Top tech tools that will revolutionise education

Technology is set to revolutionise education. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Technology is set to revolutionise education. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - It is no secret that technology is set to revolutionise education, but as the cost of the technology decreases, particular solutions will take centre stage, a research firm has found.

According to researchers Gartner, technology solutions not specifically designed for education will make their way to school desks in the near future.

"An increasing number of technical innovations and technology trends are emerging from within the industry, but most will emerge outside the industry, driven by major forces such as digital business and the consumerisation and industrialisation of IT," said Jan-Martin Lowendahl, Gartner vice president and analyst.

But technology in education must be done within the context of an environment where teachers are properly equipped to use the equipment in lessons.

"Training, training and then some more training of teachers, as well as education department officials.  The major reason for under-utilisation (or in many cases, non-use) of technology in schools is the lack of understanding on the part of teachers of the way in which technology is to be employed in the classroom," Kobus Van Wyk, head of e-Learning at Mustek told Fin24.

Massive educational programme

Van Wyk was responsible for the Khanya Project which was tasked with equipping schools in the Western Cape with computer technologies.

In the decade that the project ran, he spent a budget of R1bn and trained 27 000 teachers to use technology in the classroom.

Watch this News24 Live video where Kobus Van Wyk explains why teacher training is vital:

The Gauteng education department has announced a technology in education programme estimated to cost R17bn.

But while teachers could be expected to understand how tablets, laptops or smartphones work in their personal lives, it is important to include specific training for these as part of the curriculum.

"With close to 400 000 teachers in South Africa, it should be clear that the training (perhaps we should call it up-skilling) of teachers is a massive task. It will be an expensive and a labour intensive exercise. But unless it is done in tandem with the roll-out of technology devices in schools, there will be minimal return on the technology investment," said Van Wyk.

Gartner said that worldwide education spending is forecast to reach $67.8bn in 2015, representing a growth rate of 2.3%.


The company identified these top strategies for technology in education:

1.    Adaptive Learning
Adaptive learning is a type of crowd-sourcing and big data collection. The value lies in the metadata attached to each learning "morsel", which must then be combined with enough data of students trying to master the topic to allow personalised learning.
2.    Adaptive E-Textbooks
E-textbooks can be edited to include up-to-date information, be assembled or disassembled, or include content from other sources and social interaction.
3.    CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a tool for tracking and managing relationships with constituents, including prospective and current students, parents, alumni, corporations, benefactors and other friends of the institution.
4.    Big Data
Big data in education is associated with collecting vast amounts of data from the digitised activities of students, parents, faculty and staff, transforming that into information, and producing or recommending actions aimed at improving institution outcomes.

 5.    Sourcing Strategies
Strategic sourcing helps IT to focus from administrative transactions and operational support toward activities that enable differentiation and innovation for the institution.

Watch this News24 Live video where Kobus Van Wyk explain how to get the best out of technology in education:

6.    'Exostructure'
When done right, an 'exostructure' approach enables institutions to leverage services from the cloud, rather than having to bring them inside the campus walls.

7.    Open Micro-credentials
Micro-credentials in the form of various badges or points have existed for some time in digital social environments in general, and in learning environments in particular. A key problem is that these environments are proprietary, which makes it difficult to display achievements outside of them. The aim of open micro-credentials is to remedy that problem.

8.    Digital Assessment
Digital assessment is ultimately about being able to do any assessment digitally, to remove the need for physically tethered as well as human-proctored tests and improve modes of testing, grading and data analysis.

9.    Mobile
Mobile in education includes use in all aspects of the academy - administration, education and research. However, the domain is maturing slowly and inhibited by smartphone cost, device limitations (such as battery life), the development of m-learning course materials, lack of skills and the wide diversity of mobile devices.

10.  Social Learning
Social learning gives learners the ability to establish a presence or social profile that reflects their expertise and interest; to create, discuss, share and capture learning content.

Van Wyk said that technology solutions for educations could revolutionise education in the country, and warned that teachers would have to find ways to cope with learners who have access to the same information.

"The attention of learners is no longer on the teacher who stands in front of the classroom, dispensing information when and how he or she wishes.  Their attention is now on a device in their own hands.  They can find information themselves, they communicate in different ways and can communicate with each other, and learning is no longer linear."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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