New technology is common, new thinking is rare – Sir Peter Blake

As technology becomes more embedded in the education system at all levels it could be said that technology and education have become inseparable allies . Indeed, the recent lockdown of entire education systems, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been the catalyst for an unprecedented surge in the use of education technology or ed-tech to supplement or even replace school or college-based education. The classroom in the cloud is competing with the classroom in the school.

For some time artificial intelligence has been shaping the future of work but it is also now shaping the way we learn. If education is regarded as the building block of society then technology is fast becoming a building block for education and training.

With the enhanced relevance and application  of ed-tech, the future of education lies as much in personalised learning as it does in school and college education. The face of education is rapidly changing as technology continues to enhance the learning experience. We can now learn at the click of a button. We are in an age of intelligent technologies where rapid change is being driven by technological advances and disruptive technologies. The only way we can manage this change is by constant learning, upskilling and constantly adapting to our fast-changing world. As Charles Darwin once said;  It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.

Technology is pushing out the boundaries of the learning experience, as education diversifies from the blackboard to the smartphone. A one-dimensional model of education is being replaced by a multi-dimensional approach with more holistic learning experiences. As we progress from a knowledge economy to an innovation economy there needs to be innovation and  reform in our education systems and the way we gain new knowledge. Creativity and innovation are the new driving forces leading change in both education and work settings.

It is the changing world of work which is driving the underlying changes in education and training. The transformational impact of artificial intelligent technology is reshaping the nature of work as the current digital revolution transforms the workplace  and redefines the skills needed to cope with new emerging, intelligent technologies. Automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are already having a significant impact on the labour market. Jobs are being redefined or supplanted by intelligent technologies and this will require many of us to acquire new technical skills or engage in regular programmes of upskilling. In both the workplace and the learning environment technology is increasingly impactful and influential.

Uncertainty in the labour market is now further compounded by the unprecedented upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As world economies slowly recover from the emergency lockdown of business, commerce and trade many non-core jobs will be lost, especially in vulnerable industries. Jobs are also being affected by changing consumer demands as many more shoppers have transferred  online. Digital business has exploded with the growth of e-commerce. Many of those whose jobs are supplanted will require education and training to acquire new sets of skills to future proof their working careers. Many will turn to ed-tech as an easy to use, accessible and convenient learning tool to supplement any formal reskilling or retraining programmes.

The digital revolution is clearly impacting on both skills and jobs. The nature of work is quickly evolving as more jobs are being replaced by automation while jobs requiring creativity, analytical and digital skills are in high demand. Digital innovations are altering the demand for different skills sets and this rapidly emerging trend points to the need for continuous self-improvement and re-skilling to meet changing workplace requirements. There is an emerging global skills crisis, with certain key skills in short supply, highlighting the need for training institutions to adapt more quickly to the changing skills needs of the labour market.

In a report to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance ( Bridging the Skills Gap in the Future Workforce), Accenture concluded that “the current education and training systems are not equipped to address the coming revolution in skills demands.”  The report recommends shifting focus from the learning institution to the learning individual because the report believes that formal education is a process which is too preoccupied with a top-down transmission of knowledge. More focus should be on the capacity of individual learners to manage  their own learning pathways and the widespread availability of education technology can support this emerging trend.

Obtaining the skills and knowledge that will future-proof our careers should be our personal responsibility if we wish to ensure future employability. The key challenge now facing us as lifelong learners is how to accelerate skills acquisition in this age of intelligent technologies so that we keep pace with the rate of technological progress. Similarly, our education and training systems must show real flexibility and adaptability if they are to keep pace with the ever-changing skills demands arising from a rapidly changing workplace.

But the future of learning is also  being transformed as it adapts and reinvents learning to meet emerging trends. Technology is changing the workplace, the education sector and corporate learning systems. Disruptive technology is fast changing the way we learn and is  equally impacting the education and training sectors. Education and training will be revolutionised as ed-tech becomes more embedded in teaching and learning systems. Likewise, the increasing personal use of digital technology, apps, tools and websites to support adaptive personalised learning now opens up new and varied learning opportunities.

As the shift to online learning gathers pace, many education providers are forming partnerships with ed-tech companies to devise, develop and produce high quality learning programmes, which are easily accessible and widely available on a variety of websites and apps. Online learning is being enhanced through the availability of digitised books, structured e-learning curricula, interactive live classes, project work, online assessment and much more. Online learning programmes come in many formats including interest-based learning,  self-paced learning, social learning and augmented learning which simulates real life/work experiences.

Engaging in online learning programmes has some real advantages. Learners have access to learning programmes and tutorials from across the world on a 24/7 basis. Learners can opt for programmes which allows them to learn at their own pace, in their own time and at a level which matches their own strengths and weaknesses.  Subject to  connectivity and available devices many online learners can learn what they want, when they want and all at the push of a button. Another significant benefit for many is the reduction in travel and accommodation costs if personalised learning takes place in the home.

(Photo by William Iven on Unsplash)

Technology-endowed learning provides a different approach to learning which suits many learners who are self-motivated or those who are engaged with technology in their daily lives. But the nature and scope of online learning could also encourage those with minimal technical knowledge and skills to self-learn and be guided by an appropriate online training programme. Artificial Intelligence has enabled the personalisation of learning. Many e-learning curricula are now interactive, with live classes and regular assessment and are really attractive to learners of all ages and abilities. Ed-tech can truly transform lives through the enhancement of learning and skills acquisition.

With the rapid pace of economic globalisation there is an emerging global skills crisis, particularly in the area of digital innovation. As roles and functions change the range and scope of skills training needs to change. This requires education and training institutions to be alert, flexible and responsive to the needs of a rapidly changing work environment which is being transformed by innovative technology. Skills-intensive jobs are growing rapidly due to a world shortage in areas such as data, cloud, cybersecurity and suchlike. Fearing the impact of  particular  skills shortages many organisations are now developing their own internal pool of  talent and ed-tech plays a pivotal role in such developments.

As the world churns out vast volumes of new data, all learners of all ages are being challenged to maintain their relevance and employability through lifelong learning and upskilling. By investing regularly in their own skills training people are investing in their own future and ed-tech has already proven to be their vital ally and valuable resource. Through commitment to ongoing self-improvement, and with perseverance and resilience we can ensure that we have the specific and generic transferable skills to live, learn and work in this digital age.

Standing still is not an option. Change is the law of life and the one constant in life is change. By embracing change as a positive challenge we learn to adapt to change. Progress is impossible without change. In a rapidly changing world we are all lifelong learners. The developmental potential of technology in enhancing personalised learning or as an ally of more formal institutional-based learning is now clearly recognised, Technology-enhanced learning is truly transformational and multidimensional. Ed-tech is now a permanent feature in the education and training landscape. Change is inevitable but progress is your choice.

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished – Benjamin Franklin.

(Feature photo by Julian O’ hayen on Unsplash).










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