As Harvard analyst Deval Patrick once sincerely pointed out: “When there are inequalities in learning, they are usually built into life.
The quality of education we receive as children and young adults has a direct impact on the quality of life we will enjoy later. A good education allows us to work, develop and ultimately live safer and happier lives. Receiving an inadequate education, on the other hand, can significantly hamper our personal development.
About the Author
Hugo Aguirre is the Director of Development and Education at TBox.
Fortunately, there is one essential engine that helps equalize the quality of education, and it is called technology. The truth is that the positive impact of technology on the quality of education depends on schools and educators understanding the digital divide and using that knowledge to bridge it. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out when and why technology is useful in teaching and learning.
Factors contributing to unequal education
At the macro level, the quality of education depends on many factors. Public education policy, unavailable resources and the general level of education, including teacher training, top the list. However, if a community’s inequality is also reflected in its education system, technology alone will not bring about change. In an unequal society, technological changes and the use of advanced tools by a limited number of people will end up increasing inequalities.
If we look at the differences between individual schools in the same district, there are also several conditions that influence education. Take the example of the United States, where the different educational offers vary from school to school. Some schools do not have the necessary technical infrastructure. In addition, the quality of libraries and access to various computer programs may vary from institution to institution. In most cases, the more limited the access to learning methods, technological programs and modern materials, the lower the quality of education.
At the student level, the involvement of an educational community and a family also affects education. The fact that a child grows up in a motivating environment that supports learning processes and provides technological tools to promote learning will influence the individual progress of the child.
Finally, teachers are essential in balancing inequalities between children in school. Education depends first and foremost on the learning methods used by teachers and how they encourage students to self-study. It also makes a difference if teachers can give every child the support they need.
How technology can reduce disparities
While technology is not a panacea, technological tools have a positive impact on education in schools and can help both learners and educators when used correctly. Technologies provide personal and private access to educational materials and enable more memorable and varied learning experiences. Not to mention: being able to use a number of technologies is a skill in itself.
Technology as a teaching tool
Services such as animation, 3D printing, robotics and learning applications provide access to a whole new world of educational materials. With the help of such software, educators can enable multi-faceted learning experiences, enhance children’s curiosity and foster their ability to learn independently.
When academic content is theoretical and abstract, educators can provide students with access to video materials, colorful interactive graphics, and educational applications. Tools like robots attract attention and make it easier to understand complex concepts. Using learning platforms like Google Classroom allows children to follow their learning journey and search for additional material to better understand the content. This material can compensate for possible lack of support from teachers, peers or family members.
Technology enhances individual student learning experiences
Technology can make learning fun by using it creatively to enhance learning experiences. Google Meet and other digital meeting tools let students around the world connect. For example, schools can design language courses as bilingual digital exchanges between students. The courses covering culture and history allow virtual visits to museums in the student’s country. This engages students’ interest and creates a learning environment that motivates each student to continue learning.
Personalized learning reduces the differences between individual students
Modern tools help to bridge the knowledge gaps between children and young adults on an individual basis. By continuously collecting data, data-driven applications enable individualized and personalized forms of education.
Educators can assess the learning stage of each individual if they have access to data on children’s progress when using applications and software tools. By following the learning path, they can determine which areas students are struggling with and whether their progress is commensurate with the time and effort spent.
Technology to facilitate active learning methodologies
Finally, technology enables active teaching methods that improve the overall quality of education. Active strategies are teaching methods that engage students in the material through discussion, problem solving, case studies, role plays, and other methods. Instead of receiving face-to-face lessons, learners gain access to tools that help them find problems, develop solutions, simulate circumstances, and design prototypes. These methods encourage the use of tools such as presentation software, video editing, computer graphics, and animation. Using them on a daily basis, students become proficient and are already developing the skills most relevant to future jobs, as any job will require the use of software, machines or applications at some point.
A great example of a comprehensive learning project is high school students hosting a fundraising dinner at their school. They have to design flyers and distribute them digitally, researching how to write invitations, prepare recipes and calculate budgets using spreadsheets. Finally, students will cook and perform the event in person and connect all learning experiences.
Examples of methodologies are problem-based learning, the STEAM method and the flipped classroom. Such student-centered classes trigger a student’s motivation to learn, their ability to self-learn, and accelerate the speed and quality of learning. According to Dale’s Cone of Experience, students remember 35% of what they see, but 90% of what they do when they complete a task in practice.
Technology as a tool for teacher training
The job of a teacher is to constantly improve the quality of his teaching and to adapt to new methods, modern tools and updated knowledge. Using data, educators can better understand student learning. Using digital conferencing tools like Google Meet can facilitate their professional development and provide better access to courses, materials, and workshops.
What the future holds
In response to distance learning, schools and authorities around the world have understood the need to provide students with tools for distance learning, virtual classroom and digital access to learning resources.
Educators have gained immense interest in integrating technology to improve teaching and educational equity. We are building a culture of change, better understanding the issues we face and determining what tools can help us create equality.
However, the danger is falling into the trap of believing that technology will resolve educational disparities with its mere existence. The underlying methodology of why education is needed and what improves its quality is vital. Meanwhile, technology is the most powerful and available tool that can help enhance the quality of education.