The US education system is going through a Renaissance in how students learn. Especially when it comes to those learners focused on college preparedness. While many teachers still teach to a test, others are turning to new technologies and systems to help their students to move beyond the traditional instruction-led environments to an experiential environment where many kids thrive. Companies like Pearson PLC, McGraw-Hill Education, and Cengage Learning must work harder to maintain their leadership positions versus emerging education content providers that leverage technology to adapt to how students learn and excel.
Additionally, a major trend I have seen is curriculum content has become more organic. Technology has created a marketplace where educators can buy, sell and share teaching resources. Companies like WiseWire and Teachers Pay Teachers have created dynamic communities of premium paid content where teachers can drive supplemental income by creating educational content and selling it to other teachers. Content is king, but taking the concept further by incorporating big data analytics and content management, educators can develop an individualized curriculum that enhances how each student learns. For example, one of the most interesting components of WiseWire is giving teachers the ability to develop “playlists” on specific topics. In the playlist, students will have access to an instructor-led curriculum with a wide range of content, multimedia, and assessments that will eventually change dynamically based on how the student is progressing.
However, one of the challenges facing the growth of this industry is the lack of experience and know-how by today’s educators on how Millennials communicate and interact. Kahn Academy was one of the first to use YouTube to not just teach math, but to explain it in a language and present content in a medium today’s students can relate. Schools cannot ignore the fact that Twitter TWTR -0.43%, Tumblr, Snapchat, iMessage and Instagram have changed how Millennials interact with peers, teachers, parents, etc. Teenagers care about consistent feedback, visuals and pithy responses to their social networks. These students review, refresh and make decisions within their networks by the hour and 140 characters at a time. As these content platforms evolve and become more intelligent, education must be more intelligent and adapt content to the student’s needs, consumption, and delivery models.
Connecting to students via their preferred delivery models can be a challenge as most school districts have strict policies regarding students & teachers interacting on social media. That said, applications like Socrative and Plickers are on the right track to help teachers interact and assess students’ progress on their own turf. These platforms enable students to collaborate via cloud-based applications to work-towards and solve a common goal. Further, teachers can publish real-time quizzes and polls out to students via mobile devices to keep students engaged. Some teachers have used Twitter as an effective tool to communicate with their students via social media. However, it is important to reiterate the need for privacy and online decorum.
While most schools suffer from limited budgets and resources, there are several companies and initiatives that focus on providing low-cost cloud-based solutions to help students to take advantage of these advances. Through the use of data analytics, machine learning, and cognitive feedback loops today’s students (not tomorrow’s) will have a significant leg-up on previous generations. Don’t get me wrong, we will always have a need for smart, energetic teachers to motivate students. However, the educator’s role will change to become less of an instructor to more of a facilitator with each student having their own individualized technology-driven curriculum. Forward-looking companies like WiseWire with their premium content and analytics platform, combined with Socrative and other real-time assessment and learning feedback, could become a disruptive force for helping today’s students to bridge the skills gap and enable the next generation of knowledge-based workers.