Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Gen Z – what do they all have in common? Aside from the same taste in music, there are many similarities including that they all participated in an educational system that is more or less the same. Yes, most Millenials and Gen Z do not often find themselves searching for academic sources in hard copies of journals from the library, but the acceptance of computers and the internet as being education’s only big adaptation in almost 100 years is a mild disappointment.
Information is no longer restricted – the internet changed that forever. People have access to the internet 24/7 via their phones and laptops, which means the educational system no longer needs to provide students with resources. Yet, year after year, generation after generation, students file into packed lecture halls. They listen to a lecturer share information, only for them to repeat it at an exam and forget it one week later. Why is the education system still so focused on the memorisation of information and not on comprehension?
Collaboration as a solution
One way to kick-start the information processing revolution is to steer into educational collaboration. Creating a community in the educational system where both students and teachers can better themselves is essential. The world is shifting to competitive business collaboration and it’s important that education shifts too. We need to prepare students for the constant collaboration we experience in working life – it’s a crucial soft skill that gets massively overlooked throughout education.
Collaboration in education shouldn’t just be encouraged, but also taught. As it stands now, group work is something that has become a meme; something students despise rather than cherish. But it’s because students are never taught how to properly work together. They are often thrusted into a group with a few of their peers and told to accomplish something together. There are no tips on leadership or how to organise the distribution of work. Instead, the likely end result is chaos and frustration.
But if the focus was to shift towards productive collaboration, in which students were guided, the results would be phenomenal. Studies have shown the benefits of collaboration. Communities empower their members to ask questions and provide solutions. And crucially, they help build the members’ trust and confidence.
Students could help one another to better their understanding and offer aid when they are stressed out. Teachers could come together to share innovations, and let’s be honest, also provide some help on how to cope with being overworked. This would create an educational community that is focused on the future of learning.
Edtech needs adoption
While education innovation has been a slow process, we can’t say there hasn’t been any change at all in recent years. Edtech is on the rise and trying to level the playing field. Think of platforms that can help the organisation of classes, use games to facilitate learning and connect students to encourage collaboration. Some of these platforms are even offering assistance to students in finding internships or careers once they finish their studies
The tools are out there to encourage the education system to adapt to the digitisation of society, so why is this process so slow? Some say money is the forefront of the delay, others say there is a lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of the tools. But the number of teachers who support edtech is growing. While some teachers still say that edtech supports cheating, others agree that it encourages the change and development of information. The difference lies in the willingness to adapt and adopt, because right now, it’s not happening fast enough.
Times are changing
While the purpose of this article wasn’t necessarily to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, it is relevant in the changing of time. While lockdowns and quarantines are becoming the new reality for the time being, so is the digitisation of education. School closures have led to exams and assignments moving online. Students, teachers and institutions are now left to rapidly adapt to a new way of learning.
Edtech is at the forefront of this adaptation. An educational system which has steered clear from change for so long is now relying on what they have rejected for so long. And the students are happy to adopt. The struggle to learn in an era of distractions has become incredibly difficult. Distractions are aplenty at home. Netflix, YouTube, Playstation, Xbox – a list that has no end.
Thus, students are seeking new study solutions now that their ability to be physically present in class has been disrupted. In Italy for example, one of the first countries to close their universities, students are actively turning towards edtech. Digital platforms, like StuDocu, that enable students to share study materials are seeing spikes in usage, with 100% more monthly users than this time last year. Students around the world are demanding more lecture notes than before and their peers are more than happy to help out.
While coping with the current pandemic isn’t easy, neither is giving in to the fear associated with it. As we all struggle to deal with the new reality, it would be nice if we could take something positive away from it all. For the first time in a long long time, it appears that the education system is ready for the digital change that has been long overdue. Students won’t complain about it, but will rather embrace it, as digitisation goes hand-in-hand with their generation. Edtech is no longer the future, it’s the now.