How far has technology really affected education?
There’s no denying that technology has changed the way people learn. We now have open online courses and virtual classrooms that provide access to various learning opportunities. Innovative tools that facilitate better classroom management and student participation are also available. Developments in educational technology continue to prove that it can advance the teaching process, enhance student performance and make learning more active, engaging, and accessible.
Why is that even when more than 80% of teachers and school administrators agree that education technology supports student learning there are many promising EdTech startups that fail? Let’s take a look at the top five tech failures in education and find out what we can learn from these mistakes.
Over-Advertising The Revolutionary MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)
When The New York Times declared 2012 as “the Year of the MOOC,” online courses with open access gained much attention. Hundreds of thousands of students signed up but it appears the PR overpromised – only a few finished the courses. It turns out that most enrollees were just curious students and weren’t really keen on completing a course.
The free online classes indeed extended educational opportunities to everyone but the “free” program didn’t last long. The courses also weren’t sufficient enough to replace university education. The quality of the courses became questionable so some colleges chose to put the project on pause. At present, you can still find free online courses but you will need to pay a few for a verified certificate.
What does this tell us? Well, it seems the introduction of free online courses just represented the phrase “if you are not paying for the product, you are the product.”
iPad For Every Student Program
An ambitious plan that involved a great amount of money, this iPad project by LA Unified Schools District was met with plenty of criticisms as it appeared to be rushed and not really well thought out. Rules on bringing the devices home and guidelines on lost or stolen iPad replacement weren’t clearly laid out. Students were able to bypass the administrative controls in the tablets given to them and teachers weren’t trained to integrate its use in their teaching process. The software installed in the iPads were said to be problematic and unfinished, too. This multi-million dollar iPad initiative underwent a federal review which quietly ended in 2017 without any charges being filed.
It looks like the vision for one-to-one technology has its promise but the processes to implement such require more than just obtaining computer hardware and software. Some technology tools can be too complex for schools to use so extensive R&D will be very, very beneficial to arrive at the right EdTech solution.
Online Charter School’s Inadequate Instruction
A report mentioned that less than half of online charter high school students graduate on time. The students’ academic progress was so poor it’s comparable to not going to school at all. Despite this, virtual charter chains continue to gain profit with revenue amounting to a billion dollars in fiscal 2019.
Online Tutoring Marketplaces
Notice how businesses under this market succeed at first then fail? When tutors and students were brought together successfully, then there’s just no need for the platform. Tutors and students would choose to work directly with each other instead and just drop the system that facilitated the connection.
Digital Devices’ Distracting Presence
What’s a Smartphone really for? What’s a tablet mainly for? These digital devices were once designed for one or two purposes only but now they’re capable of delivering many things including entertainment. The school, although named after the Greek word “schole” which means “leisure,” isn’t really the place for free time and it looks like gadgets deemed to be tools for entertainment/leisure have no place in it either. Studies have confirmed that the use of digital devices in the classroom can distract students and their divided attention can impair long-term retention of lessons.
Note, however, that these tech flops shouldn’t be taken simply at face value. These failures still bring concepts, ideas, and lessons that we can use for the development of technology. False advertising, product development not based on theory and science, improper implementation, and lack of collaboration between engineers and teachers appear to be the reasons why technology fails in education.
Educational technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept so it is essential that teachers and school administrators as well as EdTech engineers do not blindly use or develop education technology. Remember, it shouldn’t be technology leading us; we should make technology work for us.