5 Ways Technology Is Disrupting Education

In today’s classrooms, stacks of heavy paper textbooks, battered notebooks, and worn-down pencils are giving way to e-readers, tablets, laptops, and a multitude of digital tools, apps, and software that are completely changing the way that students learn. These new tools don’t just change the delivery of the same material, though. Instead, they’re kicking off an array of changes to how students engage with what they’re learning, how they collaborate, how they receive feedback from teachers, and even how they learn to think and interact with the huge amount of information available to them. Here are five big ideas about how technology is disrupting education, and some of the resources pushing them ahead.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

1. Technology enables adaptive, personalized learning

Here’s an idea that turns the idea of a traditional, linear textbook on its head. Adaptive digital textbooks created by the OpenStax project at Rice University use machine-learning algorithms to enable biology and physics textbooks to adapt to individual students, as NewScientist reports. The books can deliver additional questions and practice sessions if the algorithms detect that a student is having difficulty with a subject, and the algorithms also determine when to use retrieval practice to give students quizzes on material that they’ve already learned.

On a broader level, teachers will be able to implement that same personalization throughout an entire course. Companies like Knewton build technology and infrastructure for online learning environments. They use predictive analysis — made possible by data science, machine learning, content graphing, and more — to find out exactly what a student is successfully learning, and let the instructor know what needs more reinforcement. The technology helps teachers improve pass rates and withdrawal rates, because adaptive, personalized learning is more effective than one-size-fits-all solutions.