Step into a classroom today, and you will find that it hasn’t changed much, compared with classrooms 100 years ago. Students sit behind rows upon rows of desks in front of a white/blackboard, with the teacher imparting knowledge in a top-down fashion as she narrates the lesson and writes on the board for illustration purposes.
It is this archaic system that chipmaker Intel wants to change. At the Intel Solutions Summit last week, Director of Intel’s Global Education Sales Program Brian Gonzales shared that the experience of students in the current classroom system stands in very stark contrast compared to what they are exposed to off-class.
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“Stepping into a classroom from Monday to Friday is equivalent to travelling back in time,” he said, “During the weekend, kids get exposed to all sorts of high-tech goodies, including tablets, social media, and gaming consoles. Once they get in class, however, they have to surrender their devices, bringing them to a place not changed since the 1900s.”
While Gonzales acknowledges the progress made in bringing information technology to learning, he asserts that the transformation promised by technology hasn’t happened. “Right now, many schools have computer labs with programmes that allow students to learn interactively in multimedia environment,” he noted, “However, one or two lessons per week is not sufficient to enhance learning. Once they get back to class, it’s the old way of teaching again.”
And this old way is starting to get less relevant. According to Gonzales, the past 10 years has saw many new types of jobs being created, for instance social media marketers, sustainability auditors, and mobile app developers. It is a certainty that this trend will continue in the future with technological progress, and these jobs will require skills that are not particularly well-taught in the current top-down classroom system, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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Likewise, technological development has brought about trends that can be harnessed in education to bring about better outcomes. Gonzales mentioned that the proliferation of access to technology and resulting low cost, coupled with personalised digital content delivery, has enabled Intel to steer its efforts towards building a 21st century learning environment.
No stranger to education, Intel has invested over US$1 billion over the past decade, bringing devices and technology to nearly 150 million students around the world. Sam Al Schamma, Intel’s Director of Education Sector in Asia Pacific and Japan, pointed out that Intel’s efforts in Argentina, where it provided laptops to three million students by 2012, resulted in an improvement in Science passing rates, from 55.87 per cent in 2009 to 63.24 per cent in 2012.
Even as technology brings about many benefits to education, Gonzales believes that ultimately, teachers are still the most important factor. “Teachers need to be empowered to manage technology and use it towards learning,” he said. “There is always the need for a good teacher who can create the teaching ‘magic’,” concluded Gonzales.