The future of technology in education

Tags: Op-ed
The future of technology in education
PROSPECTIVE PURVIEW: In this 2010 file photo, IIT’s information technology (IT) professionals work on their laptops during an ‘Open Hack Day’ programme organised by a global search engine in Bangalore
Predicting what future technology could do in the domain of education is certainly a difficult task. Mainly because the student community is looking at education from different angles, and technology itself is undergoing a massive change. One must realise that the future is clouded, and must be filtered through the ability of teachers — in the past and present — to think about the impact of technologies on student learning and capacity of the teaching community to undergird research in technology. We must remember that technologies are not the content of education; rather they provide a cornucopia of tools for learning.

The technologies we know will now undergo enormous change at an increasingly rapid pace. In 1965, founder of Intel Gordon Moore had predicted the exponential growth of technology. Moore’s law postulates that the processing power and speed of any electronic calculating device will double every 18 months. At the same time, the price for that technology will decline approximately 35 per cent a year relative to the power. If this continues to be true, researchers will have an abundance of exciting new tools to use as they study the curriculum and children of the future. Those instruments will not only be more powerful than those we have now, but will cost less, making them affordable for research, schools and families.

Educational research will undergo huge paradigm shifts that we can only imagine. Because we live in a revolutionary time of astonishing advances in technology and a world of constant and unrelenting change, new concepts appear before the implications of their predecessors are digested. The critical gear we carry on the research trail into the future is our mindset, mainly because we are not willing to explore and investigate. The fact that we are not ready to accept new ways of doing new things makes the situation much worse.

The literature on change describes levels of initiation and acceptance of innovations. Teaching communities are divided into groups; there are forerunners, innovators, persons who build on what others do, those who try what the earlier groups have found out, and lastly, people who lag behind or who are great critics. As we negotiate the wilderness trails ahead, accepting and adjusting to paradigm shifts in teaching and learning will become the survival tool for education’s future.

The focus of future’s research agenda must remain on children and youths, learners and teachers, and how to find strategies to harness the power of the technologies in this endeavour. Educationists must grip the technology revolution quickly. They should design and use new learning experiences; and teach more process skills than ever before. A mindset that encompasses creativity and subsequent innovation will be required if we are to explore and exploit the potential offered by technology. Futurists and educational reformers argue that new educational institutions are needed for a new age, and that the social power of technology will force people to redefine education — a task that will require a different mindset than educators have had in the past.

The debate between those who espouse standard-based testing founded on the knowledge of the past, and those whose position is firmly in the process-based curriculum for the future, will figure prominently in the redefinition of education. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, children and youths must develop process skills in problem solving and critical thinking, communication, technical reading and writing, applied technical reasoning, information literacy, using technology as a tool, new personal skills, new mindset skills, and new curricula. Crucial questions revolve around new strategies related to making changes, applying what we already know about change, and bringing research findings quickly to practice.

While there is no need to reinvent the wheel (a timeworn but accurate cliché), that is what sometimes happens in educational technology practice. We use good old examples in new application-oriented software applications. Indeed, our technology experts do the same and support softwares that are also based on faulty application of developmental theory.

Today, the education scenario reflects what was true 15 years ago, when technology was combined with the curriculum in a very conservative manner. But remember, technology represents a pervasive set of changing tools for learning and teaching. It is a tidal wave flooding the whole world, touching all aspects related to human life. It will not disappear in the next few years because the youths use interactive softwares that require a range of cognitive, communication, and social processes.

Researchers and educators alike must move away from entrenched positions. One of the most critical needs at present is that of finding new ways to connect learners and teachers with the results, implications, and procedures of educational research.

(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of

University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)


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