Is there such a thing as too much technology?

18th February 2019
Anna Flockett

There was a buzz at this year’s BETT show, but if you missed it then here is a round up from the informative talks to the very impressive demonstrations. Over the past few years, decades even, education has changed. It has changed the way we learn and therefore the way we need to be taught, and one major impact to both these is technology.

For example, 15 years ago when I was at school we did not have mobile phones or tablets, however most children did have access to parents desktops and laptops and also used computers within school. But over 30 years ago when my parents generation was at school the most technical it got would be different coloured pens and paper - there was no technology accessible for most pupils. 

Therefore as children now have access to laptops, tablets, PlayStations with a lot of them even owning a mobile themselves, the culture of educating needs to not be entirely based around these, but certainly include them to an extent that you can reach children on a level they understand. 

The message from BETT was clear - we need to engage with children on how they want to be taught and the best way to do that is through technology. 

As humans become more advanced we learn that capabilities are far greater than we thought, and the education system is now doing everything it can to ensure children are being taught and nurtured in the best way possible. “It’s not just about a pen and paper and some maths questions anymore,” said Erika Brodnock, founder of Karisma Kidz. 

Brodnock explained more in her talk titled; ‘Connecting classrooms with AI and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and said: “There is a way to redevelop education systems to move towards more immersive experimental methods.” 

She believed the future of work consists of three things; being creative, being adaptive, and being a problem explorer. But how? Simple: utilising technology which enables creative experiences. 

“If we truly utilise technology we can create a unique learning experience for children,” Brodnock stated. The most obvious way to do so is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the classroom, Brodnock explained: “Discovery AI learning assistants and VR/AR devices allow children to thrive. These AI learning systems provide lessons and homework, which are personal to students meaning they can reap a greater benefit.”

AR and VR technology in the classroom offers a lot of possibilities but at the very least can give real-time feedback. Through this AI and AR/VR technology personality and choice analysis is enabled. 

So what does the future of education hold? 
A lot more technology. Essentially every classroom will need to be connected. Tony Sewell, Founder of Generating Genius discussed with Brodnock the fact that we need to stop discriminating girls against technology. He said: “It is wrong to say that girls can’t code. Girls and boys have different types of brains, so we need to start looking at introducing things like coding but in different way, for example coding with art.”

This is the way that Generating Genius approaches children and technology, by a greater understanding of the individual person and brain. Sewell said: “I think one of the things we really need to do is bring everything back together - art, science, technology, as at the moment it seems as if you are only allowed to be interested in one - but they can all be used together.”

When it comes to education there are three key elements:

  1. Discovery 
  2. Understanding 
  3. Explaining 

Technology helps advance all these stages. Sewell added: “You can make a ciricullum a lot more exciting with technology.” The main problem here is how can you have this joined up exciting element of technology when your school or institution isn't connected - a lot of the time different departments don't even know each other. 

Additionally to help children we really need to get rid of the ideology of what a typical computer scientist looks like or what an engineer should be like. And if you don't have role models to look up to children are quite often deterred. 

Alex Beard, Senior Director for Tech For All also explained that tech offers some exciting opportunities for children, but when they have Teaching Assistant’s (TA) or one-to-one work children don't always learn more. There are pros and cons to both technology and more personalised human help, for example machines are able to learn and are intelligent, but do they learn like us? 

Machines are capable of insight and intelligence but it has been proven human learning has emotion and meaning unlike machine learning. 

Beard said: “When we use technology it should always be user friendly. Some technology can be too addictive and not in a good way, for example imagine getting learning experiences from technology as addictive as angry birds, would that be beneficial?” 

If you make learning experiences too user friendly it can affect our ability to learn, people suddenly can just learn in auto-pilot and not actually benefit. 

Technology is a useful tool yes, and we are now in an age where everything is going digital and becoming automated. Some will argue that technology and automating machines is a negative thing, however even by automating everything our human abilities still leave us head and shoulders above machines - the emotion, emotive and ability to understand. 

Beard stated we should use tech in ways to benefit us, not replace us. “Technology should be used in simple ways to free up our valued time. Teachers need to be human teacher and use technology for mundane jobs.” 

The top tips Beard gave included: 

  • Humans learn, not machines. Machines can only approximate, and yes they do that better than humans but you need to remember human brains are more organic and pure 
  • You need to be user friendly 
  • Rather than automate everything, augment minds

It was clear from the BETT show that the next step we need to take is to push more for connection between technology and classrooms, and using technology and AI to be able to provide students with real-time feedback.

There are even a number of startups out there that would be willing to partner with schools to pilot new ideas and technologies in order to gain funding. 

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