The key to economic growth and individual development around the world is learning. The well-being of the planet and every country on it depends on smart, adaptable individuals who can deal with new science, new technology and new ways of doing things and solving problems.
There is a high correlation between education and economic achievement. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute comparing educational spending levels by different U.S. states found that “median wages are substantially higher in states with better educated workers.”
Educational quality matters a lot, as documented in a World Bank study. It’s easy to measure the number of teachers in a country or the years of educational attainment. But sitting in classrooms boosts economic competitiveness for a country only if a student is learning.
It isn’t always clear what educational changes will work. In some cases tried and true methods may be best. But there are a few things that every educator can agree about.
The world is changing fast.
Students need a foundation of basic literacy and mathematical understanding that will let them adapt to the future. The world is globalizing and skills will be the key to individual and societal success in the 21st Century.
Today's students live in a digital age, and need the tools, technology, and approaches to help them prosper in an increasingly digital world. Here are a four key ways that technology can enhance education:
The biggest determinant of educational quality is still the teacher, but technology can enhance even the best teachers’ capabilities. And in a world where lifelong learning will be a necessity, the power of technology to spread knowledge and evaluate comprehension can multiply the impact of a single educator.
Ensuring a quality teacher is in every classroom is important, but we also need to shift toward empowering those teachers with the same tools as other professionals.
Educational institutions need to give faculty and teachers tools to maximize their effectiveness, just as professionals in other industries leverage technology. Analytics can help personalize instruction and specify which students need more help - or more challenging lessons.
Personalization should not only drive better student engagement, but also ensure every student is building a competent base of knowledge for advancement. Predictive modeling can help teachers and professors readjust their lesson plans if responses to online homework questions show that classes don’t grasp certain concepts.
Educators are starting to develop individualized lesson plans geared to the learning level and most effective learning styles of individual students. For mobile equipped students, such lessons can augment lectures and group-learning activities.
2. An Early Warning System
Technology can keep students from falling through the cracks when they fall behind. The education system in Chattanooga, Tenn., increased graduation rates by 10% after it developed analytics to spot at risk students and give them help before they dropped out.
One clue: a student who is two years behind grade level and skipping school. That 10 percent is a crucial increase, since over 8,300 high-school students drop-out each day in the U.S., a staggering 3,030,000 annually. The students that graduate, now face a brighter future onto college, and into the workforce; a clear line toward economic prosperity regionally as well as nationally.
3. Improved Efficiency
At the least, technology should automate basic administrative tasks so that more education dollars can go into direct teaching with less needed for bureaucracy.
At the 50,000 student University of Florida campus, students access information and sign up for courses on their smart phones. During registration periods, the campus system handles a million transactions a day, saving thousands of hours of standing in line for students, and administrative time for educators.
4. Making Connections
Smart use of available technology can connect people with certain skills to the employers who need them, creating a direct link to workforce development.
In India, the Karnataka Vocational Training and Skill Development is leveraging cloud technology to help connect workers who only have basic cellular phones to find job opportunities using voice technology, filling the right jobs with the right people.
College and career pathway tools can help students learn about future careers, their interests, and give them the tools for success. Government and educational institutions need to develop the technology and programs that are learner centered, that span institutions, and align all the constituents in the region.
Every educator knows that inspiring a student about the future is far more important that getting them to memorize facts or pass an exam. The challenge is always time -- how can you reach every student in the class.
Technology should be used to leverage the power of the teacher and professor to help create those aspirations in every student.
Using technology to support personalization is one way; another emerging area is helping students connect their classwork directly to their interests and goals. College and career pathways are emerging as a means to help students identify their interests, connect to support networks, and develop clear stepping stones to success.
It may sound cliché, but our kids, today’s and tomorrow’s students, are our future. We must make sure that we are getting smarter about delivering and administrating education that is good for them, for their future employers and for societies. Nothing else a country does can boost future economic prospects as much.
Michael King is vice president of the IBM Global Education Industry.