Nowadays, technology is changing so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up. Web design, 3D printing, green screens, coding and robotics may sound like key ingredients of the latest sci-fi film, but they are, in fact, an integral part of school curriculums around the world.
Technology has become so essential within the education sector that it is being successfully integrated into everyday teaching methods in all corners of the globe. According to CB Insights data, funding to education technology start-ups jumped to record highs last year, with annual funding up 64% to over $3.1bn, illustrating the high demand for technology in education.
Schools, colleges and universities are meeting the demands of our increasingly digitally-focused world by implementing education technology (edtech) into virtually all of their curriculums. The prediction by the World Economic Forum that the demand for technology skills will grow by 20% by 2025, while new technologies will create more than two million jobs in just under five years’ time, illustrates just how important this is.
Abu Dhabi’s education council has recently initiated a huge push in edtech and introduced Google Computer Science to the curriculum for more than 450,000 students. Ninety schools have also been given 3D printers to use with their students, opening up a whole new world for creative learning and development. Amongst other things, it is hoped that the updated curriculum will help students learn how to create programmes, applications, games and robotics.
In 2014, when I was working as an expat in Cambodia, I had first hand experience of the benefits of edtech and many of the international schools in the country were already teaching children as young as six how to code. At the same time, the United Kingdom introduced the new computer science GCSE, which has coding at its core, while the United States rolled out its ‘Computer Science for All’ programme – an initiative that aims to teach programming skills to every pupil in the US, from nursery to secondary school.
Last month, it was announced that the Micro:bit mini-computer, a circuit board that can be programmed for a variety of creative tasks, including robotics, music and sports activities, is to be sold and used in schools across the world. In mid-October, for example, a 10-week Micro:bit challenge was announced in schools across The Netherlands, during which classes will be set a new challenge each week, such as ‘Build your own electric guitar’. This is a key advancement in education technology as this comes after one million of the coding devices were given away for free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.
Virtual and augmented reality headsets, artificial intelligence, real time collaborations and wearable technology are amongst the most significant innovations that we are seeing in edtech today and they are already being introduced into many classrooms. For instance, a virtual reality app for biology students, which explores the inner workings of the human body in 3D, is being launched, while artificial intelligence is already playing an important role in learning analytics.
Despite these impressive and innovative tech tools being introduced, it’s important that schools integrate edtech into the learner journey carefully, otherwise children are at risk of the negative health effects of inactivity, combined with the loss of vital social skills needed to develop and succeed in life. One lesson to teach young learners today, is that technology is best used to assist lives as opposed to ruling them.
Carolyn Savage is Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder. Carolyn is passionate about education and has spent 15 years working with children from all around the world. She is a third culture kid, whose understanding of the changing face of international education runs deep and she’s keen to help parents find the right schools for their children.