Digital Technologies Changing Education Industry Today

Education, in general, assists learning in the form of transferring knowledge and skills. Education dates far back to the prehistoric times when knowledge was passed through imitation. Schools are known to have existed in Ancient Egypt, with education system rapidly evolving with the development of literacy, culture, and science. Basically, an educational process involves a teacher, a student and certain media containing the knowledge the teacher is about to transfer to the student. Minus the teacher – you are getting self-education which still requires the knowledge source and the vessel to pass it on to the student.

In traditional schools most of us remember from own experience, we were sitting in classrooms with teachers standing in the front and writing on the blackboards. We read books printed on paper and did our homework in notebooks with ball pens. When some extra information was required, we went to public libraries to get more books. Sometimes, when a book was especially valuable or the library was especially strict, we had to stay there to read or copy the information we needed.

Heavy backpacks, limited number of printed copies and, what is the most important, lots of time wasted. This is how our traditional education used to look like. Well, this is changing fast and we do have reasons to envy the students nowadays.


Advanced technology is spreading across the industry of education at a super-sonic speed. With the wide use of digital technology in schools and universities it literally opens up the entire new world for today's students. Of course, it has changed the way how education is provided and received, sometimes dramatically.

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Digitalization in Education

Digital transformation has touched all areas of human existence, education being among the forerunners. Nowadays, you'll hardly find a school with not a single computer, while this is one of the most common examples of using digital technologies in education. Moreover, schools and universities are introducing technology into all segments of their work – from online lessons and homework uploads to student chats and forums and digitalized administration. Nowadays, students learn in virtual classrooms, teachers post homework assignments on school websites, lessons are packed with videos and live demos from online sources. Students' and teachers' files are stored and maintained electronically, as well as their profiles, grades, ratings, and assessments.

Use of digital technology in education has introduced quite significant changes to the learning process, calling for new methodologies, new content, new teaching media and, of course, new hardware and technologies to be used in the process of learning.


Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in Education

The simplest application of AI in education is, of course, grading. In multiple-choice tests when the completed assignment needs to be compared with the correct sample, grading can be left for computer programs. However, the capabilities of AI are too powerful to waste them for grading only.

What AI can contribute to the education industry is “smart” content. This term includes a vast variety of products and technologies – from digital textbooks to customized learning portals. Digital learning content can be adapted for a particular student and a particular learning situation. For example, Cram101 by Content Technologies Inc. allows studying in the most effective way by dividing the material into logical manageable sections. This software includes JustTheFacts101 which can turn any textbook into a concise summary of the most important facts and concepts leaving out the secondary stuff.


[Image source: Cram101]

Virtual Reality is also becoming part of today's education in the form of virtual tours, explorations, and experiments. Instead of reading about the Taj Mahal, would you rather prefer walking inside and wandering around? – This is what virtual reality can do for you. Applying modern digital technologies in the classroom you can expand the room to the size of the known universe. Recently, Google launched its Expeditions initiative offering a collection of virtual tours for small groups of students under the teacher's guidance. The Expeditions set includes an application for Android devices, a router, and simple cardboard Virtual Reality viewers. Upload the app to your phone, stick it inside the viewer – and off you go!


[Image source: Expeditions]


Chatbots are software simulating human communication on certain topics. Chatbots are widely used in ecommerce and services industry, and they are also gaining more ground in the area of education. They are especially popular in self-education when you are basically comfortable learning on your own but need some guidance on certain points.

A famous case of using chatbots in education is Jill Watson, a virtual teaching assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology, who answers the questions of the Computer Science program's students. What is especially significant is that when Jill was first implemented, she was “working” during a whole semester without students knowing that she was actually a part of the software. Only when the program was completed, Jill's “identity” was revealed. Nobody had a clue.


When we are talking about educating younger children, one of the biggest challenges is holding their attention for more than five minutes at a time. Children do not want to sit at their desks and read boring books. They want to play. Over the decades, methodologists have written tons of papers on getting children engaged in the learning process. In many cases, the solution is bringing the game into learning.

In the digital era, games are digital, too. There is hardly a kid who is not fond of playing computer games. All of them have their mobile phones or tablets with their favorite games which they play given half a chance. Teachers have tried to ban games from the classroom but this initiative failed in most cases. As the saying goes, if you can't win it, join it, and digital gamification is now gaining momentum with every passing day.

There are hundreds of educational programs where children (and sometimes adults, too) learn through playing games or in a game-like environment. Take, for example, Duolingo, a language-learning portal set up as a game – you will not even notice when you have started speaking Portuguese like a native.


[Image source: Duolingo on App Store]

You can find educational games for all subjects, ages, devices and operating systems. There are quests, quizzes, timed assignments, and competitions. Even Minecraft has released its education version with all sorts of lessons for various ages. As you can see the impact of digital technology on learning is huge.


[Image source: Minecraft]

Cloud Computing

Storing data in clouds gives lots of advantages – it is safe, it is accessible from any point and any device, it can be easily shared with others. Think about it from the point of view of education – the benefits are obvious.

No need to get textbooks, either paper or electronic – they are stored in a cloud. No need to purchase expensive hardware – most cloud-based applications are compatible with common mobile devices or laptops. No need to physically get together with other students for a group assignment – upload your work to a cloud and get it done.

Teaching materials, grades, software – everything can be stored and shared through clouds. Many leading educational institutions recognize the benefits cloud computing gives to the learning process and adopt cloud technologies in their work. Among them are such well-known institutions as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

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Social Media

Social media are for college students what computer games are for small children. They are their life and their world. This is where they listen to music, watch videos, get news and make friends. With such student involvement, using social media for educational purposes seems more than logical.

Many universities have Facebook pages and groups for various purposes – be it a student community or an official page of the institution. In all cases, these groups and pages serve as a medium for communication, information sharing, feedback, questions, and answers.

However, a creative teacher can go even further – they can turn a Facebook group into a favorite space for their students by adding some fun posts and images among answers to serious questions and posting home assignments. Or, use a blog for students to post their essays. Or, post some class-related news on Twitter. Social media has dozens of useful features which can be turned to the educational advantage.

From dusty classrooms and outdated books, education has soared to the cutting-edge technology and latest knowledge. Today learning is exciting, learning is an adventure, learning is fun. It is by no means easy, but it is challenging and rewarding. With state-of-the-art tools and vast resources, the world's knowledge is right there, at your fingertips, you just need to reach out and take it. 
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