Technology in Education: Bottom-up, or Top-down?

When it comes to education & technology, what comes first, the chicken, or the egg? Is primary & K-12 education pushing post-secondary institutions to be more innovative, or is higher education leading the charge? Or, are both simply responding to the inevitable shift in expectations, behaviours and learning preferences of students?

It’s interesting, I work in higher education at a college that I consider to be innovative & forward thinking in its’ use of technology in the classroom and integrating it into the full student experience. We have been a leader in establishing mobile learning programs where students are required to bring a device into the classroom; have transitioned traditional ‘chalk-and-talk’ classes to hybrid classes with online learning integrated into the course delivery; and have spear-headed a large scale e-text initiative that is rolling out across multiple programs at the college.

At the same time, my children are in the early years of the primary education system. Their current school is not on the cutting edge of technology by any stretch. However, I see significant developments going on in the primary education space as it related to information & communication technology (ICT). The new school that my one son will start at next year has a mobile computer lab, where 70 laptops are shared across the ~300 students in the elementary school. At the school tour, I observed a grade 1/2 split class where each student had a laptop, and they were building out storyboards and working on a research project. I was sufficiently impressed!

I’ve also researched into many of the private schools in our area. Without question there is a gap between private and public schools when it comes to ICT investments and level of integration in the classroom. Hands down the private schools are significantly more advanced in this area, imo – which is somewhat concerning, considering that the general public cannot afford to send their children to private schools. However, I do believe that the practices & approaches being used in these schools will trickle down into the public systems over time.

I’m continuously monitoring my Twitter streams, RSS feeds and newsletters for the latest developments and trends in education & technology – and across the board, there is an emphasis and investment on integrating technology into the classroom, to create more collaborative & engaging learning environments. And at the end of the day – it’s the outcomes that is of paramount importance, not the technology. The complicating wrinkle for higher education is that regardless of where they sit on the technology adoption curve and on creating better learning experiences & opportunities – in order to keep ahead, they must always be looking at the newest and youngest students entering the school system, and understanding their needs, expectations, and learning environments.

And there is why I am in higher ed, and attending my latest MOOC, “ICT in Primary Education: Transforming learning across the curriculum”, from the University of London and UNESCO Institute of IT in Education.

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