This is a series of occasional blogs by BESA members and is part of their paid membership service. These views are not necessarily those of BESA and a published blog does not constitute an endorsement.
Pupils are growing up in a hyper-stimulating world and technology, when used appropriately, has a powerful impact on learning. In The State of Technology in Education (2018/19) report, front-of-class panels, cloud-based lesson planning and delivery tools, apps, coding and robotics, online assessment tools, and online content and resources were all pegged for growth in the next three years. And it’s true that these are all having an impact in schools today.
But, when it comes to looking forward, while it’s difficult to predict the exact digital tools educators will be using in the future, there are some key developments to keep an eye on. Not least because investing in these technologies could be key to improving attainment and delivering success.
When it comes to the future of educational technology, it’s Augmented Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence, that is really exciting. But what’s the difference?
Artificial Intelligence in schools
Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems like Amazon Alexa are designed to make everyday actions more convenient. Simulating human intelligence, AI is controlled by a structured set of commands and algorithms. And, AI is already able to complete many administrative tasks quicker and more accurately than humans.
In schools, algorithms can be used to teach children to understand language complexities and help them identify patterns and rules in speech. Alexa’s voice recognition software can also be used to teach children the need to remain quiet when another person is communicating with the device – thereby improving behaviour in class. AI resources can be used to support collaborative storytelling, spelling tests, maths exercises, fact-finding lessons, and general knowledge quizzes. Although there are concerns that Artificial Intelligence could be harmful to children’s educational development.
Augmented Intelligence in schools
Combining Artificial Intelligence and human expertise, Augmented Intelligence enhances human intelligence rather than replacing it. Let’s face it, while technology can do things teachers can’t (or at least do things faster), computers are a long way off replicating the role of teachers. But, by combining humans and tech, the results could be game-changing.
For example, educators at Coppell Independent School District in Texas are using cognitive applications to provide teachers with data-derived insight regarding students’ interests, characteristics and learning traits. Teachers are then using this data to ensure they engage in more personal interactions with each child. In the not too distant future, Augmented Intelligence will also analyse data and intelligently match students to specific learning styles. This will enable teachers to create highly sophisticated, personalised learning plans.
Big data and analytics
As we connect more and more devices, the information we have access to is increasing at a tremendous rate. In fact, the global datasphere is predicted to grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 by 2025. (A zettabyte is a unit of information. It is approximately equal to a thousand exabytes or a billion terabytes!)
How will big data benefit schools?
When used correctly, this data can be used by schools to make more intelligent decisions and deliver more impactful teaching. For example, big data could be used to identify:
- What a student is comprehending (or not) while providing teachers with early warnings about where they need to make changes to address any weaknesses
- Where and what different methodologies could be used to teach the same lesson to different pupils depending on their unique learning styles
- Where pupils are struggling or excelling in a particular cohort
- Where pupil behaviour and/or progress is decreasing – allowing for much earlier intervention
- How a school compares to other schools (locally, regionally and nationwide).
It might not be a new trend, but keeping students safe remains essential for all schools. And the risks are constantly evolving. So, issues such as cyber-bullying, grooming, data protection and digital literacy are sure to be part of any ICT team’s priority list over the next 12 months and beyond.
Crucially, as more schools embark upon their digital transformation journey, with a rise in online technologies comes an increase in cyber threats. Not least because all devices that connect to the internet (ActivPanels, Android devices, IOS, OSX, Windows, etc.), are at risk of being infected with viruses and malware. As such, IT managers will need to keep up-to-date with the latest digital security and safety trends to keep users and their devices safe. Policies will also need to be reviewed on a regular basis to meet the ever-changing nature of the digital environment.
When it comes to the future of educational technology, we are only starting to see what’s possible. And, there is no doubt that tech will continue to be used where it supports learning. With so many edtech options available (and schools budgets an ongoing issue) IT managers must keep up with trends to ensure that they make the smartest, most future-proof ICT investments.