Technology and Education

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For all intents and purposes, we educate our children in much the same way as we did a century ago. Despite our stubborn attachment to an instructional model from a bygone era, technology is set to revolutionize the learning process. Examples include interactive lessons that adapt to a specific student?s learning style to lectures taught by a single professor to tens of thousands of students around the world who are enrolled in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Such innovations have the potential to radically alter the nature of learning.

Adaptive technology is defined as software that learns and alters itself based on the user?s inputs, while allowing for interaction with a broad base of learning styles. Adaptive technology software fills the role of the coach/tutor.

Should this technology be adopted in classrooms, it holds the potential for changing a teacher from a ?one-size-fits-all? instructor to an individual learning coach. Using adaptive technology, students can learn material through an avenue of their choosing and at the pace that best suits them; when they encounter a difficulty, the teacher can step in and coach them past the problem individually or in a small group, while their classmates continue. In many cases the software is becoming advanced enough to recognize when the student is struggling, and is capable of pre-empting the need for intervention by the teacher.

Two key areas of adaptive learning require additional research in Canada. First, we need better quantitative, empirical research about the benefits of adaptive technology and its successful implementation and use. The second area pertains to policy barriers for the introduction of adaptive technology. Other questions, such as the cost of potential technologies, teacher training, and quality control, are also relevant.

Adaptive technology can have a big impact on homeschooling and education in remote communities where educational options are limited. The ability to bring into a single classroom those who suffer from substandard educational options or who currently learn outside of the traditional education system, is an obvious area for additional research.

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