Talk of technology is often limited to how it affects consumer needs. That’s why it often focuses on convenience, like faster internet services or the benefits of a smart home. But tech does more than let us surf faster or stay on the couch longer. It offers personal benefits like education and personal growth. Here are three ways technology is helping educate the masses.
1. Streaming Documentaries
Sites like Netflix and Amazon are streaming award-winning dramas like Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale. But while these shows get the lion’s share of media attention, they’re hardly the only thing people are watching. Documentary nature series or true crime stories also rate as addictive TV. And these slices of real-life offer more than entertainment; they’re edifying and life-transforming.
One survey found that 44% of streaming viewers reported that documentaries had “inspired change” in their lives. And an even larger number (70%) of doco watchers are eager to share what they’ve learned. The same study showed 51% of millennials use what they learn in documentaries as evidence to persuade someone. Clearly, significant swaths of viewers see documentaries as authoritative sources for historical, social, and scientific facts.
2. Artificial Intelligence
One major trend in education is personalized learning — assessment and instruction tailored to individual learning styles. Personalized learning is moving into all areas of education, from elementary school or corporate L&D programs. And artificial intelligence (AI) is powering it.
Schools and companies use AI’s advanced algorithms to assess a student or employee’s current abilities and knowledge level. AI accomplishes this critical step with more speed and accuracy than standardized tests or personal observations. And AI uses predictive analytics to identify how a person learns best (e.g. visual learners) based on past performance. Machine learning software then suggests resources based on a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
The upsides of AI are more targeted, effective instruction, and time savings. Schools, universities, and companies no longer have to start everyone off on the same level. Gone are the days of sitting through videos and lectures of things you already know. AI can identify what you know, then present more data in a way that best suits you.
3. Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) continues to make waves in the video game market. But augmented and virtual reality technology is also transforming how and what we learn. High school students can now control and manipulate 3D salt molecules. And medical students are learning anatomy by dissecting virtual cadavers.
VR is a game changer because it gives instant feedback to the learner. When a student acts upon an object in 3D, it changes instantly. Immediate feedback is integral to effective instruction and information retention. And VR is expanding the scope of education. With apps like Google Earth VR or Discovery VR, teachers can take students on virtual field trips (for a fraction of the costs too) anywhere in the world. Experiencing different cultures or natural habitats is as easy as putting on a VR headset. Plus, virtual reality removes obstacles to instruction. Students learning public speaking can now dampen anxiety levels by starting with a virtual audience and working up to a real one.
The Future of Technology and Education
Education and technology have an intimate relationship. Better education begets better technology, which begets better education. This circular relationship will continue to spin up innovations like streaming video, VR, and AI. But that’s just the beginning. Complex technologies like blockchain are changing how schools store student information. And existing platforms like mobile are making training available anytime, anywhere.
The bottom line: technology is expanding our access to data. No longer do students need to seek out knowledge in dark, quiet libraries. Information is now in the light of day — everywhere, unlimited and on-demand.