When I was 8, our classroom had one computer loaded with Treasure Mountain and Midnight Rescue. Housed in the back of the class, my classmates and I would fight day in and day out over who was allowed to play next. Our twenty minute slots flew by in the blink of an eye. Friendships were lost over this computer. Gladiators were made by those who got the top scores.
Much to the dismay of my teacher and her blackboard of equations, I would argue that this was the highlight of Year 3 (sorry, Miss Rogers). Learning didn’t feel like learning: it felt like fun, and I somehow improved my maths and spelling while I was at it.
These days, kids and adults don’t fight over a single computer: homes in Australia are inundated with iPads, smartphones and PCs. Technology has literally overhauled the way we work, communicate, and entertain ourselves. However, what’s equally important is that it’s changing the way we learn – and 2014 might just be the year that education and technology become best friends.
It’s no secret that we believe technology holds a wealth of potential for education and training, but this year, it seems the rest of the world will catch on for a few reasons…
Mobile devices are becoming more accessible
Australians love their smartphones. In fact, we outrank the US with almost 65% smartphone penetration. Both here and around the world, mobile devices are becoming more readily available, which leads to more opportunities to access tools for education and learning.
A 2013 report showed that 47% of business organisations are now using mobile devices for learning – an increase of almost 10% since 2010. Mobile devices also make us more willing to learn: on average, a student will perform 12 percentage points better in a classroom where technology is used in comparison to a student in a traditional classroom (plus, the students don’t have to fight for it nearly as much as I did!).
In the past couple of years, a few initiatives have also sprung up around the world to give children more access to mobile devices. Boston Public Schools has aimed to ensure every student has access to a mobile device by 2018, and Thailand and India both have government schemes to provide children with access to tablets. The One Laptop Per Child program has also unveiled the XO tablet at CES 2014, which will offer kids a powerful, flexible and affordable device for learning.
In 2014, these initiatives will continue to come to fruition and more will most certainly follow in their footsteps. Wearable technologies will also provide companies with the opportunity to make their e-learning tools even more accessible.
More creativity, more education, more active learning
One of the most compelling ways that learning and technology overlaps is through games. Educational games like ABC Zoom and Pure Rush provides user with an engaging experience that encourages learning and understanding at a deeper level. While already successful in the education space, learning is becoming more integrated into the overall gaming experience and vice versa.
Already extremely popular with gamers, Minecraft now has a modpack to teach quantum physics. Similarly, Angry Birds has capitalised on the love of these furry flying creatures and created Angry Birds Playground, an online and offline ‘curriculum’ for learning. With the Xbox One and upgraded Kinect fresh to market as well as the PS4, 2014 will see even more creative integration of games and education – both online and offline.
Our web literacy is improving
Most people know how to use technology. However, it’s often a criticism that too many people know how to use technology but don’t actually understand how it works – regardless of the fact that it literally penetrates every aspect of our day-to-day lives.
This year, not only will there be an increased focus on using technology to improve education – there will also be a focus on educating people to use technology. The Mozilla Foundation released a Web Literacy Standard at the end of last year to outline a framework for teaching skills needed in today’s digital landscape, which includes exploring the web, building the web, and connecting on the web.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) also rose to prominence in 2013, and will continue to play a big part in providing accessible courses in computer science and information design.
As we improve our web literacy and develop our IT skills in 2014, there’s greater opportunity for more learning and training experiences to be delivered digitally – and for more people to go out and create the tools to deliver them. In the words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility” and this year, our digital powers will most certainly be used for good.