INTRODUCTION TO THE EDTECH JOB MARKET
Education changes slowly. Only a decade ago, most people learned with basically the same materials used since the invention of paper. Over the years, many attempts were made to include various forms of technology in education, but all fell on either deaf ears or on budget chopping blocks. That has changed—today, technology pervades the education sector and its reach continues to spread.
What is Education Technology?
Education technology, usually abbreviated as EdTech, is any technology used in education. It encompasses everything from using computers in a classroom to the numerous dedicated learning tools used around the world. EdTech applies to schools as well as corporate training centres. You can even interact with some EdTech tools just by browsing online.
Some common EdTech applications include:
- Online homework delivery
- Broad Online Learning Platforms
- Online degree platforms
- Mobile learning applications
- Language learning
- Test preparation software
- Gamification of the classroom
- Virtual Reality (VR)
Even within these basic concepts, EdTech is more than just digitised books and training manuals, nor is it just about the technologies themselves. Increasingly, EdTech gives us new ways to teach and learn, thus establishing next generation schools. This new architecture delivers personalised education built around the social reach of the internet, complete with big data analysis to create even more effective ways to teach.
Why use EdTech?
We live in an ever-changing world. To thrive, students must collaborate, communicate, and solve problems together. However, traditional education systems are inherently inefficient and do not address these concerns. Reading and mathematics scores remain stagnant despite education and training industries increasing their budgets by 84% since 2000. EdTech attempts to address this issue by shifting the focus to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).
EdTech Enables Social and Emotional Learning
The application of SEL enhances the labour force and boosts academic performance. It also has longer-term benefits, including higher employment and graduation rates. While the skills can be learned without technology, EdTech can foster them faster. Everyone learns differently, and these tools level the playing field through personalised learning that is tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses, giving the student more affordable and effective educational opportunities.
EdTech Improves User Engagement and Impact
Besides SEL, EdTech reduces the cost of education, so that institutions can invest in School Administration tools and smart Learning Management Systems tailoring lessons to students’ needs and providing innovative digital content. These smart learning tools extend a student’s learning experience (PDF) outside the classroom to give the student a real-world context for content taught in school. Smart learning students want to learn because they understand how their education relates to their goals, giving them the tools to succeed in what the German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Benefits of Big Data
EdTech brings with it all the benefits of Big Data. It allows teachers and assessors know how students are progressing throughout their lessons, allowing them to provide support or make changes where necessary. This adaptive, personalised learning is the key to the success of EdTech systems and techniques. In return, students have a permanent record of their education they can access as needed and that will even record courses they take after leaving school.
The Democratisation of Education
EdTech also sets universal education standards and access. Referred to as the democratisation of education, students are now free to learn on their own terms using a variety of online platforms, mobile applications, and new learning formats that deliver the same standards and level of content to less well-resourced, inner-city schools as to well-funded school in wealthier areas. Location no longer restricts education either. All one needs to learn is how to access to the internet, spreading education access to everyone not just from school to school but globally as well. The range of EdTech material available is vast and even includes Early Childhood Education Technology.
What are the Most Important Types of EdTech?
EdTech is necessarily a broad topic. Our learning tools must function in many different circumstances and situations. Because of this, there are several categories of EdTech, and each category has a specific purpose, application, and underlying theoretical perspective.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Distance Learning
Virtual distance learning classrooms are either self-paced and asynchronous or instructor-led and real-time. Either way, they allow students to learn wherever they are, including in their homes, schools, businesses, and on their mobile devices. Online courses also work very well in conjunction with face-to-face instruction.
Either computer-based or online, linear learning technologies allow students to quickly learn static lessons and concepts, such as using software for completing mathematical expressions. Using this approach, students learn linearly like reading a book or manual.
Collaborative learning technologies encourage students to work together to learn tasks and solve problems. They create a breeding ground for creativity and idea-making, which provides students with the skills needed in today’s workforce.
What are Some Emerging EdTech Trends?
As with any developing technology, the future of EdTech is still largely unknown, but most of the current trends in the field are not new. What is new is the amount of attention people are given them. These trends include using VR in education, flipped learning, makerspaces, game-based learning, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), Edcamps, and social media in the classroom.
VR in Education
Augmented reality integrates digital information and technology with the physical environment to allow students to interact with what they are learning without physical props. VR attempts to do the same by taking students to new artificial environments. Schools such as the University of Essex and the Open University are already using VR to enhance their distance learning options.
Flipped learning inverts the usual classroom model. Students receive their lessons and instructional materials while at home through the Internet. Classroom time is strictly for working with other students on their assignments. While flipped learning is common in the US, it has yet to catch on in European schools. Some schools, such as the Sudbury Primary School in Suffolk, UK, are experimenting with it though.
Makerspaces, such as TechShop in Paris, France, let students collaborate, design, and build together in specially designed work spaces. The space motivates students by making them create things that boost their critical thinking skills, self-confidence, and creativity.
Game-based learning uses video games to motivate students to learn and collaborate with each other. These games are not necessarily educational games, but they promote the skills and concepts being taught. The idea is to turn learning into something children find fun. Gamification is often used in digital language learning.
The introduction of MOOCs has changed approaches to education. Instead of taking place live in a closed classroom with a small number of students, MOOCs, such as the School in the Cloud, seek to teach thousands of students at once through online resources with minimal teacher involvement. Anyone with an internet connection can participate in the course and learn at their own pace.
Edcamps, such as the Integral World Education Fair and Maker Faire Rome, are annual conferences dedicated to learning. Guests are invited to offer lectures on numerous subjects, allowing patrons to learn what they want to learn. Attendees even get to choose which subjects will be presented at the event. They also encourage participants to offer their own insights.
Social media is an integral component of modern education. While there is no precise data, over 40% of educators incorporate social media in their classes in some way. While some instructors use general purpose platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, others take advantage of dedicated EdTech social platforms such as Blackboard and Moodle to enhance the quality of their classrooms.
What About EdTech and Employment?
As the use of EdTech tools and techniques spreads, educational and industry institutions are looking for employees who have hands-on experience designing, developing, and implementing instructional tools, programs, and course materials. The job market is a fast growing one. EdTech instructors are some of the highest paid educators in the world, making this career a great option for those who not only love to teach but also love working with computers.
Some EdTech careers include:
EdTech and Training
- Education specialist
- Training specialist / Training coordinator
- Training director / Training manager
- Curriculum developer or manager/ Curriculum development specialist
- eLearning analyst / eLearning consultant
- eLearning developer
- eLearning product manager / eLearning program manager
- Chief learning officer
- Collaborative learning manager
If teaching is not your thing, EdTech might still be for you, as institutions need educational technologists as well. These people design and build the EdTech tools the students will eventually use. These roles may also include training educators how to integrate EdTech into their classrooms.
Some technologist careers include:
- Course developer or designer
- Technology coordinator
- Online learning specialist
- Web-based learning manager
- Multimedia designer
- Technology integration specialist
- Computer learning lab coordinator
- Instructional designer
- Learning applications (apps) designer
- VR specialist
- Flipped classroom developer
- Web instructor
- Online teacher, mentor, or trainer
- Computer mediated learning metrics manager
- Distance learning director
- Educational software consultant
How Can You Help Improve EdTech?
EdTech improves how students learn, but only if we implement it correctly. Unfortunately, many institutions are not willing to cover the initial costs and development. You can help develop EdTech by supporting policy initiatives, such as Europe 2020, which promote and prioritise it. You can also help by developing better educational tools and software. By working with stakeholders, you can ensure everyone gets the education they need and deserve.
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