TED Conferences LLC • 250 Hudson Street, Suite 1002 • New York • NY • USA • 10013www.ted.com • Tel: +1-212.346.9333 • Fax: +1 212.227.6397Cengage Learning Incubator Session: The future of education and technologyIntroductionCengage Learning hosted an incubator session at the TED2011 conference, gathering innovators in andoutside the education field in an effort to learn even more about the thoughts, needs and behaviors ofstudents and instructors. The discussion centered around how technology is changing the currenteducational landscape, and how new educational technologies can help pave the way toward improvedlearning and lasting success in the future.Technology and Today’s StudentsTodays college students are juggling multiple demands and are also entering school lacking essentialskills, which is significantly impacting their ability to study and focus. In order to fully engage studentsand ultimately to help them achieve their optimum learning outcomes despite these challenges, today’seducational environment needs to match the lifestyle and learning style of today’s students.Cell phones and smart phones are a staple for today’s students. Laptops are now ubiquitous acrosscollege campuses, even a requirement for acceptance at some institutions. Internet access iseverywhere, and with this increased access, students have become dependent on a constant flow ofinformation. Staying current and remaining relevant is critical in all that they do – their educationalexperience should be no different. In the past, students relied solely on their instructors and theirtextbooks for knowledge and answers. Now, with emerging technology, students have access to awealth of resources and materials and educators need to find new ways to best utilize technology withintheir teaching.Knowing this, publishers and solutions providers need to find ways to take advantage of the relativelynew access to information in ways that will help students embrace knowledge and more effectivelyengage in their education. Technology can facilitate interactions among students, between students andinstructors, and more intimate and hands-on manipulation of course materials. Technology applied in thewrong ways can distract from learning – but when thoughtfully embraced within a course’s pedagogy –technology can lead to a boost in learning results.Technology enables more communication and fosters collaboration both in and outside of theclassroom. Students and instructors are no longer bound by classroom walls and there are newopportunities for idea sharing across classes, geographies, institutions, cultures, etc. Students can now
access virtual classrooms, digital textbooks and a variety of other learning tools online from a multitudeof destinations at any time of day or night. Distance learning is rapidly gaining momentum. Even thoughstudents may not be coming together in a classroom, they are coming together in virtual communities tolearn together and collaborate online. As education morphs from the blackboard and the lecture to thevideo and the keyboard educational technologies will help to refine and define new forms ofcollaboration, content delivery, and creative experiential learning.While technology has impacted behaviors and preferences within the learning and teachingenvironments, one thing that has not changed is the clear need for a foundation of credible content.Without reliable content, no technology on its own can improve learning outcomes. Successfuleducational technologies will be the ones that are built around this core component, using technologiesto support students in manipulating the materials and engaging with the lessons.The role of technology in the future of educationTo date, many digital solutions have been introduced to the educational environment and all signsindicate that technology will continue to become more integrated into the classroom. That said digitalhas not yet achieved its full potential when it comes to application and effectiveness in the educationalspace. There are many advancements that embrace technology and have demonstrated their ability toincrease engagement, and thus, improve outcomes, however, there is much more that can be done inthe future. Since 67% of students would like more technology-based learning tools in the classroom and86% of students reported that their academic engagement has improved as they have increasingly useddigital tools in their coursework (Instructors and Students: Technology Use, Engagement and LearningOutcomes. 2010. Cengage Learning and Eduventures) there is a huge demand for new andsophisticated learning tools. This begs the question, what will these new tools look like? What shape willthey take?We know that technology can allow instructors to become more creative and experimental in theirteaching techniques. Because technology offers connections and opportunities for collaboration andinteraction, it can help foster experiential and open-ended learning.More advanced technologies such as interactive e-books are an example of how technology cansuccessfully be applied to existing materials to enable a deeper learning exchange. Beyond simply aPDF of a traditional textbook, these e-books feature interactive infographics, videos and voice-overs. Avariety of tools is helpful for visual and kinetic learners and can support a range of preferred learningstyles.Multimedia will be a key component to educational tools moving forward. The incorporation of video andaudio tracks provides a more immersive learning experience, offering a greater rate of retention forstudents. For example, if medical students learning the latest surgical techniques were offered videoinstruction on a tablet or PC, in addition to written text, this would undoubtedly enhance the learningprocess.Further, technology can help students reach maximum engagement with learning materials, beyond justwatching a video or listening to an audio track these items can be integrated together. Rather than justreading a textbook, students can engage in the content itself - be read to with digital audio tools, followthe transcript, watch a video about the content, respond to questions, create an online presentation
about the content and share it with others. This brings the learning process full circle, challenging thestudent to interact with the material in a variety of ways to ensure maximum retention of the content.Technology might help us to not just deliver content, i.e., provide answers to given questions, but toengage the student on those questions and challenge them in order to drive inquiry by pushing themtoward an experience and a dialogue with the ideas rather than just a written explanation of any givenpiece of information. When students drive the content, they are bound to be more interested. Knowing astudent’s strengths and weaknesses as a learner can help them get the right content, in the mosteffective and appealing way, thereby ensuring engagement.Individualized learning should be another key aspect of educational technologies moving forward.Programs and components that help gain insight into the learning style of a student, and intervene whennecessary, would be an invaluable tool. The development of reader programs or writing monitorsequipped with the ability to detect learning challenges or issues – dyslexia for example – could thenprime or customize options by suggesting an audio track to accompany text, or the other materials thatmight aid the student and cater to their learning style or challenge.It is important to keep in mind that the key to successfully integrating technology into any learningenvironment will be to make it seamless and invisible. The technology should disappear against thecontent. The less the student notices it as an aspect of the learning, the better.The challenges of educational technologiesThere are many challenges to incorporating technologies into the classroom. A key component, andoften a challenge, to educational technologies is the basic concept of core functionality. Any newtechnology must make content easily accessible, be intuitive in its design and functionality, and delivercontent in a clear and unobtrusive way.A major challenge with new technology in any field is adoption. There is always a small subset of earlyadopters who are using new technologies far in advance of the rest of the population. Althoughwidespread adoption may take time, the educational community should view the lead users as apredictor of what will happen and see them as “focus groups” for new platforms. The challenge is toserve those who adopt technologies early, while not leaving behind those who are slower to catch up, orthe “legacy user base.” With time, students of all ages will eventually catch up with the front of the pack.A major challenge for technology developers and content publishers is ensuring that content isorganized, ranked and searchable – regardless of the digital format of the content. A simple search forany given topic can return thousands of results. But quantity does not mean quality and the results won’tnecessarily be meaningful, rich, effective or even relevant. The content needs to be curated. Tools thatcan rank vet and categorize search results will be another important development.Timeliness is an important aspect of any educational environment. For any new educational technologyto succeed, it must feature content that is dynamic and up-to-date. Technology allows for that flexibilityand ability to adapt to up-to-the-minute news and current events, and cultural shifts (for example,materials on Egypt could include information on the recent uprising there – an important event thatdramatically shifts Egypt’s standing – but won’t be found in any textbook or other static learning tool).
New technologies should enable learning tools to be “living products” that grow and change with worldevents, keeping teachers and students up to date.Finally, technology should not completely take over the classroom, or any learning process. There is animportant human element to learning that we should not overlook. The human to human connection isan important one and will always be a crucial component of education.Social networks and educational technologiesOften times, collective intelligence has greater impact than individual intelligence. Social networking isan important way that students can take advantage of that. While Facebook and Twitter are currently themost prominent social networking platforms, and are indeed very sophisticated opt-in publishingstreams, they don’t necessarily speak to the actual utility of social networking as applied to education.Social networking as it applies to education needs to be less about the recognized brand and moreabout the utility of the platform. Social networking in the education realm needs to be highly customized.Peer to peer exchange can help with many learning challenges such as understanding how to solve agiven problem set. Tools like instant messaging and blogging are an excellent way for peers to interface.Perhaps tools that help students form learning groups and could, for example, alert one student thatanother is viewing the same content, or flagging it with questions, could be quite effective.Social networking also expands the possibilities for teaching civics to students because socialnetworking, by its nature, involves discourse, judgment and processing – things that are often hard todemonstrate in a traditional classroom setting and can take a great deal of time. Social media is a way toexpose students to new ideas and view points and get them thinking in new and challenging ways.Additionally social networking is simple way to connect students that are interested in the same topics,bringing them together for exchanges that could render artifacts that will then become resources toother students.ConclusionsNew educational technologies are already poised to dramatically change the face of learning andteaching. They will only grow and become more and more refined and effective in the future. Whiletechnologies to date have not fully delivered on their promise or full potential, the industry seems to beheaded in the right direction.There is a clear need for a perfect blend of authoritative content, a strong foundational pedagogy andtop technology. Students and instructors now demand choice and a more individualized learningexperience that caters to their learning styles and challenges. The user experience must be the prioritywhen developing new educational technologies. The technology must fit seamlessly into the learningexperience and disappear against the content. Platforms must be user-friendly and flexible to allow for aconstant flow of fresh and updated content.
Every school and learning environment is different and schools that foster sharing and seek outcollaboration will likely be more successful at integrating social networking, and other new technologies,into the learning process. Schools will need to be open to the fact that there is no single approach, nopanacea for delivering content and integrating technologies. The role of technology in education willonly serve to further highlight the variety of learning styles and skills and better serve the individuallearner’s needs.About Cengage LearningCengage Learning is a global, leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions forthe academic, professional and library markets worldwide. The companys products and services aredesigned to foster academic excellence and professional development, increase student engagement,improve learning outcomes and deliver authoritative information to people whenever and wherever theyneed it. Through the companys unique position within both the library and academic markets, CengageLearning is providing integrated learning solutions that bridge from the library to the classroom. CengageLearnings brands include Brooks/Cole, Course Technology, Delmar, Gale, Heinle, South-Western andWadsworth, among others.Session AttendeesMichael Abary, Sony; Jonathan Hulbert, Cengage Learning; Cindy Cook, Cengage Learning; MattGoldman, Blue School; Bruce Heavin, Lynda.com; Nader Qaimari, Cengage Learning; Bill Ritchie,ThinkFun; Renee Rolleri, Blue School; Logan Smalley, TED-Ed; Chris Vento, Cengage Learning;Lynda Weinman, Lynda.com; Jeff Young, Chronicle of Higher Education