Why Technology Alone Won’t Help Revolutionize Education

Ritesh Chopra October 27, 2017
Books will soon be obsolete in schools … Our school system will be completely changed in the next 10 years.” ~ Thomas Edison, 1913 It’s been almost 105 years since great Thomas Edison made this bold prediction, and the fact is that books are still a common feature in most, if not every classroom. The transition from print to digital is slow and painful. The fact remains that everyone believes that digital is the future but this dimmer switch change would take more years than initially expected. Well, I’m certain there are a plethora of reasons why the transition isn’t at the pace we expect – from educators (districts/school administrators/government officials) who aren’t great adaptors of technology to the very notion of what digitization mean, however I would like to focus here two of the other aspects – which I think are equally important:
  • Madhav Chavan is a social activist, entrepreneur and the CEO of the educational non-profit, Pratham. He was also responsible for starting the Read India campaign, which aims to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic to underprivileged children across India. With his diverse background and having studied and taught at universities across the United States and India, Dr. Chavan has a deep understanding when it comes to challenges faced by today’s education world.
In this short interview, Dr. Chavan states what we all know to be true, that technology adoption is inevitable. But while technology may seem to solve many of our everyday challenges, it does not necessarily mean it alone is the solution to all our problems. He lucidly explains that technology in our current education system is subservient to our linear model learning which is a dichotomy with respect to how technology is used. This intriguing point paves the way for self-learning and customized learning treatments which would certainly require a lot of effort to address in our basal education market.
  • Moore’s Law stated in 1965 that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In simple English, this translates to the fact that our technology is almost twice as powerful every two years but gets half the price.
Significant Digital Education is currently being done in schools through big and old monolithic systems, though its changing fast with advent of adaptive learning technologies. However my bone of contention is the size and sheer vastness of the core curriculum books prescribed in formal k-12 schools and basic IT infrastructure issues plaguing various schools. Let’s look at the data below:
  • 5kg – The average weight of a schoolbag
  • Average page number in a 6th grade book – 750
  • 73% of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months has remained largely unchanged since 2012.
  • Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers
  • 39% of US school districts have adequate access to functioning technology and/or adequate broadband access
Now, let’s look at another interesting data set:
  • 85% of eBooks are mere replicas of print eBooks;
  • 90% of e-books are static or less interactive to keep the audience engaged;
  • 64% of students wish to get their textbook sizes to be condensed;
  • Bandwidth continues to be a key issue in adaptation to eBooks
With Moore’s law technology will always improve and become affordable and continue to adapt and I’m confident that future of education has to be digital but more often than not schools are one of the last places to see the benefits of these advances. Our digital books need to unleash the full potential of technology to make the eBook very different and immersive than their print counterparts, and in turn make learning effective, fun and immersive. Something a student can be glued to for long – like a game played on a device and use the same interface to teach students about learning concepts. But before technology is applied to solve this – Do our educationists (actual buyers) need to be convinced of its potential? Jacobs from the American Occupational Therapy Association has this advice for educationist: “Kids are responsive to education because they don’t want to be in pain, they don’t want to trip and fall, they don’t want to walk in a funny way,” Jacobs said. “Do they need that extra battery? Do they really need to carry their science book when they don’t have science? Would it make sense to have smaller binders for each of the subjects?” This can be solved through applying technology and creating micro nuggets which then need to mapped to the curriculum pedagogical process for each grade. This also requires change in content packaging before applying technology. The fact is that our education system should do more on self-learning as there’s so much to be learned and the content that humanity has generated and is still generating, can’t be absorbed over 5,10,13 and 15 years. So, the important thing is to learn the skills of learning, to learn collaboratively – the new system/technology should help students to experiments and exploration in groups and crack the real life problems, so does that mean a fundamental change in the way we learn and the way that we are being assessed and certified as well? Probably yes. What do you think? We @ Magic help publishers create and reimagine learning for today’s digital natives to improve learning outcomes and make this world a better home for us and for our generations to come. Will be happy to seek your thoughts and comments below.

Ritesh Chopra

Ritesh is a transformation leader with proven success in building large-scale multi-million dollar services business across the globe combined with a strategic mindset, structured execution, and strong people leadership capabilities.