I teach graduate education students on how to integrate educational technology in their future classrooms. A teacher has to be a guide by the side and not a sage on the stage is a kind of frequently used idiom in the contemporary constructive space of teaching and learning. There have been both staunch supporters and vehement opponents of the use of ed tech in global classrooms. Opponents ask how can technology substitute a teacher? Well, it can’t. Ed tech challenges rote learning but cannot substitute a teacher. Ed tech tools like Chromebook, smartboard, multimedia applications, etc. can empower a teacher’s lesson by being supplemental add-ons which have an incremental scope of engaging students’ attention span and learning outcomes. However, many classrooms which wrestle with socio-political and economic iniquities have missed out, while those with progressive, innovative, and funding opportunities have seen ed tech fully integrated. Ed tech was necessarily embraced during the pandemic by those classrooms that had the will and funding, while others were left behind either because of resistance or lack of infrastructure and funding. Now that we’re entering post-pandemic, the jury is out on full integration. Will companies and funders and school boards continue to invest in this future? Will tech savvy kids around the world demand ed tech as it is their second nature? During the Covid -19 pandemic, nearly most of the schools in all the parts of the world experimented with some or the other kinds of virtual learning when physical movement of human beings was prohibited. As we emerge from the pandemic, ed tech is not yet fully embraced as a part of normal education and it will be interesting to see its future tilting to which side?
Back in 2008, I was working on the Indian government project drafting a national policy on ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in schools in India. While studying global best practices, it was evident that the new millennium was witnessing an overarching development of educational technology in schools in terms of the presence of computers, laptops, tablets, projectors, Internet, and multimedia tools. Though, it needs to be studied why it took over a decade for these ed tech companies and products to establish their awareness across the global education system? Also, why is it that their integration in the education system is still superficial even in many developed nations? Whether in the global south or the global north, all parts of the world have evolved to the present time which witness technological presence in varied fields, be it health, finance, livelihood, or education. Though, education systems have made the least integration with technology despite the potential ed tech holds. Research has brought out many reasons for this. Lack of technological infrastructure and technological teacher training can be attributed as two biggest reasons for ed tech to miss in the global south. And, lack of school district focus and funding can be major reasons prohibiting ed tech to become ubiquitous in the global north.
I have been interacting with many public and private elementary school teachers in New York City across pre-, during, and, post-pandemic times. The last couple of years have certainly been revolutionary for ed tech. Educators differed in what they valued about the use of media and how they went about selecting or creating media in the pre- and the post-pandemic times. There have been steeper challenges for teachers to find, assemble, and manage digital materials and tools to engage remote, hybrid, or in-classroom students. Once teachers had instructional support from their Science Coach or tech team, exploration of creativity in ed tech saw a boom. Teachers have been recording themselves conducting experiments at home, sharing videos and clips, having real-time assessments, creating their homeroom websites and exploring school ed tech recommended tools like learning management system, digital educational apps, etc. which were not a part of everyday classroom. Taking time to adapt their curriculum over the last few years with respect to the pandemic, educators have created digital resources that could be used in the future as well. The present education space across the world has opened up to ed tech. The next couple of years would be critical for ed tech in terms of either fizzing out from the hype or really altering the teaching and learning space. Ed tech funding for VC-backed companies across the education sector has witnessed soaring heights. The interest in the field has never been higher as close to $21 billion in investment was seen in ed tech last year which is a strong indicative of the opportunity.
Along with all these developments in the education sector, what is significant to realize is that the evolved contemporary space and time has children who are natural tech-savvy millennials. Availability and accessibility of cheap smartphones and mobile apps across the global south has revolutionized the presence of digital technology in the lives of the masses. Now, it gets crucial for global education policy makers, educationists, technologists, business lines, and parents to recognize and assist to integrate ed tech seamlessly in teaching and learning so that the young generation do not look back at ed tech as a missed opportunity but could share stories of their changed times where digital tools ubiquitously got embedded in the education systems and transformed the face of the traditional classroom. It’s yet a desire of many educational technologists like me who see the blurring line and wish the clearing up of the space into the best possible scenario for the generations to come.