least one mobile phone in the home??? Which costs US$ ONE to recharge at the local ‘renewable’ energy provider (inevitably a local bar!). These stats are even gloomier in countries like Zambia and Malawi, let alone crisis zones like CAR and Sudan!

    ‘Light to Read’ is a bridging solution to improved literacy opportunities in mostly illiterate homes while we wait for broadband internet to become ubiquitous. I’ve been working closely with folks from RACHEL and other harvesters of Open (mostly educational) Resources to produce a pico-power school library for use where there is no internet. A *very” lean alternative to several iterations of eGranary-like resources “on-a-stick” which have conventionally required considerable energy hungry devices to make such resources like Khan Academy and Wikipedia accessible to school libraries, let alone illiterate homes…

    Have a look – http://tatejoris.wordpress.com – the latest stuff on ‘light to learn’. I’ll also send you a link to my TEDx Windhoek talk when it becomes visible!

    Kind regards

    • Teresa Sguazzin

      Hi Joris! Nice to see a Namibian voice in this. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me (but Liz probably would) – I’m ex-DRFN/Enviroteach, about a hundred years ago… Seems to me many of the frustrations you list are ongoing from years back when I was still there. But really good to know there’s still someone fighting the good fight. Hope all’s good in Brakwater with the family and the birds – and please pass on my greetings to Liz.

  6. I’ll respond rather narrowly and take a quick stab at the first two questions you have posed:

    [-] Now that the One Laptop Per Child program is fading, is the 1:1 movement in decline?

    The 1-to-1 ‘movement’ is stronger than ever. OLPC helped define this in the popular conception, but it also benefited from a movement that had already begun, and continues apace (some examples here: http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/big-educational-laptop-and-tablet-projects-ten-countries). What we’re starting to see now is that this is moving from an advocacy thing to something that is becoming policy and practice — and, where funding still conspires to ensure that putting such policy into practice is not, well, practical, the related political rhetoric can still be quite potent (for better and for worse). 1-to-1 is many things to many people, but it is by definition a statement about a hardware ratio. As various devices proliferate, and interact with each other, 1-to-1, while perhaps still a desired policy goal in many places, or at least an easily articulated and understood aspiration, may become less potent conceptually. Whether in many-to-one, or one-to-many environments, whether or not you have a personal device may become less important than whether you have a personal profile (in some sort of learning management system, online, within a given software application, etc.). In other, what is personal moves from being only or largely about the device to something that is contained in and enabled by software. The continued (too slow in many places, but steady, and still fantastic from an historical perspective) diffusion of better/cheaper/faster connectivity makes this sort of personalization more possible, and powerful.

    [-] With a mobile phone in every educator hand, do schools even need to purchase hardware?

    Whether or not schools ‘need’ to purchase computers, given that more and more of teachers (and students) have a mobile phone, is, or should be, a function of what these schools seek to accomplish, and how. Schools, and education systems, would do well to at least factor into their related considerations and calculations the reality of increased diffusion of mobile phones (and similar connected devices). Today, few of them do.

    And as for the last question:

    [-] Who are the emergent leaders that are pioneering answers to these questions?

    I might also wonder who are the folks that are pioneering the questions to the ‘answers’ that most of us already seem to have (often implicitly or reflexively) agreed on? As a practical matter these days, the ‘leaders’ are the tech companies selling various gadgets, applications and related services, and the almost exclusively Western ‘thought leaders’ whose views find outlet and are widely disseminated through venues like TED*. This seems to me to be a rather narrow group (of people, organization, experiences, perspectives) from which to expect real ‘leadership’ to emerge. Unfortunately, many of the great minds in the Academy seem to be focused more and more inward as it relates to these topics, and one might argue that it is more likely to expect intellectual leadership to emerge not out of peer reviewed journals, as might have been the case in the past, but rather to bubble up from practitioners whose work, experiences and insights can reach larger audiences than ever before as a result of things like blogs and YouTube — enabled by the phenomenal power of search engines to help us find and tap into these experiences and insights.

    (Just to be clear: This isn’t meant to be a knock on everyone who presents at TED or similar sorts of venues! While many folks may lament the proliferation of TED-style ‘solutioneering’ and the way it is framing discussion in many areas, TEDx especially has provided a platform for lots of more diverse and divergent voices to be heard, and heard more loudly and broadly, serving as a sort of locus to bring together and share experiences in local communities far from the stages and cameras of the main TED events. While I wait for Joris to post the link to the TEDx Windhoek videos, I’ll just finish this parenthetical remark by noting that: This development/legacy of TED is not a bad thing at all.)

    And a sort of side note: One ‘trend’ that is absolutely real, but which there seems to be very limited acknowledgement of, let alone informed discussion about, is the so-called ‘access compromise’, http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3221.

    Thanks for reigniting the EduTechDebate site.

  7. I tried to share in the past Unesco conference ….;)

    There are several way to do education by technology


    I wil be happy to share to the interested

    Livia Bellina

    Dr. Livia Bellina, MD


    Founder and President of Mobilediagnosis®Onlus


  8. I would like to zoom out and see some discussion on how the approaches to ICT4edu are going to shift post-MDGs. Will this field capitalize (or be expected to capitalize) on the “data revolution”? And want does this mean for the future of both educational and ICT development?

  9. Could you fix of “Kahn” -> Khan academy in the wordle!

  10. Stephen Okeyo

    The ICT bandwagon is on the run everywhere including in medical education sector. My fear is that only a few are inside and seating pretty. Most of the few inside are wobbling. Some are at the door struggling to get in, while majority are outside, of which some are making haste to get to the door, some have ?? Written all over their faces. And the majority oblivious. I guess intensive ongoing awareness, education, and advocacy is needed. Just how can we as collective and as individuals, most with incomplete knowledge and commitment accelerate the process of getting a critical mass onto the train?

  11. fanwel besa

    The tablet computer easy to manipulate ,loaded with multimedia content ,voiced ,animated is proving to be a hit in Zambia.A total learning environment covering the entire primary school curriculum ,teacher lesson plan s,resources for teachers ,ebooks for teachers and learning ,wifi enabled, but used excusively off line, library resources, maps ,educational games ,lessons translated in familiar languages in first 3 grades ,teacher and continuous technical support spare parts back up and warranty ,home work ,past exam practice ,in built remedial work ,collaborative learning , this is loaded on a tablet computer dubbed ‘THE ZEDUPAD”
    Being pioneered by a Zambian company Ischool.zm(www.ischool.zm)

    this the future of educational technologies cutting across barriers of rural urban and can be powered off small and potable solar panels

  12. Teresa Sguazzin

    My two cents worth on a couple of the questions:

    • With a mobile phone in every educator hand, do schools even need to purchase hardware?

    Speaking from the perspective of someone largely engaged with education initiatives in disadvantaged communities in sub-Saharan Africa, I would like to make it clear that while most teachers may own a phone, this in no way should be read as them having: a) easy access to a means of charging it; b) money (or prioritisation) to keep it supplied with credit (or even switched on – many people only switch their phones on to send a text, or if they are expecting something, largely to conserve the charge); c) adequate connectivity to networks (and I’m just talking networks here – not necessarily internet services) to enable constant and easy use. I was really struck by the section in the really interesting thesis around OLP in Nigeria, link in an earlier posting below (thank you Pamela!), that spoke of how devising a method to keep the laptops charged cost as much as the instruments themselves. Issues of hardware and sustainability lie not just in the phones or tablets, but also in power and internet access, both of which are really costly in most places in SSA.

    • Why can’t we change pedagogy as fast as we change technology?

    It makes little pedagogical difference if a learner has a paper textbook, a textbook on a kindle, or a text book accessed via the internet. Likewise it makes no pedagogical difference if a teacher is doing ‘write and copy’ exercises on a blackboard, a classroom wall, or an electronic whiteboard. We’ve paid a LOT of attention to the technology and insufficient attention to the people, politics and processes/culture and context that ultimately determine how technology is used. Technological determinism and the magic silver bullet approach hasn’t worked. And the undignified scramble for the elusive dollar at the bottom of the pyramid isn’t helping either. All too often interventions are designed first with a view to monetisation, and only as a poor second, as ways of improving learning. A telephone and access to the internet doesn’t automatically make for an educated learner, and to my mind, content provision, while useful, is not a learning innovation – the quality of the content and the ways it is used are the important bits for learning, not the ways people see it, be it on a page, screen or phone.

    • What about focusing on supportive technologies, instead of instructional tech?

    Does it need to be an either/or? I think we’re beginning to see good traction around citizen monitoring and accountability (perhaps less so around government response to this, but it’s early days yet…). I think it’s well worth continuing to work on ways that mobile technology can better support national EMIS systems. I still don’t think there’s enough work being done on how technology can support inclusive education for children living with disabilities in resource poor settings, but perhaps if the post 2015 goals retain an equity lens as well as focus on quality, this may start to happen. And the OER/TESSA movement around teacher education in East Africa is starting to have a significant impact – I think we’re sometimes too quick to discount the slow burners.

    • Who are the emergent leaders that are pioneering answers to these questions?

    I’m increasingly coming across ways that education (rather than tech) practitioners are integrating tech into their work as and when the technology becomes available, the necessary infrastructure is there, and the price has sunk to a doable level. I suspect that the truly revolutionary game changers will come out of this kind of work, rather than be designed in a western laboratory. I’m also watching the African labs and innovation hubs with interest, as I think they’ve a far more pragmatic and needs-based approach. I’m not sure it’s leaders we need – but networks and learning hubs where people can find out what’s being done are really useful (like this one, the tech salons, the World Bank tech blog…)

  13. At the recent UNESCO Mobile Learning Week 2014 I sat on a panel titled Emerging Trends and New Technology – considered in the context of mobile learning. My notes are at: http://stevevosloo.com/2014/03/13/emerging-trends-in-education-and-mobile-learning/ — and some are relevant to the question of What is the Future of Educational Technology?

  14. Like many of the people reading this post, I studied most evenings while I was a child. It’s a time when I got my homework done, carried out extra reading – especially before exams. There are many, many, ways to improve education. One fundamental way, however, is startlingly simple. Children need light at night so that they can see what they are reading and writing. If I was forced to close my books after dark each night or rely on poor quality lighting, I’m pretty sure my grades would have suffered.

    With ongoing advances in energy efficient LED lighting, ever improving battery technology and solar pv prices far lower than they used to be, the humble solar light is a great tool which can enable students who want to study in the evenings to put some extra hours in after dark.


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