Keeping up with edtech: Professor Rose Luckin

First in our panel discussion on how educators can make the edtech sector work for them, we hear from Professor Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design at UCL's Knowledge Lab

Professor Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design, UCL Knowledge Lab joins the discussion.

Q. Is there a new genre of technology (e.g. the recent focus on VR and AI) that is currently taking over, or is likely to soon?

Rose Luckin: There is no question in my mind that voice-activated interfaces will be the AI that has the biggest impact in the shortest space of time. This use of AI is already overtaking other interfaces in the consumer world and it is bound to also impact on educational technology. 

The other trend that I see is certainly a greater uptake of AI. I think that this will be linked to move away from seeing technologies as discreetly as AR or VR or AI, but in terms of what they do. So for example, as personalisation of learning becomes increasingly possible through a combination of different technologies, then I hope that we might focus more on what the technology can achieve for learning and teaching than on what the technology is. 

The best technology for achieving personalised support for a learner might be achieved through the combination of augmented reality, voice activated interface and AI-augmented tutoring technology.

Q. How is edtech affecting pedagogy, and vice-versa?

Rose Luckin: To date I don’t think educational technology has had much of an impact on pedagogy, or at least not a positive impact. In the main, educational technology has tried to map onto existing pedagogy. 

I hope that we might move into a new generation of pedagogy-driven technology that involves teachers and students in its design to a much greater extent than has been the case to date. This will be essential with artificially intelligent technologies in education because we need the developers of these technologies to understand a great deal more about teaching and learning, and we need educators to understand more about artificial intelligence.

Q. Is there anything happening behind the scenes in edtech now, that will change how we view education in the next five years?

Rose Luckin: There is a great deal happening with artificially intelligent technologies both in front and behind the scenes. There is no question that artificial intelligence has huge potential to democratise education and to help everyone achieve the kind of learning that society would like for all its members. For this reason, we need to ensure that we have a strong ethical foundation, framework, education and regulation mechanism to ensure that we all reap the benefits of this technology innovation and do not fall prey to the possible harm that it could enable.

Q. How can teachers keep up with the fast pace of tech? It’s notoriously lightning speed, whereas education lags in adopting change. Can we consolidate these two approaches? How?

Rose Luckin: Teachers have an incredibly challenging job to perform and it’s impossible for them to keep up with the fast-paced changes that happen in technology development.

We need to help them feel comfortable with the fact that they will never be able to keep up on their own, and that they need to form partnerships within and across institutions to generate a knowledgeable community that understands enough about technology to ensure that they can help each other use the technologies available to them to meet the needs of the students. 

Here at University College London Institute of education, we run a programme called Educate for schools that helps teachers identify the way that they can map technologies to the needs of their classrooms, how they can evidence the efficacy, or not, of these technologies in use and then share their findings with their colleagues. 

We also run a programme called Educate for edtech start-ups and SMEs, that helps educational technology companies work together with educators and researchers to develop educational technologies that are grounded in what we know from research evidence works for teaching and learning, and to develop their own evidence about their product or service to demonstrate how it brings about positive change within education.

Q. Technology can be a fantastic tool for schools and universities, but can also cause a lot of resistance in decision-makers if they don’t see the benefit. How can advocates get higher management and those that control the purse strings on board?

Rose Luckin: It all comes down to demonstrating that the educational technology is addressing a recognised educational need in a cost-effective way; reducing workload for example.

Q. Edtech suppliers often raise the issue that they don’t know how to break into the education market, and that the disparate nature of the sector means they don’t know where to start. What advice do you have for both providers and educators who would like to make connections?

Rose Luckin: Good question. The market in the UK is particularly disparate, but there are organisations like the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) and programmes like UCL Educate who can help make these connections in the UK and beyond.

Q. Is there a time in history when technology has had such a huge impact on education? Do you think it will continue to do so, or can we expect a plateau at some point?

Rose Luckin: I think the current situation is likely to intensify as more large technology companies start to really direct attention to education, and as technologies like AI increasingly demonstrate the benefits they can bring. 

This is why we must help educators to be well prepared to engage with a faster pace of change and to feel comfortable that they understand enough about innovations like AI to reap the benefits for their students, colleagues and for themselves.