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The Growing Role of Technology in Schools

DEC 02, 2020

Education has been an active front runner amongst the various sectors that have had to rely on technology to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine and social distancing have also helped transform ed-tech from quirky gimmicks adopted by well-funded schools to a necessary mode of modern learning.

While technology has been steadily making its presence felt in the classroom over the past few years, with assisted learning tools that leverage big data and machine learning for developing cognitive learning among children, it is only now that it has found widespread appeal and mass adoption. But technology has not nearly reached its greatest possible potential in the classroom. In a recent seminar to Harvard students, Ben Bungert, the Director of Operations at a Boston-based education startup accelerator, LearnLaunch, declared that ed tech “is maybe 10 or 20 years behind regular ‘tech.’” Given the room for growth, the expanding role of technology in the classroom should be something that parents and students alike need to pay close attention to.

Already, we’re reaching a turning point in the narrative of education. Schools with fully online instruction are growing rapidly due to increasing evidence that they lead to better academic performance and college admissions than traditional schools. Crimson Global Academy (CGA) offers a digital high school program staffed by award winning teachers averaging over 20 years’ experience to students located anywhere in the world. Online schools stand to benefit most from the growing role of technology in the classroom since they are the ones most open to taking advantage of the breakthroughs that will transform the field. From innovative learning frameworks to cutting edge software, let’s take a look at the impact of technology on classroom learning.

Access to Material

It is now easier to access information and curriculum material than ever before. Technology development in the education space has allowed anyone with an internet connection and a smart device, to access knowledge and learn. From accessing deep subject expertise or upgrading singular skills required to excel, both K-12 students and their teachers are starting to rely on the rich content repositories created by various Ed-tech platforms. Proprietary materials aside, Youtube channels like CrashCourse and Khan Academy provide free and unlimited access to quality educational materials ranging from multivariable calculus to world history.

Although we now take all these resources for granted, it’s worth remembering how far we’ve come. I still remember that when I first started high school, we were not allowed to bring our personal devices. Now, laptops and iPads are as essential to learning as pen and paper. You can see this from the fact that WiFi access for schools in developed countries has more than doubled over the past 10 years. In the US, more than 98% of school districts now have access to high speed broadband. The continued investment in technology access within schools has helped drive the creation of online resources.

Take Wikipedia for example: although your teachers may have told you to be skeptical of its information and not to use it as a source for your essays, it is nonetheless a powerful repository of open access information. If I needed to find the formula for general relativity or the starting year of the French revolution, chances are I’d look to Wikipedia. If I was a student 15 years ago and I wanted to find these facts, I’d have to go to a library and borrow a textbook containing the information that I need. My ability to access this knowledge largely depends on if I have access to a library as well as the depth and breadth of its academic collections. What technology has enabled is the democratization of this knowledge in schools beyond just the reach of a privileged few.

This expanded access is not just limited to pieces of facts and knowledge. Technology helps to bring in world class experts and even entire curricula into the classroom. Many of the world’s top universities like Harvard and MIT make their most popular courses open access on the internet. It’s common for high schools to integrate, for example, Harvard University’s online CS50: Introduction to Computer Science into their computer science curriculum. This means that high quality teaching is no longer limited to the small pool of star teachers located in wealthy school districts and private schools. Online schools like CGA are pioneering this transition. CGA brings world class educators, diverse, inspiring classmates along with an internationally recognized curriculum virtually into your home – anywhere in the world.

Collaboration

Much like in the real world, technology is also changing the way that students are working together. Many people still remember group work at school as huddling around a table with a large piece of brown paper and multi-colored sharpies. Technology has enabled so many more possibilities for collaboration between students. Pen and paper can only convey motionless text, images and diagrams. But platforms like Google Jamboard and shared docs allow images, videos and hyperlinks to be shared instantly between students. These multimedia resources allow students to explore difficult concepts together, helping them to become more effective learners.

For example, I remember an Introduction to Organic Chemistry lab class that I had taken at Harvard where we were using virtual reality headsets to explore protein structure. Through the software, my lab partner and I were able to work together to explore colorful molecules ordinarily too small to even be meaningfully observed by electron microscopes right in front of our faces in 3D. We were able to work together in the same virtual reality space, pointing out various protein interactions and solving the organic chemistry problems in a new and engaging way.

As technology gets cheaper, virtual reality will become more accessible at the high school level, opening up unimaginable ways that students could learn and solve problems together.

One of the most prohibitive factors that prevented students from being exposed to a diverse range of ideas and experiences from their peers has been geography. Traditionally, classrooms have been relatively isolated. Collaboration has been limited to classmates who live within the same neighborhoods with similar upbringings. Today, technology enables forms of communication and collaboration that allow students to share what they are learning with students in other classrooms and even countries. With open collaboration, traditional classroom walls are no longer a barrier to heightened learning experiences.

As Juhi McClelland, General Manager of Global Technology Services at IBM, puts it – “technology such as Cloud, AI, wearable tech and mobile computing have made education more instant and personalized. It's also expanded borders and exposure through its ability to connect students across cities, states, and countries.”

Online schools embrace the technological connectedness of our era in creating truly global classrooms. CGA enrols students from over 20 different countries around the world. This brings valuable insights and experiences for students to learn and grow together surrounded by inspiring and driven classmates. These students will be challenged with a broader range of ideas that would serve them well academically and professionally as they head into an increasingly globalized society.

Preparation for a Digital Economy

We often hear that schools are here to prepare us for the future. But what exactly is the future we’re looking at? According to PwC, in 2020, 77% of all jobs require some degree of technological skills, and there are one million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them. Similarly, a McKinsey study found that the rise of automation will accelerate the shift in professional skills over the past 15 years. The demand for technological skills, the smallest category today, will rise by 55% by 2030 – a surge affecting demand for basic digital skills as well as advanced skills such as computer programming.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that schools are playing catchup in recent years to integrate technology that better serves their students. Think about it, how many jobs today still require the bulk of their work to be done in pen and paper? Virtually none! Yet, most traditional schools still do the bulk of their work writing in exercise books and sitting pen and paper exams.

This is the exact problem that online schools like CGA are seeking to address. By providing students with a digitally native high school experience, CGA familiarizes them with tools of the 21st century workplace like Google Calendar, email management and Slack.

The purpose of education is not to set students up with specific jobs. What’s more important is teaching them how to solve problems, learn new skills and work with others. The truth is that based on how fast technology is moving, by the time children today reach adulthood, it’s likely that some white-collar jobs that we view as traditionally secure will become automated. Critical thinking, problem-solving and digital skills will be what’s important to help them adapt and thrive in tomorrow’s society. These are the exact skills that future-oriented schools like CGA are prioritizing in their curriculum to help students get ahead both academically and professionally.

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Excited by the growing role of technology in the classroom? Want to join a school that’s at the cutting edge of innovation? CGA offers both full-time and part-time enrolment options, allowing you to stay in your current school and take extra Pearson Edexcel A Level subjects with CGA or to join us full-time to maximize the value of a world-class online education. With dedicated teaching staff averaging 20+ years of teaching experience and a streamlined online learning platform, CGA will give you all the resources you need to excel in your schooling in an online environment. Download our prospectus to find out more about all the opportunities that CGA has to offer, and talk to us today about whether CGA could be right for you!

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