The Generation Gap, Progress, and What it All Means for Edtech

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Chances are, if you’re an adult, you know what it is the save icon is meant to represent: a 3.5 inch floppy disk. Ask a ten year old the same question and you’re likely to get a furrowed brow or maybe even a disinterested shrug. Ever spent hours carefully creating a mixtape on a cassette? Today’s children will never have to do much more than click a few buttons. This is the technological generation gap.

When it comes to edtech, practically 99% of technology being used in the classroom is new. What does this mean? Teachers having to learn to use the technology fluently and efficiently before being able to implement it in their classrooms. But today’s children have grown up in a digital age, some having been on computers and gaming systems since they were very young. At present, we are faced with the unique situation of children often being able to interact with the world and learn in ways that adults cannot teach them. With the coming rise of online courses and, in fact, all of the technology being utilized for education, the tables are slowly but surely being turned.

Now, that is not to say that teachers are becoming obsolete, because they never truly could. This simply means that the role of “teacher” is changing. Faced with having to adapt just as quickly as their students can is a difficult position, but fortunately it will not last forever. Once the initial shock of systems like BYOD (bring your own device) has worn down, things should settle. But some things will be different. Edtech puts into each student’s hands more power to control and individualize their education. Learning softwares often can mostly be tailored to a student’s individual needs. The possibility that arises then, is that teachers may end up shifting from being the ship’s captain to the ship’s dependable navigator.

Recently there has been an increasing amount of distaste for the way school systems “kill creativity.” The way our education system has developed over the last few decades, and in its history, has depended largely on the idea that every student be afforded the same education. Which, in essence, has come to mean every student can achieve the same standards, measured only by standardized testing. It is a recent phenomenon that students no longer need to use a card catalogue at the library to do research, and in some cases, students may not need to physically go to a library at all. This is the beauty of the internet. But technology also affords, alongside an increase of control, an increased ability for students to be creative in the learning process. While standards may only ever change at a sloth’s pace, each student could learn in a way that suits them best, that imparts information without sacrificing imagination.

There is an unimaginable number of possibilities for the future of edtech. The only problem is that without adequate time to have assessed different technologies and how they work for different students, and with this technology largely being totally unique to our time, administrators and teachers are stuck with a trial-and-error process that could take who knows how long. Progress and innovation move at a pace that doesn’t particularly accomodate case studies. While students zoom ahead, teachers are going to great lengths to catch up. The only question is, can they?