We’ve seen technology transform so much of our lives: from music, movies, and phones, to banking, shopping, and even friendships. But technology has yet to transform one of the bedrocks of our society: education. Why is it taking so long?
It really comes down to a few reasons: two fundamental and one monumental. First, for too many years the software solutions lacked either depth or breadth. If the graphical user interface was good or the storytelling was compelling, there was no depth, meaning these tools didn’t help students learn the fundamentals. Other solutions had no breadth – maybe someone had a great course or two on algebra, but not enough of anything else.
The ed tech industry has made strides.
Much of the depth and breadth challenges have been met by the industry over these last few years. There are compelling solutions if you have students who are struggling to earn needed credits or who warrant an accelerated learning path, or if schools need a specialized set of subjects like languages or advanced placement courses. And it’s helped teachers be more efficient with tools and support, especially in large classrooms. Hardware has played a role as well. It needed to get more accessible and more affordable – and it has.
Yet, that’s not really transformational. It’s absolutely necessary – innovation can’t happen without a foundational set of content, standards, reporting, etc. But technology is not serving every student. It will take a monumental shift to get technology ubiquitous in the classroom. And that monumental shift is all about the experience.
Student engagement is paramount.
Technology has to make learning better. For every kid. Teacher + classroom + technology must = more. More students graduating. More students getting better grades. It won’t happen by simply taking textbooks and putting them online or through a static experience of sitting and clicking in front of a screen. What we need to transform learning for every student is the rich visual experiences that only technology can provide.
Technology needs to take students out of the classroom and into the world – the virtual world of space and time, of scientific experiments, of history, of countries and cultures. We are visual beings. Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. About 90% of the transmitted information in the human brain is visual. Technology must sit at the side of the teacher and help bring the lessons to life in a way only it can do. And it can’t lose any rigor in the process. When it’s time to learn about Machu Picchu, take students there. Immerse them in the Inca culture through video, special effects, and interactives. Bring geometry proofs to life through visualizations in architecture, paintings, and maybe even 3D.
One of the best parts of technology is its ability to provide immersive visual experiences. It’s time it provides them for every student. That’s transformational.