The word education stems from the Latin word ēducātiō which means “A breeding, a bringing up, a rearing.”

If that makes you, as a student, feel like a lab rat or cattle animal, worry not because the entire process of education is a global experiment to make humans a better and smarter community to extend our existence on this planet. While it’s a war amongst the fittest in the rest of the Animal Kingdom, for us Humans, it’s the survival of the smartest.

Even Technology has spread its reach into education and has created a whole branch of research coined “Educational Technology”. The motive of these technologists is not only to make the learning process an easy task for students but also to make education accessible to underprivileged and/or handicapped learning enthusiasts.

In practice, the implementation of educational technology in traditional classrooms have given birth to hybrid classrooms which undertake one of the two approaches — synchronous or asynchronous e-learning.

Synchronous learning involves real-time interaction with all students present at the same time. Think of your traditional classroom setting but as a video conference — hence, a virtual classroom. So now the teacher won’t make you stand outside for talking too much during the boring lecture but will instead just disable your microphone and chatting rights. Much simpler and much more effective. Not only does this save the time of students, but it also gives an opportunity for students living in inaccessible places to get an opportunity to experience the classroom environment albeit in a virtual form.

Asynchronous learning lets you set your own pace (under a deadline obviously). This involves emails, blogs, discussion boards and my personal favourite video courses — a blessing for students who just. hate. teachers. talking. like. this. or TeachersWhoHaveNeverHeardOfPausesInTheirLife and need a way to increase or decrease the pace of teaching according to their convenience. It also offers the student to select the things they want to learn and acquire the resources, accordingly, thus arrange their learning schedule according to their pace and preference.

Robot Teachers

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the modern world, the possibilities of using such technology in education are endless. One such possibility that has been realised is the Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs), which were designed to provide immediate and personalised feedback for students. The idea behind the development of ITS was the educational studies that showed that students learnt better on a one-to-one basis instead of group tutoring. While the idea of having robot teachers sound fascinating, running every school with an army of Baymax teachers is far from feasible reality as of now. Alternative research is thus being conducted to develop AI-tools which would aid human teachers to keep track of each student’s progress and reduce their workload. So maybe soon with the teacher’s stress levels under control maybe they will have the time to answer your “stupid” question and make you realise that the teacher wasn’t so bad after all.

While technology can be great at making the learning process much more fun, easy and accessible process, there are still several issues that inhibit these ideas from reaching their full potentials. Firstly, the lack of digital devices amongst the underprivileged is one of the greatest setbacks of the recent advances in educational technology. Secondly, understanding the student’s learning patterns often would involve breaching their online privacy in terms of keeping track of their browsing history, search terms, etc which most students may not be comfortable with. Also, if the inability of the generic crowd to maximise a YouTube video is any indication of their learning capacity, then familiarising the teachers with the technology would be a Herculean task no doubt.

It is probably such setbacks which have kept the rate of development of educational technology so low. However just like learning, research work never stops and if now an eight-year-old kid can recite more elements of the periodic table than a 12th grader (definitely not speaking from personal experience) thanks to his educational gaming apps, we can still keep an optimistic as well as curious attitude towards the field of Educational Technology.