Article

Is digital education the future?

Tomorrow is Today

Nowadays, a toddler is often more savvy with a digicorder than his parents. So it seems only logical that technologies such as the Internet or tablets are brought into the classroom. But that is easier said than done.

“Bringing technology alone into the classroom is not enough.”

Vincent Fosty, Partner and Digital Leader at the consultancy firm Deloitte

The market for digital education is growing steadily, but the sector also faces a challenge: new players are emerging and systems are becoming more expensive while budgets are being scrapped, certainly for youth education. On top of that, the education sector does not seem eager for change.

Change of course

A study conducted in 2012 for the European Commission found, for instance, that in Belgium we have among the fastest broadband speeds in Europe and that our schools are in general well equipped. The same study nonetheless also shows that students and teachers in our country are not really at ease with ICT. They are consistently below the European average, and the younger the pupils, the less their teachers rely on IT. The use of computers by pupils is also below the European average for most age groups.

Students and teachers in our country are not really at ease with ICT

Ecosystem

Digital technologies in education have all sorts of advantages, however. For instance, teachers can give their lessons or training courses in a new way, while the use of game techniques makes the course material easier to digest for pupils. “We see that quite a number of publishers are now working on an integrated system,” explains Vincent Fosty, Partner and Digital Leader at Deloitte. Such a system runs entirely on tablets, and provides the appropriate software for the purpose. The SQOOL system in France is a complete ecosystem where the makers of tablets and software cooperate with the education sector to build a comprehensive curriculum. “The publishers are also considering what should happen in the lessons. How will a teacher be able to use the content in the classroom?” Mr Fosty says.

Customised learning

Another option is an e-learning system not subject to specific hardware, which can run on different types of computers. Van In education already has some experience in this field. They are the people behind Bingel, an e-learning platform now used by 70% of all primary school children in the Dutch-speaking education system. Work is now under way on a platform for secondary education: Diddit. “Such an e-learning system makes customised learning possible,” says Vicky Adriaensen, Business unit manager for secondary education at Van In. “Thanks to Diddit, students can do exercises online and, depending on their individual capabilities, improve both their motivation and school results.”

Education

“You must be able to provide enriched content in education, such as videos or web pages. Think of a news item that you want to introduce in the lesson, for instance. Students and teachers can search for it rapidly on YouTube at home, but the hardware in the classrooms is often pretty old. It is important to upgrade the course material,” Vincent Fosty explains. A great deal of work still remains to be done, however, in order to bring these technologies into the classroom, and not only in terms of infrastructure. “Just bringing computers into the classroom is not enough,” Mr Fosty says.

It is important to upgrade the course material

Teachers are still needed

To get the most out of new technologies such as tablets, laptops or special, digital school boards, he calls for an approach that combines digital technologies with complementary measures, such as special training courses for teachers, for instance. The aim is by no means to change the current way of working. Teachers are still needed. But these new systems help with exercises or group assignments for example, and to provide enriched content, such as videos. Education is not becoming digital, but these technologies can mean added value for education nowadays. For Fosty, it is important for everyone in the education system, from schools and teachers to students, parents and also publishers of e-learning platforms, to work together in order to build a good learning environment. “Integrated, modern technologies make it easier for students of all ages and backgrounds to continue to learn throughout their entire life, inside and outside the classroom,” Fosty concludes.

School of Tomorrow

What would tomorrow look like if you were fearless? Possibilities are endless.

  • There is one computer per three to seven students on average in the EU 
  • Belgium scores above average in schools in terms of infrastructure, particularly with sound computer facilities and fast broadband Internet

De Standaard (20/3)

Zijn onze klassen klaar voor digitaal?

Een kleuter kan nu vaak beter overweg met de digicorder dan zijn ouders. Het lijkt dan ook logisch dat technologieën zoals internet of tablets in de klas worden gebruikt. Maar dat is makkelijker gezegd dan gedaan.

Published: 20 March 2015
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