The Digital Revolution, and what it means for Education – 5 core points

I have been invited to speak on a panel at the Education Investor Summit 2012 next week. The panel session is titled ‘The Digital Revolution, and what it means for education’. Should be fun!

I have spent the morning sketching out some core points to discuss during my slot on the panel. Its a bit of a brain dump, but would appreciate your thoughts. There are many angles I could address during this session, many of which are not covered in the points below. Its a start, though.

Is there anything you think I should prioritise or leave out? What do you consider to be the biggest impact that the digital revolution has had/will have on the education sector?

5 Core Points

A mix of economic, social and technological trends and developments have created the perfect storm to drive change in the education system. Digital sits at the heart of this.

5 core points to discuss during my panel session slot include the following:

  • Economic pressures are forcing institutions to do more with less, while at the same time the global economy is rapidly changing and requires more from the education system. Education needs to become more relevant. This point is supported with the IDC stating that in the next decade 77% of all jobs will require technical skills, yet there are many countries that are not producing STEM graduates at a rate to fill those jobs. All this at a time when unemployment rates are at staggeringly high levels. Mind blowing!


  • The use of social media and technological developments such as the Cloud and devices that are both light weight and offer great battery life is evolving how teaching and learning could, and arguably should, be delivered. Ubiquitous broadband and eBook readers are facilitating this trend further. Blending formal and informal learning is now the becoming the norm. We still have a long way to go, though. Embracing the digital revolution can enhance this further.

While the use of technology in education is improving, when you look at its use in more detail, it actually shows us how far we still have to go. Outside of the classroom, students use a variety of digital devices and services. Technology and the internet is a core part of how they live their lives. Within some institutions, though, it’s like getting on an airplane. Devices are turned off for the 'duration of the flight' and its only when you get into the terminal building that you can access the outside world. A cultural change needs to take place in order to change this mind-set within education. This is vital!

  • Much of the advances in technology in education have been around automating age old ways of learning. Devices such as the iPad, and how they are used in the classroom, are a perfect reflection of this. Simply digitising content is not enough and as a result eBooks are not necessarily the 'future of technology in education‘. They are definitely powerful devices, and I personally love my Kindle, but the future of tech in education needs to be less about automation and more about engagement and facilitating an emotional connection with learning. 1-2-1 devices, big data and the cloud offers unique opportunities to achieve this and provide a more meaningful and personalised learning experience.


  • Young learners are attending class already prewired with content that they have discovered online (and if they haven't, they easily could)! The Khan Academy, Code Academy and MIT Open Courseware is a prime example of this. So with great content now freely available online, what about the role of the teacher?

The digital revolution is definitely bringing about a need for the role of the teacher to change. As a result, the role of the teacher in the digital revolution is now more important than ever. They need to act as a content curator, guide and develop opportunities for young learners to generate that emotional connection with their learning that was discussed earlier. Ultimately, tech and bad teachers has no impact and little scale, whereas tech and great teachers have the ability to both scale and help learners achieve their full potential. An exciting concept!

  • So if creating emotional and personalized experiences using that technology rather than simply digitizing traditional methods is going to be key, what can the digital revolution offer to help achieve this? Data and interacting with this data to visualise problems and challenges is one aspect, but gaming in education has a massive opportunity to create the emotional and personalised experiences needed in education moving forward.

Gaming focuses on emotion - funny games, scary games etc - I believe that we need to get to this same place with the use of tech in education. Games offer challenge, progression, reward and personalised real-time experiences. From an educational perspective, what's not to like about this mix!

Furthermore, within gaming, failure is seen as a positive thing. Within a new game you die/fail often and improve with time until you become an expert. Why not the same in education assessment? Some changes within the way that learners are assessed definitely needs to follow to support the changes opened up by the digital revolution.

These are some pretty rough and provisional ideas, and will be fine tuning them prior to the event next week. In the meantime, though, it would be great to get your feedback.

Thanks in advance!


Comments (1)

  1. Hi Tim posted this on the blog:

    Great ideas which grasp the riddle that is education now in this time of change, for the future yet to be created, and covers many of the points described when I spoke at Streaming Media conference back in Oct 2011. A203: It's Academic: Educational Video Inside and Outside the Classroom.

    For me the point most relevant in your rough ideas is that " digitizing is not a way to automate old ways of educating" and as you point out the varied degrees attained by each individual learner using the new technologies, would say " Education is now a communication between learner and educator " and dare we say "which might involve yet unknown individuals and factors not discovered till this engagement is ongoing?" that for me is the beauty of the future of education in the new paradigm we all find ourselves in which the engagement whether institutional or subtle, due to the engagement in a much larger community outside of a fixed learning space, made possible by these new technologies.

    Hope this was useful Julius

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