What is the digitalization of education, and why do we need it?
Digitalization is considered by many to be a controversial process in education. Obviously, not every digital tool is a boon to learning.
First, let’s clarify that the digitalization of education and online distance learning differs. The concept of digitalization is much broader.
It means using different programs, applications, and other digital resources for e-learning remotely and directly at school or university.
For example, one element of digital education is using an essay writing service to aid academic writing. Digitalization concerns not only educational processes but also organizational ones.
In addition, electronic diaries and journals, as well as the ability to write electronic messages to the teacher instead of calling or coming to school in person, are also digitalization.
The digitalization of education has become incredibly prominent since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Schools and universities moved online, and everyone was affected – schoolchildren and their parents, teachers, students, and university professors.
But in fact, the processes of digitalization began much earlier. The use of digital tools in education is a global phenomenon.
The phenomenon’s scale is evident in the size of the market of digital educational technologies. This market is called EdTech. By 2025, according to the World Economic Forum will reach $342 billion.
Last year, there were 100 million online students on the Coursera platform alone.
In the digital transformation of education, everything updates
- Planned educational outcomes and educational content. After all, most people need digital competencies in their lives. This means that it is better to teach children at school to use digital technology properly;
- Pedagogical methods and technologies of education because lessons in a digital environment are in many ways different from traditional classes in the classroom.
- The organization of educational work, tools (technical means) for it, and management of the process.
Let’s try to understand why in the whole world, such a large-scale redesign of approaches to learning became necessary and the pros and cons of it.
Why digital technology is important in education
With the fact that in our age, education is already impossible without digitalization, many experts agree. If only because the digital Internet environment is becoming an integral part of our lives, facilitating many processes.
In other words, using digital tools is not a matter of fashion but a vital necessity.
As in the XV century invention of printing influenced education due to the high cost of handwritten books; the most common way of getting and distributing knowledge was live lectures.
Furthermore, the same way digital technologies are changing education.
There was a time when people wrote only by hand, then came typewriters, then computers with word-processing programs.
Once it was possible to discuss something with another person at a great distance only in letters, the telegraph and the telephone came, and then the Internet with its many possibilities.
All this corresponds in many ways to the notion of industrial revolutions.
The first industrial revolution occurred with the steam engine’s invention, which spurred the mechanization of production and the development of rail transport. In turn, it caused the rapid growth of factories and plants in the late 18th century.
The technical reason for the second industrial revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the invention of electricity and the internal combustion engine.
New production technologies appeared the telegraph and telephone appeared, automobiles appeared, people in remote regions could exchange messages quickly, and movement between cities accelerated.
Finally, in the second half of the twentieth century, digital technologies appeared, and the growth of electronics and telecommunications spread to personal computers, commonly referred to as the third industrial revolution.
The development of the Internet marked the beginning of a new industrial revolution.
The fourth revolution will lead to the growth of technologies based on artificial intelligence, neural networks, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, etc.
All of these revolutions, to one degree or another, have had an impact on educational processes as well.
It would be extraordinary if, despite the technological changes that have taken place, classes at schools and universities still used kerosene lamps, and students wrote with pens dipped in ink.
Likewise, it would be unnatural now to dismiss the possibilities of digital technology.
Schools and universities still need to fit in with society despite their conservatism.
Preparing graduates of schools and universities for life in the modern world is essential.
On the other hand, students in elementary school (or even kindergarten) are already familiar with digital technology.
Even though the differences between “digital natives” and previous generations are generally greatly exaggerated, the fact remains that each new generation is becoming more deeply immersed in the digital environment.
And educational systems already have to adapt to the daily habits of students. And many of those habits are digital.
But digitalization of education does not mean that electronic tools will replace the entire educational environment, much fewer teachers.
The research results show that they are usually more effective when education is built offline or partly online.
And practice shows that quality education always implies a live interaction experience with a teacher and fellow students. An online course without feedback and a boring lecture, after which no one asks questions, are equally unhelpful.
How digitalization in education can benefit
The effectiveness of digital technology in education today is confirmed in at least the following main areas:
- As in all other areas, digitalization in education simplifies organizational tasks. For example, the electronic school diary makes it easier to record and transmit information. In comparison, modern university tools allow the creation of an individual schedule for students.
- Digitalization makes education more convenient for pupils and students. For example, hybrid learning opportunities, where some students are in the classroom with a teacher and some are connected remotely from home, allow schoolchildren and students not to miss classes when they cannot physically attend them. Blended learning opportunities, where digital technology works along with the usual classroom format, help make learning more individualized. It also gives more students challenging topics and activities and help weaker students practice the issues that are most difficult for them. Complete online programs allow you to study and take exams while physically being anywhere.
- Online gives you access to much broader educational content than the regular format. Before the emergence of such media, only the students of the relevant universities had this opportunity. But not everyone had the chance to get there. Now different universities can include ready-made lecture courses from other leading universities in their programs.
- In a virtual environment, you can practice fundamental skills in a safe environment. If it is dangerous, impossible, or costly to do something entirely “real-life” right away, VR technologies come to the rescue.
- Learning in a digital environment allows you to collect and analyze data to improve the educational process. Learning analytics is not only a management tool within large-scale educational systems. It can be pretty helpful for a teacher who works with several classes. There were examples when special online testing allowed teachers to notice students in their class whose difficulties or successes they had not seen before. Technology, in this sense, is unbiased. And in higher education, big data even help assess the likelihood of students dropping out. Furthermore, it can predict how current applicants will study in the future.
In short, digitalization is not a substitute for the traditional format of education, where there is a teacher and live interaction with them. Instead, it is an alternative to the conventional form; on the other, it supports new convenient tools.
Digitalization is considered by many to be a controversial process. Not every digital tool is a boon to learning. Sometimes failures in the technology implementation process negate good intentions.
Abandoning digitalization unconditionally without exploring its digital effects would mean significant educational losses.
Teachers and students would lose many exciting and handy tools. Graduates would not be able to develop the skills they need in life.
Therefore, behind the calls to abandon electronic tools in education and to ban distance learning and gadgets in the classroom, we see not so much concern for students and teachers.
There seems to be no psychological aversion to the new. Aversion to numbers, of course, is exacerbated by internal problems in implementing digital projects.
But in reality, they are several times lower when new educational tools are available in such a way that teachers feel distrust of themselves. As a result, they may tend to devaluate their experience.
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