The systematic integration of technology in the education sector has proven to be a slow process. While progress has undoubtedly been made and technology is slowly infiltrating education systems, the pace at which it is happening is probably slower than would have been predicted 5 or even 10 years ago. Most technology in education progress has been made in school and educational facilities administration software. Pupils and students actually using technology on a daily basis in the classroom as a learning aid or core part of the curriculum is still limited.
The bottleneck is cost. For technology to become a core part of education, the same hardware and software must be available to all students equally. Even in wealth Western countries, state education systems simply haven’t been able to afford to make that a reality yet. While scalable tech-based education platforms and applications will undoubtedly become the norm sooner or later, the average learning day is still far more based on traditional methods such as books than it is on tech.
Ironically, the latest wave of EdTech has a strong focus on the developing world and it may be there that technology-based education becomes the norm. The recent ‘Next Billion Edtech Prize’ launched by the Varkey Foundation at the Global Education and Skills Forum, showcased some of the most promising new EdTech products aimed at the developing world. The inaugural winner of the prize was Chatterbox. The online language learning platform uses harnesses the potential of unemployed refugees, allowing them to work as language tutors. A number of UK-universities, corporates and nonprofits have already signed up to the UK-based startup which recently secured seed funding from ‘impact-fund’ Bethnal Green Ventures.
Chatterbox CEO Mursal Hedayat was inspired by the plight of her own mother who was unemployed for over a decade after arriving in the UK from Afghanistan despite being a qualified civil engineer who spoke four languages, including English, fluently.
Other EdTech companies recognised included Dot Learn, which compresses online e-learning videos so it is both easier and cheaper to access them in regions with slow and prohibitively expensive internet connections. The compression technology means that in countries in Africa, learners can now access around 5-hours worth of educational videos for the same price as sending a text message.
Another finalist, Localized, is a platform for students and your professionals from developing and emerging economies to find career guidance and mentorship from international professionals. It emphasises connecting individuals with shared backgrounds and/or language.