EdTech Futures

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4 Reasons why a technology-first approach to EdTech will fail

This month’s EdTech Futures looks at four articles featuring different but related aspects of EdTech: blockchain, blended learning, MOOCS and an integrated approach to physical learning space, technology and pedagogy. They might not sound particularly ‘related’ – other than having their roots in education – but they are. Collectively, they offer some sound lessons.

First off, ‘6 Reasons Why Classrooms Need to Implement Blended Learning’ is a timely reminder of the risks of buying into an overly simplistic perspective on blended learning (as this article does). This kind of thinking under values the true complexities and challenges involved in adopting blended learning effectively. It’s pretty much bereft of any reference to pedagogy and also implies that ‘one size fits all’. Knowing How has frequently pressed the case that context is in fact everything: what works here won’t necessarily work there. By context, we mean in the broadest sense: place, people, culture, resources, and, of course, leadership. Perhaps most controversially, the article’s opening statement claims that ‘Technology is transforming today’s classroom’: it’s not – people are.

Contrast this with our second article ‘Function Follows Form’, which embraces the exact opposite view. It offers an intriguing insight into how some US Universities are tackling the challenge of embedding active learning (aka blended learning, or active blended learning) by focusing on the learning space experience, bringing together expertise in pedagogy/active learning, space design and IT/ICT.

So, where some exercise themselves trying to work out how to transform pedagogy and practice to leverage the values of digital, these Universities are prioritising the transformation of the spaces in which teaching and learning are delivered. Instead of the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ at the front of a class arranged in rows, learners work at pods grouped around monitors, connected to a large screen or videowall (Knowing How saw a similar layout at the Grimsby Institute – excellent). This creates a space which functions ergonomically for both group collaborative working, as well as front-led instruction. The principle is simple: if the space is designed to facilitate active, collaborative learning, then that’s what you’ll get. Technology isn’t the driver here, it’s the enabler.

The consequences of persisting with a technology-first agenda is evident in the demise of the MOOCs (‘MOOC participation is declining’). Once lauded as the ‘disruptor of higher education’, MOOCs have singularly failed to deliver, with declining numbers of participants representing a measure of dissatisfaction. Research evidence from multiple sources over decades supports the fallacy of the ‘one-size-fits-all / 100% online learning’ model. After six years of failing to deliver on promises, the MOOCs are now attempting a new model with a focus on professional qualifications. Knowing How predicts this will also fail because it still ignores the increasing trend in employer and employment research which emphasises cognitive-behavioural skills over subject knowledge.

This brings us neatly to our last featured article, ‘5 Ways Blockchain is Revolutionising Higher Education’. Unlike MOOCs, developers working with blockchain technologies in EdTech have got it really switched on: far from being technology-first, their models are quite obviously customer-first. This short article surveys a number of uses: the one that caught our eye is blockchain technology used in student records and credentialing. Knowing How recently met with a Swiss blockchain company who are already using the technology to provide an advanced secure tamper-proof method for the targeted dissemination of verifiable student records and qualifications. As this article points out, the technology has a much broader application in hosting any type of record of personal competency and accomplishment.

The notion of permanent, verified records of personal accomplishment and competency, including the transversal skills increasingly foregrounded by employers is attractive, pragmatic and useful. Perhaps the same attributes should be applied as measures to any blended learning model or any EdTech!

This article has been written based on a regular round up of up to the minute news, articles and research papers on innovation in EdTech, provided by our knowledge partner DeltaHedron using their personalised technology intelligence support services. New articles will be available each month end so bookmark this page to keep up to date on the latest trends and innovations in digital education.

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