The Future of Educational Technology
Core Values That Will Keep Class in Session
The future of educational technology has become a bit of an obsession for my colleagues and I. We have engaged in many discussions on this topic, each of which has led me to believe that the future of education, and the technologies that will support them, can be distilled down to three core values:
While this is not an exhaustive list, I feel that these three words encompass the core values that many educational institutions employ today with their own internal mission statements. We’re seeking to extend those beliefs beyond the internal confounds of these institutions to the technologies they will use in the classroom of the future.
This topic comes up time and again in our internal discussions due to the importance it holds within these institutions and with regard to the systems and products used for educational purposes. Faculty, students, and even administrators expect to have flexibility and control over content they own and want to share, disseminate, and collaborate with peers, friends, family, and even strangers at a broad level.
Open-source products have become the expected standard to accomplish this purpose. The use of open source products and standards requires openness to exist and, by using these services, institutions are afforded the flexibility to build, distribute, and share with their peers in ways that proprietary systems cannot allow. By nature, proprietary systems are less open, as the walled gardens they create do not allow for creative adaptation, control, or integration into other services and products.
As technology becomes more prominent on campus, the need to integrate into existing systems and architectures will be a major requirement in the classroom of the future.
As noted above, openness allows for collaboration, and one of the key cornerstones of the educational process, and research in general, is the
ability to freely collaborate with your peers and share ideas broadly. Collaboration also breeds creativity and engagement. It’s no surprise educational thought leaders like Sir Ken Robinson believe, “education kills creativity.” The types of classrooms he describes in his books are those that lack collaboration, creativity, and technologies that enable students of the future to create unique educational experiences inside and outside the classroom.
Technologies that enable engagement in the expanding educational network of the future will give the ability to share ideas, inspire creativity, and improve learning outcomes on a global scale regardless of where the student is in the world. These forms of engagement, allotted by technology, have the ability to open up the classroom beyond the brick and mortar physical space of the classroom or campus, opening up options that never existed before.
The most important topic being discussed among our customers, peers, and partners is the ability to create simple tools and workflows that allow end users to easily create, engage, and distribute content. The vast majority of educational tools are heavy, clunky, and complicated. While technology can be complicated, the end user experience must be seamless and simple to promote adoption.
Educational institutions seem to be one step ahead of technology service providers in this regard. One example is the One Button Studio at Penn State University, where users “insert a flash drive, click record, remove flash drive” and end up with a quality recording. Educational service providers should follow the example of institutions like Penn State University and think of ways to incorporate these simple workflows into their technology to bridge the adoption gap.
The future of education will leverage simple, easy, and powerful technologies, allowing users the ability to promote said technology anywhere in the world without needing in-depth training or long tutorials.
The existing technologies and educational procedures being used on campus can be complicated and, as more and more companies enter the education space, it is becoming a crowded mess of poorly integrated service providers. Without open standards and a shared vision moving forward, the vendors who enforce proprietary software will need to open their platforms to allow external development or they will simply disappear over time. Nobody wants to be locked in a walled garden. Gardens, like information, are meant to be shared for the entire world to enjoy.
Openness, engagement, and simplicity must be core staples of educational technologies moving forward. Without a vision that incorporates these three core values into education, a campus will constantly struggle to integrate technologies that achieve widespread adoption and create positive learning outcomes on and off campus. Without broad adoption of educational technologies, institutions will begin to question their investments and, over time, begin canceling their contracts with vendors who refuse to play nice in the open ecosystem of educational technologies.
Edited by Alicia Young