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Driving digital

Epson's Neil Colquhoun lists five ways to ensure technology is driving collaboration and innovation in the classroom

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | August 29, 2016 | Business

The education market globally is worth over $5 trillion (€884.2 billion) according to a report published by EdTechX, the leading summit of international education companies. That’s eight times the size of the software market and three times as big as the media and entertainment market. But as their report highlights – the sector is still only 2% digitised.

School funding has long been a barrier to technology in the classroom. Continuous learning has become the norm, but investing in the right technology to ensure that students are getting the most out of the experience is not always easy. 

As someone working closely with schools to bring collaborative technology into the workplace, Neil Colquhoun, Executive Director of Visual Instruments at Epson Europe says: “By bringing technologies, like interactive projectors, into the classroom, we’re gearing up students for an ever more digitalised workplace. The interaction with the technology is definitely an advantage, but what brings the most value is the way it enables interaction and collaboration between groups.” 

EdTechX Co-founders, Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet and Charles McIntyre agree. They see “digital education as the reset button of the global economy”. So here are some tips to ensure that technology becomes a ‘must have’ and not just a ‘nice to have’ in the classroom:

1.) Invest in collaborative technology

Education is not just about knowledge; it’s about learning through collaboration. “Many people are realising the limitations of learning technologies that aren’t geared towards interaction and collaboration,” says Colquhoun. “We stand behind collaborative technology, such as interactive projectors, because we’ve seen how they work in real-life, bringing students and employees together in the learning environment.”

2.) Make the investment work for you

Schools no longer need to buy associated devices to facilitate interaction. Many technologies today, like the interactive projector, use Wi-Fi/Bluetooth to link with any connective device. This allows students using any device to join in on the activity, easily share files, jointly annotate documents, and many other possibilities that make flexible and collaborative learning possible. 

As ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) becomes a widespread reality in classrooms across Europe, adaptability is just one benefit. “Schools are connecting with students on a new level – in a way they understand and are familiar,” says Colquhoun. “They can transform what was once a distraction into a learning tool, and that’s a great investment.” 

If students of today are to keep up with the skills-shift of tomorrow, they will need the capacity to take charge of their own individual learning and development, but they don’t have to do it alone

3.) Switch the focus from the technology to the people using it

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), on integrating technology into learning, points to edtech as a precious ally for teachers focusing on research-based education (another growing teaching trend), problem solving, and group work.

The response is clear from teachers using this technology in their classrooms and on a daily basis; they accept that technology isn’t a solution in and of itself, but it is allowing them to adapt courses for the individual needs of their students. It is increasing interactivity and making classes student- rather than teacher-focused. 

4.) Rethink old approaches

Innovation and digitisation are leading to new opportunities to rethink the way in which things have always been done; and education is no exception. The European Commission is putting its full weight behind innovation and technology for Europe’s future economy, and technology-focused education initiatives are seen as key to bringing many industries back to life. To illustrate, the Commission attributed the success of its iTEC project – designed to identify barriers and the close gaps in the idea-to-market process in healthcare innovation – to EdTech. That’s just one example, but the list goes on.

5.) Give students the chance to adapt to tomorrow’s workplace

Innovation and digitisation are driving big changes in the classroom and skill sets are expected to adapt at an equally rapid pace. If students of today are to keep up with the skills-shift of tomorrow, they will need the capacity to take charge of their own individual learning and development, but they don’t have to do it alone. More schools are realising the benefits of technology as a tool that is enabling young people from all walks of life to tap into the collaborative innovation revolution that is driving our economy into the future.

Neil Colquhoun is Executive Director of Visual Instruments at Epson Europe 

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