Technology in the classroom has been universally regarded as a top priority for parents, teachers, and the public school system for decades. The details of how exactly to achieve the best results, however, have been hard to come by.
The iconic image of students sitting at rows of computers has been the traditional “go-to” symbol of progress when it comes to tech-enabled schools. Recently, however, a different picture has begun to emerge. The computers are now on the teacher’s desk, with none elsewhere in the classroom, and the students have been equipped with tablets or “thin clients” instead. One startup called Kiddom has been leading the way.
The key to developing more “personalized” education, says Kiddom’s management, is the ability to compile the right data. Their favorite example is the current push to digitize patient information in the healthcare industry; a process which is expected to make the job of doctors much easier and more effective.
The hope is that by gathering all the necessary information about a child’s progress, a lesson plan developed specifically for that child can be used to focus on those areas where a student needs extra instruction and to possibly identify those areas where a student is likely to excel in the future. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that Kiddom believes is now attainable.
One of the priorities for any technology project in schools is to ease the burden on teachers. Any instructor spending time on tasks other than teaching is practically, by definition, an undesirable outcome. The less time those teachers have to spend on mundane paperwork tasks, the more time they can spend with their students.
Data gathering and analysis promises to do exactly what teachers want: reduce the burden of record-keeping and allow Kiddom’s systems to handle the comparisons for them. The plan is to use the information collected to try and analyze the best way forward student by student. Kiddom emphasizes the system’s purpose is not to replace teachers, but to enhance their effectiveness.
One of the problems faced by the drive to technology-enhanced learning is the need to adhere to established learning standards. Both state and federal governments have established minimum skill requirements and curricula designed to guarantee a student a basic set of skills for future engagement in the working world. Any technology employed in the classroom either needs to reinforce those standards or, in some cases, enhance them if it is to succeed.
There is no doubt that the future of education will include a heavy reliance on technology in one form or another. The questions that remain are difficult ones. Companies like Kiddom will face considerable challenges in coming up with answers to those questions, and will also face the formidable problem of balancing their private business interests with the public’s investment in education.