Edtech: How important is technology in education?

Having permeated nearly all levels of learning, it is imperative to recognise technology as an essential tool of modern-day education.

Written by Shalini Rajvanshi | Noida | Updated: October 12, 2016 1:26 pm
edtech, edutech, education, education in india, education technology, online education, education news. indian express (Thinkstock photo)

Technology is slowly and steadily making a foray in education. Knowledge is no more limited to books and the use of platforms such as websites, apps, videos, live chats, etc., have taken it to another level. A lot of schools and colleges – mostly in tier 1 and tier 2 cities – have embraced technology to make learning fun and interactive.

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Education Technology or ‘edtech’ as it has been termed now, is a growing sector. If we look at the numbers, India’s online education market is set to go as high as $2.5 billion by year-end, according to a research done by RedSeer Consulting. The report had further estimated a total of 20 million students between junior high to senior school who would count as the contributors to this market.

Interweaving technology with education seems to be helping students at all levels. Many educators in the city swear by instructional videos while parents are gradually opening up to the possibility of a platform which may help their wards learn something new in an innovative manner.

The use of education technology is not restricted to cities and metros, as one might believe. It is expanding its base to Tier II and Tier III cities as well. One of the reasons for this is difficulty in having access to proper instruction channels and resources/quality of education available to city students, the RedSeer Consulting report says.

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The way edtech has evolved is interesting to see. While originally it aimed at providing a fun alternative to learning activities in terms of education-related games and platforms in general, they have now come all the way to including technologies dedicated to enhancing learning and education itself.

In July this year, Lenovo had launched an electronic slate for kids in collaboration with ConveGenius, an edtech company. According to a research done by the company, the interest span of children waned easily when studying but remained put when they were engaged in games.

Besides aiming to make students adapt better to the rapidly digitising world around them, edtech also helps develop creativity as well as personalising content suited to the needs of each child based on constant evaluation.

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Taking the case of assessment based learning tools, iAugmentor, is a personalised and adaptive medium that intuitively suggests a learning roadmap to an individual as per the learning tendencies, competencies and proclivities of the individual while constantly tracking progress. ”

Sameer Sikka, CLO and Cofounder of iAugmentor, feels that the dynamics of education have changed with the infiltration of technology.

Sameer Bora from Next Education India Pvt Ltd, an education solutions provider with a special interest in K-12 education, says that edtech can work only when there is interaction and participation. “A lot of people only look at videos but that is not the sole purpose of education technology. Interaction and participation are the two biggest components of online education,” he says.

The way online learning differs from edtech, Bora feels, is that education technology involves programmes which engage a physical response from the child and enables an interaction instead of a one-sided conversation, whereas online learning is consumption of content in the form of videos or written lessons posted online.

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“Online education is one component of edtech. Programmes that allow kids to take part in the learning process is what would define edtech,” says Bora.

Talking about the aims and focus of online education in this regard, education technology and iAugmentor itself, Sikka says, “Today’s education doesn’t change behaviour —something which can happen only when people learn to ‘do’. Skills are not being imparted. Current education scenario assumes people come from same profiles and learning needs. Education technology uses artificial intelligence to gauge individual needs.”

Sikka informs that in order to assess students, iAugmentor throws up five pieces of content which can be videos, articles or cartoons from which a user has to choose one and then answer questions related to it. “Through the students’ answers, we can assess specific gaps in learning by using tools such as memorability, hand movement and articulation assessments tools, which are our parameters,” said Sikka.

When it comes to involving technology while learning, special attention needs to be given to each child by understanding his or her individual needs as well as making the process more interactive and fun by transforming studies into a hands-on experience instead of a rot-based system.

“Personalised mentoring and “life-skills” are parameters that are never discussed in school educational programmes or curriculums. Individual emphasis on the enhancement of student’s skills and aptitudes to be ready to face life challenges are not given utmost importance in classrooms either,” Sikka says.

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“Parents need to understand the important of technology in education just like outside experiences enhance learning, why can’t technology do the same,” feels Bora.

Mamta Chopra, a homemaker with three school-going children who are adept at finding their way through a cell phone or a computer, feels that in this day and age, it is impractical for a child not to be engaged in some kind of technology based game or learning activity.

“It is a good practice to keep them (kids) engaged in some or the other computer-based activity because if they do not learn now, they will not be able to work (perform at jobs) later,” she says, adding that even if she prevented her children from working at a computer, it would not be in their best interests.

“Moreover, they would end up playing games on a friend’s cell phone or school computer anyway. Why make something forbidden when it can help them learn one more skill,” says she.

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Her sister Nidhi, who has a one and a half years old toddler, has already started letting her daughter listen to rhymes and stories on a tablet. She has also bought CDs with softwares for children as she feels they are better than books due to their interactive element.

Technology has infiltrated the education sector and is only going to grow, as exemplified by the above examples. The biggest challenge of edtech, which is changing the mindset of people, especially parents, with regards to technology’s role in education also seems to be easing up. The only factor which remains to be seen now is what shape the sector takes in the future and how it competes against classroom teaching and the rot-based education system prevalent in the country.

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