Student-Centered Learning Is Top Priority for Ed-Tech Companies

Preparing for a K-12 future that is digitally engaged and more student-centered will change education as we know it, and companies are among those trying to figure out how to respond.

That challenge was top of mind for the 40 businesses and organizations that participated in an ed-tech meeting last month that was a run-up to the 2017 Content in Context Conference here. The groups from the United States, South Africa, and Sweden that attended the meeting grappled with several key questions, including:

• What will students come to expect as they learn in ways that are relevant to them and take greater responsibility for their learning?

• How will teachers' practice change to "guide" student learning, rather than leading it every step of the way?

• And how can ed-tech businesses provide instructional materials that support these changes in the classroom?

‘Unlearning to Do’

The school publishing industry—both digital and print—has held steadily at about $8 billion revenue over the past several years. But, as products are more diversified adoption markets are now more flexible.

For instance, about $1 billion that schools traditionally invested in core curricular products are now spent on subsectors like supplemental resources, education media, courseware, and assessment products.

Old-school teaching where it is teacher-centered or curriculum-centered is likely going to change relatively soon. With that comes a lot of unlearning to do.

Changing the idea that education is to directly prepare you for the workforce is one of the notions of student-centered learning.

Instead it suggests that schools have no idea what a 5-year-old is likely to do as he or she grows and enters the job market until retirement in 2077. Instead, he favors an inquiry-driven education in which students ask powerful questions that no one knows the answer to—until they do their research.

Competency-Based Learning

It’s reported that over 40 states are researching how they might use competency-based learning, which is based on students moving through grades based on mastery of content, not time spent in class. Students engaged in this form of education will sometimes learn in class, online, or in real-world settings.

The shift will require companies to move from simplicity to elegance for this technology-intensive endeavor. If students are going to be learning new concepts at a different pace, technology will have to do more than one thing at once in order to accommodate.

Educators will need help sorting through newly available information. At the same time, good educators develop intuition about their students' academic and social issues, and companies will need to understand how to replicate that intuition via technology.

Research Experts Needed

Companies will need to find ways to stay current on the latest educational research.

The meeting focused on some key technological features that ed-tech companies will need to pay close attention to in the years ahead. They include interoperability for assessments, learning analytics, mapping educational requirements, collecting valuable metadata, and tracking how it is used to make inferences about student learning.

Whatever technology is necessary to drive student-centered learning is something that companies should be prepared to offer an array of options to schools, and by extension, to students.

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