How technology is transforming education - Part 2 of 3

By Murray de Villiers, General Manager: Africa, Middle East Regional Academic Programme at SAS

Johannesburg, 10 Mar 2015
Read time 3min 40sec

The popular 'Throwback Thursday' trend on social media is a fun way to reminisce about how we ever got by without the technological advancements of today. There's no doubt that technology has simplified - and perhaps complicated - our lives, and it is having the same effect on education, to the point that we could be questioning how teachers ever instructed with chalkboards, overhead projectors, VHS players and even paper and pens.

Technology is influencing education on many levels. Some may criticise its effect on learners' writing abilities, social skills and activity levels, but the benefits of digital learning far outweigh these disadvantages.

Digital learning encourages creativity and innovation, and boosts learners' tech skills, which are in high demand in the workplace, says Murray de Villiers, General Manager: Africa, Middle East Regional Academic Programme at SAS.

Meet them where they are

The bring your own device (BYOD) trend no longer affects only businesses. Young people have grown up with technology and use their mobile devices to communicate, play and organise their lives, and it makes sense that they would want to integrate these devices into their learning. Schools and universities can no longer disregard these tools, especially in settings that consume most of learners' time and attention. Indeed, using familiar tools is likely to motivate learners as it makes education enjoyable, interactive and engaging.

We are just starting to see the effects of digital technology on the way education is delivered and accessed, and can expect even more drastic changes in the years to come.

Schools and universities should be encouraged to embrace digital learning and should get buy-in from stakeholders, government and teachers, many of whom may still be stuck in the 80s when it comes to technology in the classroom - in fact, many grade one learners are more tech-savvy than most teachers, which makes teacher training just as critical if we are to get the most out of digital learning.

Mobile technology allows learners and teachers to be constantly engaged, while opening up education to interaction and collaboration. It introduces multimedia-rich content like video, podcasts, blogs, wikis and social media, and makes learning relevant and exciting. Learning is no longer confined to the classroom or textbook - learners are now able to explore any topic or subject from anywhere, with immediate results that can be shared and discussed with fellow learners and teachers.

Education for all

The rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and globalisation has taken the academic world by storm and opened up learning to millions of people worldwide. MOOCs are either free or paid-for courses and have been successful in making education more accessible to the general public, especially those in emerging markets. They have opened up a host of possibilities to those who have not had access to traditional learning, such as those living in rural, under-served areas, and allow students to learn at their own pace. The beauty of digital learning is that education can be tailored to individual learners' needs, as group learning may not suit a learner with special needs, or one who is more advanced than his or her peers.

It's not a question of whether traditional learning is better than online learning, but rather one of how to balance the two. With the unstoppable rise of mobility, traditional education must support the 24/7 nature of learning offered by MOOCs and mobile technology that goes beyond the traditional classroom. Long-term education strategies should have an online component that highlights the benefits of connectivity to traditional education and how the two can feed off each other's strengths.

We should not be telling learners to leave their mobile devices at home. Rather, we should be figuring out how best to incorporate them into the classroom in a way that boosts learning, leverages interactive content and eliminates distractions - before the traditional classroom becomes the subject of a Throwback Thursday post.

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Waggener Edstrom South Africa Funie Rabambi (+27) 71 252 0027
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