With the transformation of education in K through 12, there is an emergence of many products competing to improve all aspects of delivery of knowledge in the classroom. On this journey as teachers, administrators, and parents, we continue to face old challenges in how we educate our children and our students. However, we also face some new ones that come with the changes brought by similar transformations in other sectors.
Let us assume as a constant the purpose of education being the enablement of our children with knowledge and tools to drive our societies forward to a better state. And with this, let us explore a couple of such new and existing challenges, in the context of technology-driven transformations.
In the realm of old challenges, equity continues to be a very significant one. Students usually receive the education their parents can afford. The choices, misfortunes, and successes of their parents tend to be the main determinant of which schools they attend, and in most cases, what education they receive. Students, especially during their K-12 years, have little to no say in where they go to school, or how good an education they get.
Drawing comparisons from other industries that have been undergoing technology-driven transformations, can we predict how K-12 will evolve to address the challenge of equity? Healthcare has implemented programs, mostly through medicare, intended to help patients with chronic conditions reach both information on their illnesses so they can better manage them and comprehensive care with doctors being paid based on outcomes, not visits.
Another potentially applicable comparison is the transformation of the taxi industry by Uber, Lyft, and the like. Prior to this transformation, drivers depended almost entirely on taxi companies, their financial arrangements, quotas, and schedules. Today, almost anyone with access to a car, insurance, a bank account, and a smartphone can drive passengers to their destinations, on their own schedule, and on terms closer to their needs and wants.
Can the education system, the parents, and the students come together and leverage the current technology-driven transformation to address the challenge of inequity in the delivery of education? Can we learn from healthcare, and its outcome-based approach? Or can we learn from transportation, and its embracing of the “gig economy” to bring rides closer to the needs of both drivers and passengers? How can we, parents, teachers, and administrators leverage the transformational power of technology to address inequity in education?
As per new challenges (albeit not as new, but probably closer to newly embraced), it seems to be well understood that children do not learn the same way. I am the father of three children. All three are now in or already out of college. As any decent parent, I am convinced my children are at least normal or average, and have proven to be capable of surviving the K-12 years. During those K-12 years, it became very apparent to me how my son was a visual learner, and could retain much more of what he learned through videos and images, whereas my daughters were readers.
Drawing from advertising, we could look at how companies such as Snap, Twitter, and Facebook have understood how millennials communicate differently from other generations, and have adapted their platforms using artificial intelligence (learning computers) and massive amounts of data to deliver a very personalized experience to their users.
Going back to healthcare, our understanding of genetics and the consolidation and analysis of massive amounts of data has allowed us to understand that active ingredients in medications have different effects on different people, based on how their body metabolizes the ingredients. Some patients may react very well to the same medication that other patients with the same condition reject, with bad side effects or no improvement.
Can data analysis, artificial intelligence, and technology help us better understand how our students learn? Can they help us identify what methods or approaches work best for each student, so we can be much more effective in shaping the education of students, as they shape our future?
We have an opportunity to analyze what changes have helped other industries to improve and evaluate how they can be incorporated into education. We can be much more active in the shaping of the future of education in K-12; not by passively embracing the inevitable, but by actively searching and championing ideas, alternatives, new methods, and new approaches.
Transformations tend to be scary or confusing. I cannot think of one transformation that has had a very negative impact. More importantly, I am convinced the future of education we can shape together can be one that will unlock the potential of our children and be a tree we plant under whose shade we may not sit, but of whom we are somehow very proud.
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