Howard Jackson of HCSS Education sees a bright future for tech in his market
For the digital technology industry in the UK, the future looks bright. At present the sector employs around 1.46m people and it is expected to outperform all other specialisms by as soon as 2020; the UK is now one of the world leaders when it comes to tech innovation - although the US is still the unquestionable market leader, the UK is fast at its heels with 47,200 digital technology companies already in existence and 45,000 jobs being advertised for the sector nationwide.
Digital companies now exist across all industries and whilst some new sectors such as games development and e-commerce have been ‘born digital’, technological advancements have also disrupted more traditional sectors such as education. Recently, the UK has seen a significant rise in companies specialising in education technology (Ed-tech), with 4% of all tech businesses now focusing primarily on developing technology to help aid learning throughout schools and universities.
Educational technology has the potential to transform the way in which people learn as it can help to increase accessibility, engagement and interactivity. The UK education sector is beginning to see the benefits that new technology can bring - in 2014 schools spent £596m on ICT - and this budget is expected to rise to £623m this year. A report from the Global Industry Analysts predicts that the global e-learning market will reach $107bn by the end of this year.
Adopting a new digitalised approach to teaching has huge benefits for both the pupil and the teacher. It not only affects the way in which students learn and how teachers teach, but it goes even further by helping reshape the very way in which schools are structured.A report commissioned by Gold Mercury International in 2014 into the future of Ed-tech named three key technologies to be at the forefront of the education revolution:
• Open source
• Mobile and multi-faceted technology
• Virtual learning environments and learning analytics
The education sector is placing more and more emphasis on MOOCs, (massive open online courses). These courses are free online resources that allow for unlimited participation as students can learn wherever they want via the internet. As well as providing more traditional teaching material such as filmed lectures and readings, the courses also give students access to interactive forums where they can communicate in real-time with teachers, while the courses promote flexibility and mobile working and are a cost-effective alternative to the steep tuition fees of universities.
In the modern classroom, meanwhile, whiteboards and physical text books are becoming redundant. These old classroom resources are being replaced with online platforms, such as cloud computing, mobile learning devices, and 3D learning technology.
For example, cloud computing is changing the way in which we store information and is helping to encourage independent learning, as students can access large amounts of information from wherever they are. Mobile learning devices such as tablets are also becoming more and more commonplace in the classroom as they help to encourage interactive learning and exploration. 3D learning tools are helping to integrate soft skills such as creativity into the regular curriculum by allowing students to experiment with creating 3D images and then use these designs to produce real life 3D objects. These interactive platforms are helping to increase engagement as they require active participation and a level of creativity.
Ed-tech may have the potential to transform the entire leaning process, however there will still always be the need for a teacher to monitor progress and give much-needed feedback. To ensure teachers are still able to effectively assess students’ progress, software developers have created Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). VLEs provides teachers with a large amount of data about a particular student so they can carefully track their progress.
Students using VLEs are assessed on many different areas of learning and are tested on both their academic and creative abilities. Data is recorded on factors such as interaction and collaboration, authentic learning, active learning and autonomy.
As the UK technology industries continue to grow, sectors such as education are able to benefit from the innovative products being developed that work to empower teachers and promote interactive and independent learning for students.
Education technology has applications in a number of different areas in education and has the potential to drastically change both the teaching and learning process.
However, it is important to understand that no matter how revolutionary the technology is, the tool is just a facilitator and there will never be a substitute for a committed, talented teacher who can encourage and inspire students to achieve great results.
The author works for HCSS Education
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