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June 28, 2013

Online | Education

Revolution is coming to a classroom near you

edtech.jpgEdtech is the buzzword of the moment. While the technological transformation of education has failed to live up to expectations for many years, a couple of articles today in The Economist illustrate how we are finally entering a period of real and substantial change.

"IT IS possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture," observed Thomas Edison in 1913, predicting that books would soon be obsolete in the classroom. In fact the motion picture has had little effect on education. The same, until recently, was true of computers. Ever since the 1970s Silicon Valley’s visionaries have been claiming that their industry would change the schoolroom as radically as the office—and they have sold a lot of technology to schools on the back of that. Children use computers to do research, type essays and cheat. But the core of the system has changed little since the Middle Ages: a “sage on a stage” teacher spouting “lessons” to rows of students. Tom Brown and Huckleberry Finn would recognise it in an instant—and shudder.

Now at last a revolution is under way. At its heart is the idea of moving from “one-size-fits-all” education to a more personalised approach, with technology allowing each child to be taught at a different speed, in some cases by adaptive computer programs, in others by “superstar” lecturers of one sort or another, while the job of classroom teachers moves from orator to coach: giving individual attention to children identified by the gizmos as needing targeted help.

Read the full article from The Economist:
E-ducation: A long-overdue technological revolution is at last under way

IN A small school on the South Side of Chicago, 40 children between the ages of five and six sit quietly learning in a classroom. In front of each of them is a computer running software called Reading Eggs. Some are reading a short story, others building sentences with words they are learning. The least advanced are capturing all the upper- and lower-case Bs that fly past in the sky. As they complete each task they move through a cartoon map that shows how far they have progressed in reading and writing. Along the way they collect eggs which they can use to buy objects in the game, such as items to furnish their avatar’s apartment. Now and then a child will be taken aside for scheduled reading periods with one of the two monitoring teachers.

The director of North Kenwood-Oakland school says this sort of teaching, blending software with human intervention, helps her pupils learn faster. It also allows teachers at this school—which, like other charter schools, is publicly funded but has some freedom to teach as it likes—to spend more time teaching and less time marking written work and leading pupils through dull drills of words and numbers. On top of that the school gains an accurate, continuous record of each child’s performance through the data its various programs collect and analyse.

Read the full article from The Economist:
Catching on at last: New technology is poised to disrupt America’s schools, and then the world’s

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