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Education Disruptors That Are Changing the Way We Learn in 2018

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Why are kids learning faster and more these days? Are new tools changing forever the way we learn and teach? And which are the education disruptors that are making this change most prominent? The list maybe oft-repeated but it remains surprising in the context of the education domain. These technologies have changed the way the world works and in education they have changed how we approach and learn new skills and subjects.

These disruptors are a combination of new technologies, an evolved demand from consumers, and constant innovation.

Virtual Reality

In 1935, if someone told Stanley G. Weinbaum the writer of Pygmalion’s Spectacles, a short story which gave us the first comprehensive and specific model for Virtual Reality, that VR would be a reality less than a hundred years from then, he would’ve probably scoffed at the idea.

In Pygmalion’s Spectacles, Albert Ludwig, one of the characters, invents a pair of spectacles which would enable, “a movie that gives one sight and sound […] taste, smell, and touch. […] You are in the story, you speak to the shadows (characters) and they reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it.” Today Albert Ludwig would simply use Google Cardboard.

And the educational sector would be applauding his move, considering it has taken Google Cardboard and run with it. A relatively inexpensive way for students to experience the world rather than hear about it or see it, all they need with this venture is a piece of cardboard and their mobile phones. Exploring space, diving underwater, and traveling to countries around the world is as simple as sliding a mobile phone through the cardboard viewer and as cheap as USD 15.

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Compared to traditional classroom learning, this virtual reality experience helps students register things better, enhances retention, and engages students, enthusing them to learn more. Imagine situations where students are walking through the battlefields of Plassey or observing the flora and fauna in the Amazonian forests. Can a textbook ever match this experience?

Companies around the world are working on VR innovations that will truly change the face of education. And as of now we have only scratched the surface of possibilities. Add Augmented Reality (AR) to the mix and you have technology that enhances version of reality, evolves learning, and increases the true academic potential of students.

3D Printing

Medical students who can used 3D-printed models of various body parts to develop innovative treatment ideas; architecture students who can better understand project feasibility in different landscapes with 3-D models; anthropology and archaeology students who can use 3-D printed files of ancient artefacts or bone parts to put together missing pieces without handling the actual, possibly delicate object; the uses of 3-D printing are innumerable and still being discovered. And no sector has benefited as much from this printing development as the education sector.

Being able to see the physical projection of what you are studying, designing or coding can allow students to research better, study better, and problem solve better. Despite having been around for over 30 years, it is now, thanks to lowered costs, that 3-D printing has become a viable educational tool.

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Not only does 3D printing allow newer learning possibilities, it allows access to learning material non-existent before, encourages creativity, promotes critical thinking and problem solving, and also betters knowledge retention in students. It’s now a medium to research and discover new things and new solutions, a disruptor that can change the face of the world.

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence-Driven Learning

You sit in a classroom, the teacher explains a subject, the bell rings, class over, you remain confused. Then you try and get one of the kids who did understand what was going on to explain the lecture to you; at some point of time in your education-receiving timeline, this is a scenario that would have held true.

Slowly, it seems, it’s going to be another way of learning that only millennials and maybe generation Z will remember. Say hello to Big Data-driven learning. Using data analytics and leveraging data capabilities, adaptive learning is helping education move away from the this-works-for-everyone style of teaching. Using data, ed-tech companies are developing training courses personalized for individuals, which means that using digitally-provided classes, they can tailor the content for a student as per the student’s progress and learning capability.

And this is a method that’s already being tested. At HarvardX (a Harvard university-wide strategic initiative to build and create open online learning experiences and enable groundbreaking research), a study found that students taught via adaptive learning, as opposed to traditional one-lesson-fits-all model, demonstrated a 19% higher knowledge gain.

A learning module which uses adaptive styles helps students speed up knowledge gain when required, and also observes which modules they find difficult to absorb/grasp. Big data analysis boosted by machine learning and artificial intelligence can help create adaptive learning platforms which are  based on algorithmic behavior models which can predict an individual’s unique learning pattern, thus helping create a personalized learning module.

Read more: Online Education Trends to Watch in India

The way technology has disrupted education is in no way a new phenomenon. With MOOCs, mobile-based learning, and use of cloud-based technology, education has been democratized. It has transcended geographic and socio-economic borders and given students access to quality learning material previously unavailable.

Sure traditionally disruption has a negative connotation, it’s that naughty kid in class who wouldn’t sit still and would question every teacher, but the interruption often meant the teacher was forced to be innovative, explaining things in a simpler manner. These disruptors are the same; slightly difficult in the short run but a win in the long run.

In the continuously, digitally evolving world that we live in, disruption is no longer unwelcome. It is expected. It is required. It is needed.

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About Tulika Nair

Tulika Nair is a content strategist and creator with almost a decade's experience in television, print, and digital media in multiple domains including education and lifestyle. She still types her messages in complete sentences and considers incorrect use of punctuation a transgression of the highest order. If she isn't writing or doodling, you will find her with a book, music playing in the background on full volume.

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