Panel examines ed tech, personalized learning


“The biggest challenge for us is that education has been a place that is wildly resistant to innovation,” Weiss said. What began as a system that would protect children from becoming guinea pigs in educational fads has resulted in a nation that is desperately in need of innovation, but that is “really good at repelling it,” she said.

“We have to figure out policies that allow us to let [innovation] loose in education,” Weiss added. “This is clearly our path forward, that technology-enabled learning and teaching is the way we’re going to figure out how to teach kids what they need to know and how to be successful in the future.”

Gaming

Educational gaming is another concept that, while not brand new, is still growing. Concerning the opportunities for scaling educational games, and the barriers,

“It’s really had to make engaging games; if that wasn’t the case, we’d all be millionaires,” said Zoran Popović, professor and director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington’s Department Of Computer Science and Engineering.

But the gaming platform offers several nice advantages:

  • Learning will occur when students spend a certain amount of time on something, and gaming offers a mechanism that lets children from varied backgrounds and with different learning preferences become engaged. Gaming also operates on an incentive structure.
  • “It’s naturally a thing that kids gravitate towards,” Popović said. “It’s the most unintrusive way to introduce education to kids.” It is nimble, as well, and can be accessed inside or outside of school and on various devices.
  • Gaming is a platform for mass-scale randomized studies on what actually works. “Here, you have kids doing a huge number of trials…you can start talking about 500,000 kids of all walks of life and preferences,” Popović said.
  • Educators can use gaming to “try to figure out what are the optimal pathways to conceptual understanding” based on students’ preferences–i.e., does a student like to experiment, or does he or she prefer to think socially? All of these considerations can be customized within a game.

Policy’s impact

A handful of policy changes would enable technology integration, West said. These include a skill mastery approach rather than an age-based or grade-level approach, and moving away from the Carnegie Unit, or seat time requirement.

Most state and federal accountability systems are driven by student age, and not ability, Hughes said.

Laura Ascione
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