In this article, we will explore the transformative possibilities that lie ahead for education. From the integration of cutting-edge technologies to the evolution of pedagogical approaches, we will delve into the key trends shaping the future of learning. We will examine the benefits and challenges associated with these advancements and explore how educators, policymakers, and stakeholders can collaborate to create a future-oriented education system that empowers students and prepares them to navigate a rapidly evolving world.
While we generally see students and teachers as the main actors within the dynamic landscape of education, it's quite thrilling to find that technology has now too assumed an active role. Spurred on by the recent pandemic, it has been catapulted to the forefront of education, shaping new trends and justifying the freedoms of digital platforms and resources. Technology has become somewhat of a living, moving, constantly evolving entity – a hungry organism that has latched onto and is slowly subsuming traditional teaching practices.
As we explore the advances in technology and the way in which it has sparked new forms of learning, we are compelled to confront the impact it will have on a larger scale. Will technology devour the education system as we know it, swallow up the current school structures, consuming them entirely? Or will it fuse with them, merging to bring about a transformative change? These questions arise as the increasing integration of technology encourages us to view classrooms less like traditional spaces of education, and more like fluid zones of knowledge and enlightenment, effortlessly shifting between the physical and the intangible.
We are all very familiar with how Covid-19 disrupted education, likely having been through it ourselves. So, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that we were just two of 1.6 billion students affected by it. While the figure is staggering, it is also a mirror reflecting how deeply our generation was exposed to the concepts of blended and online learning, with a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group in 2020, revealing that 85% of higher education institutions in the U.S. offered those options to students. (Though, it is important to be mindful of inequalities and we must not overlook the bitter reality that one student may not have the same level of access as another). Still, what we can see now are the numerous lasting effects on our perspectives of education.
Blended learning introduced us to the flipped approach, where students studied class content such as pre-recorded lectures outside of said classrooms and then, participated in discussion inside of them. That essentially gave us the liberty to study at our own pace and in the place and time of our choosing, whether it be at 4 PM sprawled on the plush cushions of our sofa or 7 PM snuggled around the duvets of our bed. Technology injected elements of convenience and flexibility into our learning routines. Its companionship with physical teaching also pushed students to think critically and actively engage with the materials in order to have talking points for collaborative activities.
This ability to reclaim ownership of our education and shatter the manacles of rigidity imposed on us by traditional schools has led to full-time online learning emerging as a popular trend as well. Five years ago, the idea of attending an online school would have probably been met with confusion and skepticism. However, today, they are arguably more accepted within society as competent alternatives for students who prefer to strike a balance between their studies and other commitments. Online schools like Crimson Global Academy are a testament to the changing nature of education, with a strong emphasis on student-centered learning and personalized experiences.
In line with this, personalized learning also seems to be commonly talked about in education as a forward-moving, modern concept. But, to be honest, it is oftentimes reduced to a mere buzzword thrown around without much thought put into understanding its ideals. Andrew Calkins, co-director of the Next Generation Learning Challenges, points out that personalized learning is not just a set of goals to check off a list, but rather a methodology in itself. It's about schools making a sincere effort to recognize not only their students’ individual abilities, but also what excites and motivates them.
At the moment, you may have noticed that attempts to tailor content usually amount to a simple difference in lessons based on skill. Though, the way in which progressive thinkers in the field urge us to envision the future is by embracing this type of learning and calling for higher standards that allow for greater student agency in guiding their studies.
Technology aids this endeavor. Commonly used digital tools like Microsoft Teams and Schoology contain features for communicating directly with teachers, receiving personal feedback and tracking individual achievement. And I’m sure many of you have come across, and perhaps used, adaptive learning platforms like Duolingo and Khan Academy that customize content, at home.
Teachers’ can leverage AI-powered platforms like Carnegie Learning to help them improve class performance and plan sessions. The software also provides detailed information on a student’s progress through its digital learning coach, MATHiaU, enabling teachers to give targeted support that may not have been as feasible or effective without it. This will likely be quite consequential moving forward, since schools will seek to – as I’m sure you’ve heard it before – ‘unlock student potential to the fullest’.
When we think of recent advances in technology, ChatGPT undoubtedly comes to mind. Its emergence has triggered an absolute mania, with people using it for just about everything, from fixing sentence grammar to explaining advanced mathematical concepts. In essence, ChatGPT has revolutionized our access to information, the way we interact with it and the relationship we form. The same questions and discussions we may have had with teachers, we can now have with it, and at our convenience. Further, where we would have had to sift through multiple websites after a Google search (kicking and thrashing in a torrent of information), ChatGPT now offers us instant and focused responses.
Perhaps that's why it won't be so hard to believe that while 74% of teachers view technology favorably, as per a study published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, those more conservative are bound to resist its integration due to fears of being replaced. Nevermind these so called ‘technophobes’, ChatGPT’s capabilities are enough to make even Google a little wary. And with many schools outright banning it, yet students using it nonetheless, it’s quite clear that the integration of technology in education is not going to be as seamless as we’d like. It is likely to consist of a struggle between different actors vying for control.
ChatGPT aside, there have been many more strides forward. In smaller steps, learning management systems like Google Classroom have been adopted by many teachers, which a 2020 survey by McKinsey suggests have the potential to save 20-40% of their time. This gives educators the opportunity to re-invest saved time or simply put, relieve some of their work stress. (The overburdened and underpaid nature of their role is another pertinent issue, but one we won’t be tackling today).
In larger steps, augmented and virtual reality technologies have begun to penetrate education too. One of its main attractions is the level of immersion it brings – the uncanny feeling of seeing through time and space. One example of its extraordinary potential is the 42 VR labs established in Nagaland, one of the most remote regions in India, allowing students access to a wide range of STEM learning modules and, perhaps more entertaining, the opportunity to embark on virtual tours of world famous landmarks. Such examples of technology integrating and enhancing the quantity and quality of education available seems almost unbelievable at times.
When talking about accessibility, it feels necessary to bring up another face to technology, one that doesn’t enhance the learning experience, but actually enables it in the first place. This is because it feels almost prudent for us to keep in view the many students with cognitive, visual or hearing disabilities, as that is where assistive technologies come into play. Such technologies help these individuals engage with classrooms and participate in learning activities. Advancements in them, going from adaptive keyboards and talking calculators to voice-recognition software and optical character recognition technology, have re-assured us that education will likely be more inclusive in the future.
What Makes Crimson Different
Education has always operated on a one-size-fits-all approach, and quite frankly, we can’t all be Cinderella. Even the systems that do break away from this are generally tilted in favor of granting opportunities and resources to high-achieving students. With technology acting as a catalyst for online, hybrid style and personalized learning, coupled with the latest waves of innovation, the lens through which we view students has elevated. They are now active participants taking ownership of their studies and so we can rest easy knowing that the future of education is one that is more engaging, empowering and student-centered. And while the integration of technology is bound to be chaotic and disruptive, we should continue to channel its benefits into helping us create fertile learning environments.
Khushi Nagpal is a second-year History student at the London School of Economics. When she isn’t off gallivanting in fictional worlds, Khushi spends her time writing and self-studying data analytics, which she hopes to pursue after college.