In general terms, we have heard about the influence of technology on learning, but what is it primarily which will allow schools to revolutionise teaching?

Students have their own devices, seek information on the internet, collaborate with each other and receive feedback from teachers online, but this does not fundamentally change the fact that there is core knowledge which must be learnt, and amongst the internet research and collaboration the question remains – what role does technology play in ensuring students understand mathematical concepts or achieve a satisfactory level in literacy?

The answer may be found in  The Economist (June 29 – July 5). The way technology is used in the classroom is as important as having it there (p. 22). Perhaps the role of technology in this arena is not to be the source of all knowledge but rather to teach basics and to diagnose specifically where students have problems. Software can mine data relating to individual student responses and thus identify where they have problems. One reason why teachers fail to impart a concept to students is because they do not know what the student does not understand. Students often have trouble articulating exactly what it is that they are having problems with. Asking the right question can be challenging and sometimes impossible for the student.

Once the problem has been identified, the teacher can teach what the student did not understand. The interaction of the teacher, student and technology, is crucial to the effective working of this model. It facilitates personalised education and students to learn at their own pace. Rather than just providing a source of knowledge through the internet, learning technology is turning the focus to individual performance of students.

In theory the classroom will be ‘flipped’, so that more basic information is supplied at home via screens, while class time is spent embedding, refining and testing that knowledge (p.11).  Data mining, software, cheap tablet devices, fast internet (not quite here yet) and the ability to process data quickly and cheaply make this possible.

Research results are promising.  The partnership between teachers and technology can result in improved results and a boosting of equality of educational performance for students from different socio-economic backgrounds, provided less advantaged schools have access to the technology. Technology has been on the verge of transforming education for over a century. This time it looks as if it will. (p.11)

About the Author

PhD in European Languages and Cultures (specialising in Literary Translation) Department of International Studies Macquarie University