The impact of innovation is beginning to extend out of the technology sector
and make dramatic impacts in the same education space that initially spurred
innovation to begin with. That raises some interesting possibilities. This innovation
feedback loop contains potential to create a snowball effect in terms of exponential
growth in innovation with regards to both technologies and the education model
itself. That spells good news for an education system whose underlying structure
has gone essentially unchanged since before the dawn of the Industrial Age.
Technological innovation may be able to spur meaningful structural change that so
far has encountered only obstacles.
Skype in the Classroom
Skype isn’t the latest cutting edge technology. But ignoring the impact and
implications of Skype’s entrance into the education space would miss what could be
an education game-changer. Skype’s video-conferencing capabilities have proven
invaluable already in the realm of online education. It has never really had any
meaningful role in public education, but “Skype in the Classroom” looks like it’s
launching hard. It made it out of beta in March with 4,000 teachers signed up, and
now has over 15,000 teachers who are harnessing its capabilities to collaborate.
Skype is rapidly becoming a vehicle for sharing projects and lesson plans. The
impact of instant collaboration for teachers can’t be overstated. What used to
require education conferences and finding time to collaborate outside of the
classroom can now happen as soon as there’s a need.
Moodle is another innovative tool that is changing the education experience for
teachers and students as well. An electronic learning environment, Moodle has
proven an exceptional tool for online learning and is now becoming popular in
public education as well. Its application for online learning is obvious. But the
surprising thing is how effective Moodle is in a physical classroom. Teachers who
use Moodle prize it for some of the same reasons that they like Skype—it allows real
The ability to insert a writing prompt to which students can respond on their
computers in the first few minutes of class does two things at once. It gets kids up
to speed on the previous day’s lecture—essentially a quick review. But the brilliant
part of this is that teachers can see in real time what their students are thinking.
Instead of trying to address a lack of comprehension after a quiz or exam, teachers
can spot knowledge gaps and address them immediately. That has the potential to
prevent a lot of kids from falling through the cracks.
Why These Tools Matter
We may have a pre-Industrial Age education model, but we’re educating kids
who are going to be living in a post-industrial world. We’re going to have to get
serious about giving them the tools they need to compete. Integrating innovative
technologies—which were fueled in part by education—back into the education
space is crucial. It’s sort of like reinvesting interest back into the principal to grow
an investment. And students are a serious investment in society’s future. We can’t
expect kids to compete if they’re attending schools that don’t provide the same
innovative technology immersion that their future jobs will demand. If innovation
continues to extend from the technology sector and create change in education,
students and teachers will continue to be better served.