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How Technology Has Changed Education

Education and technology have had a really close year and a half. The pandemic forced billions of people to stay indoors and away from their usual haunts. For students, the norm of going to school became a stay-at-home virtual gathering. 


The quality of such education has varied dramatically, with some being given adequate and even more close and beneficial tuition, while others have been left behind completely. Those studying largely written subjects, essay writers in particular, will have had a different experience to those studying practical subjects – the experimenters and doers. 


The gap in educational attainment over the course of the lockdown era can be viewed as a technological issue. Online education requires a computer, preferably with a webcam and an internet connection. Without these, the average student will struggle to stick to the curriculum in most schools. 


It is of course possible to imagine how the lockdowns could have happened in time before the internet when education would have been conducted through textbooks – a non-digital technology.  But the current digital era allows for a more ‘realistic’ version of school available, so that has been considered the best way to possibly manage the academic tasks. Being away from school means that mobile learning is only a short step away. Children could take time off to do things with their family and still keep learning. 


A digital revolution has taken place over the last 20 years. So our digital world has been thrust into the limelight to solve the problem of isolation and distancing. So how has it fared? In some ways, it is an ideal catalyst for change. Our societies have learned that in some amount, virtual gatherings can be workable solutions. That’s a cast-iron example of education’s evolution, along with work’s evolution too. Although the majority would pause before accepting an online existence.





Automation has increased

Technology can speed up pretty much any task. It can also create new tasks. In the education sector, prior to the widespread use of video-conferencing, automation was one of the major influences technology had on education. Marking papers beginning with multiple-choice examinations can be done much quicker. 


If tests can be marked much quicker, more tests can be done. How much testing should we do? It’s a complex question. If we test more, are we really measuring improvement in anything but test-taking? How do we know education can be applied? Does society really want to see the knowledge acquired through education actually applied? 

These questions are not just rhetorical. If efficiency trumps all other markers for creating policy, it holds that rapid examination, and incremental gains in those examinations could be a driving factor in educational policy in the years to come. Avoiding a world where school means constant testing requires imagining a world where education, and the technology that exists in the rest of the world, work in harmony to bring the best out of every student, regardless of the grades they get.





Of course, we want our children and students to succeed, so how can technology work to actively work towards this? For one, the granulation and individualization of digital technology is capable of being made into something that treats students as unique, and not as a lump proportion of a demographic.


Technologies like machine learning can examine students individually. Such technology can also look at how they answer questions, and see if there are wider patterns that they belong to. Recognizing that these patterns can be good and bad is key if a student is heading towards some sort of de-railing; according to a pattern seen in a large dataset, they can be taken aside and given proper one-to-one support. It seems like many of the criticisms of technology in terms of education are alleviated by making sure that when technology singles out a student, it doesn’t consider its mission complete at that point. 


In essence, technology shapes education more drastically at some times than others. During the pandemic, we were forced to use our technology to its most cutting edge. However, if the pandemic hadn’t happened, the changes would have been barely recognizable. Given this unprecedented situation, we must also consider what it would be like to return to normal, and how technology doesn’t always dictate the changes that occur in the educational sphere.



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