Education in isolation: what we can learn from prior predictions and a current implementation
If there is anything this crisis has taught us it is that we are resilient. Within education, this is evidently true.
Despite most families currently restricted to their homes, and a vast number of parents still working, our children continue to be educated.
At considerable effort from teachers and schools, children across the world are being educated via adapted lesson plans and leveraging existing platforms in new ways. Parents too have stepped in to fulfil the role of educator for younger children, delivering the prescribed lessons provided by teachers. And older students themselves are taking responsibility for their learning; some may argue, in a way that will better equip them for their working futures.
While these are less than ideal circumstances, the shift to remote, virtual learning was something already anticipated by experts and those working in the field. A previous study run by Epson three years ago looked at the expected changes ahead for the education sector, and at that time 78% of those we spoke to believed that technology would challenge the traditional way of doing things in education.
I’m under no illusion that the ideals seen by some at the time of our study and the opportunity afforded by new technologies for the education sector, are being realised at this time. This is a time of massive transformation, driven by necessity and not desire, leveraging available solutions and nots ideals. But it’s likely many educational establishments will identify opportunities for positive change as we emerge from the current crisis.
As such, I wanted to review some of the expectations laid out by the experts involved in our past study and take another look at some of the thoughts and insights offered.
The changing role of the teacher
Predictions made during our study about the changing role or teachers is one that we see happening as a result of our current situation. The expectation of 70% of those involved was that teachers would shift away from solely imparting knowledge and would take on a more critical role of guiding students through the learning process. Sixty-four percent back then also agree that the application of information and analytical skills would become the focus of education. These are certainly predictions that have come to fruition and we see now teachers providing guidance for learning rather than teaching itself. And while this is an extreme version of this idea, is it something that should or could continue as we begin to recover?
I suspect there’s likely to me a middle ground forged, particularly for older children and those in high education. The experts form our study suggested such an approach would be realised over time and 71% of survey respondents agree that “blended learning”- using a mix of online and offline tools – would make education more dynamic and teachers more efficient.
While the technologies being used today are likely to have been selected under pressure and from those immediately available, if education systems are to leverage opportunities identified during this period of remote learning, other more ideal technologies exist. Augmented reality (AR), and collaborative technologies, such as interactive projection enabled by the types of products Epson already supplies into schools and education establishments throughout EMEA, are expected to enable and encourage more dynamic educational content, according to 70% of those in our study.
Similarly, 60% believed that that a collaborative education trend would have a positive impact on the sector and that a shift in learning technologies would drive creative collaboration among students, with classrooms altering to become workshops for collaboration and group work. Collaborative learning technology was also predicted to level the playing field for students, with 62% believing it would enable each student to learn in their own way.
But it’s not just the role of teachers and schools that has changed - or were expected to change - according to future predictions. Today, students of all ages are expected to motivate and educate themselves (or with the help of parents), interpreting and implementing remote lessons and learning content at home.
The experts and peer panel included within our previous study predicted that over the coming years, students would have a more proactive role to play in their learning outcomes. And according to 57%, meta learning (where students are more responsible for their own learning) would become the new norm, expected to have a positive impact on the education sector.
Though it’s unlikely that the current situation will deliver this positive impact on learning – mainly because it was never intended to and was not set up or structured as a positive shift towards better outcomes - we are likely to see pockets of opportunity emerge. Student and parents alike are stepping up and helping to enable a new way of learning, and teachers are improvising and sifting approaches to improve delivery as they go.
Hopefully by the end of this, we will know the way forward. With a renewed sense of what our teachers and students are capable of, a clear view of what is achievable in education and new ideas on how to implement it.