Africa should leverage on digital technologies

By Monde Mawasha

CDC’s Chief Knowledge & Digital Officer – ICT, Research and Strategy

Digital technologies are becoming a more significant component of contemporary education provision and practices around the world, and they are central to popular visions of educational futures.

The widespread use of digital educational resources during the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the educational significance of digital technologies. As a result, despite their mixed success in the past, the optimism that digital technologies will alter education in a more expansive and powerful way is being vigorously pursued.

As a fundamental human activity, learning is not inhibited by space nor time. However, the institutional structures in which learning occurs, are. Schools and universities were established to provide rich learning environments. These institutions have evolved from serving the interests of a select few to serving the needs of the masses. They have also evolved into something more formal and expert.

They are the primary means used to socialise the next generation, and in a labour market that is becoming more and more skilled, individuals are successfully allocated to occupations and social groups. In these settings, social mobility and growth are encouraged, and identity and citizenship are developed.

Educational institutions fulfil these roles by professionally supporting cognitive growth and knowledge transmission, character development and behavioural training, and by imparting values and ethical judgement. Simultaneously, traditional education institutions (formal education) are being questioned more than ever about their value and whether they provide “genuine” education relevant to real-world needs.

This is not a new viewpoint, but proponents of it are becoming more vocal (e.g., tech billionaires who dropped out of formal education; public discourse about how misaligned educational institutions are with the demands of the modern workplace and technology). In summary, it’s a battle for people’s hearts and minds.

The digital classroom revolution started in the early 2000s with Khan Academy and similar initiatives on the internet. These have blossomed to such an extent that, as an example, talented individuals can learn and complete undergraduate programmes in Mathematics without stepping into a classroom. Gamification of Mathematics and Computer Science learning is now a mature “industry”.

Educational Institution Ecosystems

School closures and other ways in which the pandemic disrupted school operations have prompted unprecedented technological and social innovation in education, forcing policymakers and educators to consider new ways to arrange people, spaces, time, and technology to enable learning under new circumstances.  For the future of education, it will be critical to examine what has been learned from these experiences in terms of how to diversify educational and technological environments.

No school is an island, as the pandemic has demonstrated. Families and personal social relationships remain key learning environments with which schools must interact. Parents’ support in home-schooling proved to be the single most essential component in ensuring that students’ education continued successfully.

Every aspect of our society, including education, has been transformed by technology. Today’s pupils are raised with internet-connected devices at home and in the classroom, which have altered their learning habits. Teachers and students will benefit from several new capabilities provided by future educational technology. While technology will play a big role in the future of education, ensuring that new teaching tools are used effectively will require a new generation of educators who understand the importance of the human-technology connection in the educational setting.

Digital Technology Trends

Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, and other types of digitalisations are radically redefining the world. As technology advances, educators must keep up with emerging trends that can be incorporated into the classroom and educational systems. Some technological applications may produce new methods to engage with students, increase teaching and learning efficiency, and even reduce instructors’ responsibilities so they can devote more time to their classes and engaging students one-on-one.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom is a major technological development that is affecting educational tools and what the future of education may look like. Educational visionaries posit that AI will aid in the development of students’ skills and the efficiency of assessment — by “filling needs gaps in learning and teaching and allowing schools and teachers to do more than ever before,” as noted by Forbes Magazine.

Teachers will have more time to focus on what is at the heart of their profession if AI can deliver solutions to improve student evaluation and learning methods. Teachers will also have more freedom to provide understanding and adaptation, which are human characteristics that robots cannot replicate.

Cloud Computing

The cloud can be used to store important data and boost productivity in a variety of ways. This is especially true in educational settings, where instructors, parents, students, and administrators can save space, money, and time via cloud-based software and services for teaching and learning.

Cloud-based applications offer tremendous ‘connection’ as well. Teachers and administrative staff, for example, can access all school data in one place rather than scouring multiple sources. Furthermore, the cloud is enabling digital solutions to connect students and teachers in a safe, fast, and lifelike manner even outside of classroom hours, with the goal of increasing efficacy and efficiency.

This means they no longer have to rely on desktop computers or paper filing systems. The cloud provides application-based redundancy and reduces the risk of single-point failure, school officials say. It also provides a secure and accessible destination for this data, regardless of its location.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Future classrooms will have unprecedented possibilities because of emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Field trips have always provided opportunities for students to travel, but now it is feasible to bring the outside in. Students can immerse themselves in the culture and locations of other countries using AR and VR technologies as if they were there.

Virtual labs enable students to repeat experiments in any location with an internet connection. AR and VR are enabling immersive, collaborative, and interactive learning programs. Students have immediate access to high-quality resources and technologies. They also have the chance to practise more and receive immediate and detailed feedback.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that like many areas of life, traditional mediums of education will need to keep up with the pace of ever-advancing technology. Recent social issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic have assisted in accelerating the speed at which technology infiltrates human activity.