Mike Trucano on Digital Innovation and the Future of the Classroom

This year at AAP’s PreK-12 Learning Group’s Fall Policy Exchange (#FPE15), two leaders in technology information and education will share their expert insights on what learning resource developers need to know about the current legislative landscape. Mike Trucano, the World Bank’s education technology expert, and Robert Atkinson, Founder and President of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), will talk about their views on technology policy, digital innovation, and learning environments across the globe. Below Mike Trucano answers questions about the effective use of classroom technology and what advances could aid student achievement.

Mike Trucano1. What role can publishers play in developing best practices for edtech? What should they avoid? How do you use it -- and use it effectively?

One thing that I think that all consumer-facing technology companies need to do a much better job of -- and I consider most publishers to be technology companies, even if they don't self-identify that way -- is to reduce complexity. Change is constant, There are so many options (so many devices, so many websites and apps, so many social networks, so much content) available to teachers and learners today, and there are so many mandates that they operate under (e.g. related to testing). While options proliferate and mandates grow, the one thing that isn't expanding is time. Does your edtech product or service solve a pressing problem in a way that is easily understandable -- and which doesn't along the way create new problems? If it doesn't, and isn't easy to use, it may face some real challenges attracting attention and in the market ... especially if it does not engage and delight the user. I’ll also note that, increasingly, ‘best practices’ (to the extent that such things exist) in the edtech space are no longer largely determined only by pioneering companies in developed countries; increasingly, there are exciting ‘innovations at the edges’ which are happening in low and middle income countries that may well point the way to ‘good’ (if not ‘best’) practices in edtech.

2. What are three major advances in technology (or edtech policy) that you think could help students and educators the most over the next 5 years?

It won't be anything new -- when it comes to technology there is always something new, of course, and what's new inevitably takes a long time to have an impact on what happens in schools. The education sector continues to be largely immune to Moore's Law. If we shift the focus from education to learning, however, there are a number of short term advances that will have impact. Most notably, at least in developed (OECD) countries, is the continued improvement in connectivity and bandwidth. Devices will continue to proliferate and their prices will fall, but increasingly they are only as valuable as what they can connect to: content, applications, services, and other people. Better connectivity means that the economies of scale and the decreased barriers to entry and distribution that 'the Cloud' offers can benefit people who increasingly carry with them their own connected, always-on personal computing devices. Educational bureaucracies will remain reactive in the way that they consider these advances -- individual teachers and learners most likely will not be.

3. How will teaching change as digital learning evolves? Will technology replace the teacher?

Introducing new technologies will not replace teachers. Experience from around the world shows us that, over time, teachers' roles become more central -- and not peripheral -- as a result of the introduction of new technologies. Introducing new technologies will, however, replace some of the things that teachers do -- and require that teachers take on new, often times more sophisticated, duties and responsibilities. That said, teachers who don't use technology will be replaced by teachers who do. And: In places where there are currently no teachers, technology can help in some very useful ways to, in part, overcome this absence.

Learn more about the Fall Policy Exchange.

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Education Policy