Nowadays, learning and technology, or LearnTech, often go hand-in-hand. Technology products are ubiquitous and used across the learning spectrum; from influencing pedagogy, enhancing student/teacher interactions, to communication. While technology’s impact on education has been significant so far, the continued growth and availability of exponential technologies are poised to have a far greater impact on the way we teach and learn both inside the classroom and outside of it.
So, what is LearnTech?
LearnTech is the digital transformation of learning where technology augments learning; enabling learners to learn better, teachers to teach better, and leaders to lead better.
Learning is always central
While technology can and does play a crucial role in providing the best learning opportunities, there are many examples where the focus is on technology rather than learning. This is not deliberate on behalf of the educators or EdTech companies but rather an unintended consequence of digitisation and digitalisation.
The Journey from digitisation to digitalisation to digital transformation
Looking back on the changes in K12 education over the last 5-10 years, it is clear that many schools have digitised and digitalised teaching practices and processes, however, I believe the focus should now be firmly on ‘digital transformation’. Embarking on this process takes courage and requires leaders to truly reimagine the future of education.
So, what’s the difference? Last year, Lauren Sayer, Director of Digital Learning at Haileybury hit the nail on the head regarding digital transformation in the K12 education sector with this piece . Lauren defines digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation in the following ways:
- Digitisation – is the process of changing something from analogue to digital form. In schools that is essentially turning worksheets and handouts into digital handouts,
- Digitalisation – is the process of leveraging digitisation to improve processes. For example, in schools, it could be the implementation of a learning management system to house and support digitised
- Digital Transformation – is the integration of digital technology into all areas of schooling, fundamentally changing how learners engage with education. Lauren, importantly, goes on to say “…it’s also a cultural change that requires schools to continually challenge traditional models and move beyond digitisation and digitalisation.”
Those of us who have been in education for some time have witnessed a number of digital ‘revolutions’ where the introduction of tech, such as interactive whiteboards was heralded as a ‘game-changer’, where in reality many teachers kept teaching the way they always had just with an updated whiteboard. Or, the move to implementing a learning management system, without taking the really important final step towards digital transformation.
Why is digital transformation paramount?
Education may be the passport to the future, but for all the good teaching out there, it would seem that schools are failing to impart the necessary learning. Dr Tony Wagner, co- director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group, argues that “today’s school children are facing a global achievement gap … the gap between what even the best schools are teaching, and the skills young people need to learn”. This has been exacerbated by two colliding trends: the global shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, and the way in which today’s school children – brought up with the internet – are motivated to learn. While digital transformation through the adoption of LearnTech is not the only answer to this, we believe it can play an important role in solving wicked problems like the achievement gap.
LearnTech: the next wave of education technology
LearnTech not only has learning but also the learner at its core. Enabling this requires the learning and practice needs of teachers, leaders and students to be acknowledged and catered for. Without a deep understanding and belief in the impact technology can have on deepening and accelerating student learning, many teachers and leaders may dismiss great technologies as just another example of digitisation or digitalisation rather than the required digital transformation described earlier.
As David B. Petersen, Director at the Centre of Expertise, Leadership Development & Executive Coaching at Google said recently:
“Things are changing faster.
We need to learn faster and better.
We need to help leaders learn and adapt faster. Different kinds of things are changing in different ways.
We need to learn different kinds of things faster, in different ways. We need to help leaders adapt and innovate in new ways, faster”.
I believe this is especially true for today’s educators as they prepare students to become active, successful and contributing members of society in today’s rapidly changing world. Technology has a huge role to play in this, but we must keep great learning at its core, always.
What tools do you think we will use in the future to learn, teach and lead? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’d like to acknowledge the initial introduction to the phrase ‘LearnTech’ in an online interaction with Neil O’Toole of EDvisor Finland.