As we embark on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s clear that technology will play a central role in nearly all aspects of our lives. A World Economic Forum research estimates that 65% of children entering primary school will find themselves in occupations that today do not exist and that by 2020, there will be 1.5 million new digitised jobs across the globe. To prepare the talent needed for the digital economy, education must adapt as fast as the demand for IT skills is growing and evolving.
Insights into the influence of psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors on how we learn are emerging from “the new science of learning”. This approach to understanding education argues that in our complex and rapidly-evolving world today, academic models based on interdisciplinary research are necessary to create effective teaching and learning environments.
Collaborative, deep learning
Learning-expanded viewpoint of science is uncovering new approaches to education. Research by Professor R. Keith Sawyer, a leading scientific expert on creativity and learning, emphasises the power of technology to influence and enhance academia by providing experiences that lead to deep learning. These include allowing students to learn collaboratively, test out and redesign models, and articulate their knowledge both visually and verbally.
Imagine a classroom infrastructure that includes wireless technologies, remotely accessible switches and routers, and collaboration tools to create an “intelligent” environment for the invention of real-world Internet of Things (IoT) products, services and experiences by students. Creation takes place in different venues, for example, in the classroom during project-based learning or alongside passionate technology peers via hackathons. Students model the networks they create in a simulator and prototype with cloud-based technology at home. Instructors are empowered with a customisable learning management platform while collaborating with peer instructors across the world.
Learning science’s interdisciplinary insights are uncovering new approaches to education. For example, the power of technology to influence and enhance academia.
The most exciting piece is, this is all achievable now. By applying learning science insights to IT education, we can create a dynamic, digital and hands-on learning experience that is tailored, flexible and relevant to developing the talent needed to power the digital economy.
Understanding Learning Science’s Impact on Education
To illustrate how the science of learning informs digitally enhanced learning, there are, mainly, three learning science concepts:
1. Distributed Cognition (dCoG): A theory introduced by Edwin Hutchins, who describes how people, their environment and artefacts (or tools) can be regarded as one cognitive system. Educators can view human learning through the lens of dCoG to design digitally-enhanced learning experiences that facilitate the interaction of people (e.g. students, teachers, mentors), their environment (e.g. classrooms, workplace learning, informal settings) and tools (e.g. hands-on activities, simulators, games).
2. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): Another concept central to learning science is Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), and the related idea of scaffolding. ZPD represents the skill level just outside a learner’s comfort and mastery, while scaffolding refers to any type of instructional support, such as quizzes, games, instructions, tutoring, that facilitate learning within the student’s ZPD. By building learning experiences that use scaffolding to adjust to a student’s ZPD, we can hone in on the activity that will optimise a student’s capability to learn new material, as well as the balance between their current ability and the challenge presented.
Adding digital tools expands the options and reach of personalised teaching and scaffolding. For example, complementing the power of in-person and online teachers, learning and assessment enhanced with networked digital tools can be very effective.
3. Formative assessment: It emphasises how humans learn through activity. Applying frequent formative assessments (a formal and informal practice with continual and real-time feedback) the U.S. Navy’s Digital Tutor system demonstrates how digital solutions result in a scalable educational environment that has created IT experts in months rather than years.
Through its Education Dominance pilot, the US Navy developed an artificial-intelligence-based tutoring system to replicate the behaviours of exceptional tutors. Simulation technology and hands-on labs drive this system with student outcomes equivalent to, or surpassing, those using the human tutor. The platform is also scalable in a way not afforded by in-person tutors.
Integrated and Innovative
While experts believe that the human psychology behind learning has not changed vastly over time, the external factors affecting how we comprehend, retain and receive new material are constantly evolving. As the digital revolution accelerates, technology gives us exciting opportunities to shape learning experiences and achieve learning goals.
At the same time, it is important to recognise the role that a human teacher will always play in the classroom. They have a unique and personal insight into each learner’s progress, serving as a role model and local expert, and providing inspiration in a way technology itself cannot.
Combining the learning sciences with digital innovation, we can leverage the best of what digitally-enhanced and human-driven education have to offer, creating learning experiences that keep pace with the digital skills demanded by the market. In turn, affecting individual lives, supporting business and transforming global communities.
Courtesy: World Economic Forum