September is a month that brings back a lot of memories. For some, it is a memory of coming home with clothes stained with blackboard chalk. Some were luckier (and had cleaner clothes), as they only went through the times of dry erased markers. Some, the luckiest of all, had way more fun with digital interactive whiteboards (IWB).
Surprisingly, the digitalization of the educational system is not going as fast as the digitalization of other areas of our lives. You would assume that the white chalk and the dry erased markers are history but on average there are 109 students per an IWB in the EU. Denmark is top of the class with 1 IWB per 23 students.
While IWBs are still rare in European schools, internet is something that nearly every student is accustomed to. With 80% of youth aged 9 to 16 connected to the net through their mobile phones, we can say that there is more internet than IWBs in our classrooms.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the educational system to go digital in 2020, even more digital inequalities emerged. All the teaching was moved online. This seemed like a big task, especially when we look at the fact that in 2018 only 40% of EU teachers felt ready to use technology in the classroom.
How can we close this gap? Well, countries can draw inspiration from the booming education technology sector which recently was valued at around €76 billion. The sector has so much to offer, from AI-powered grading technology to classroom material scanning software. Things are getting even more futuristic. Ed-tech start-ups such as Immersive VR Education, began using VR for interactive learning experiences.
Although technology and education are still not the closest of buddies, their friendship is on the right track. One big question in this friendship might be whether Ed-Tech innovation won’t lead to robots teaching our future generations. Unfortunately, we are not able to answer this question as we don’t have psychic powers (yet)… 🔮
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Data privacy in schools and online learning 📶 [McAfee]
As remote work is now the new norm, so is e-learning. It turns out that on top of worrying about our own privacy, we also need to be mindful of children in schools. According to The Center for Democracy and Technology, there are five areas where schools may (inadvertently) put a child’s privacy at risk: digital assessments, data sharing, monitoring protocols, loaner device security and low digital literacy IQ. We hope that you took notes, as being aware of the risks and asking the right questions is key to getting proactive with data privacy!
Post-summer reading: Bill Gates on climate change 📚 [TechCrunch]
After a summer of unprecedented heat and disastrous floods, Bill Gates offers a pragmatic take on tackling climate change in his new book. He uses his engineering background coupled with years of philanthropic work to give us a magical suggestion to electrify, decarbonise, and be more efficient. From an intense analysis of the capacity of existing technologies to the consideration of the price for their use, this book is for those looking to go beyond their usual readings of the European Green Deal policies.
We’ve been here before (kind of). China already has a history of measures to limit children from being glued to their gaming joysticks. However, its new rule is particularly strict. At first glance, one might agree that less time in front of the screen is the best way to fight addiction, though this is not always the case. One study shows that we should take steps to change the attitudes of gaming ‘addicts’, rather than simply limiting their screen time. Once the ‘why’ is identified, then the necessary practical steps can take place.
Tech-ed transformers 🤖 [Protocol]
The tech labour shortage in the US persists and it is partly because the younger generation is not into studying tech. As a response, many managers mobilised to close this gap by cross-training and upskilling their employees. Udacity has also decided to help. The educational organisation created reskilling and upskilling programmes for tech workers from the ages of 24 to 65. Despite the spike in new ed-tech companies, Carnegie Mellon University professor Martial Herbert does not see these companies as each other’s competitors. According to Herber, they serve a different purpose. He also recognizes the accelerating demand for educating professionals, saying this is because the old models are no longer realistic for the ever-changing world of tech.
Can you read my mind? 🧠 [POLITICO Europe]
Data privacy? Old news. AI taking over humans? Old story. Neurotechnology is the new frontier and the next mind-blowing regulatory dilemma. If machines can interact directly with our brain, will we manage to reap benefits whilst preserving the privacy and independence of our thoughts and emotions? Some, like Rafael Yuste who runs the Neurorights initiative at Columbia University are calling for regulators to keep their hands off and devise fundamental principles which will allow unleashing the potential of this technology. Institutions like the OECD are listening, for now. But the focus on its applications by governments, corporates, the defence industry and justice systems might bring us to a Minority Report situation of uncontrolled risks of discrimination and abuse. Unless we ask the right questions in time, privacy and AI may soon seem an uneasy problem to deal with.
About this week’s editor, Jarek Oleszczynski
Hello, it’s me, Jarek Oleszczynski (the longest surname you may have seen in a while 😉). I am here to take over the #TechAways coordination from Lauren Clark. I came to Cambre after sailing the deep seas of diplomacy, NGOs and start-ups. At Cambre, I specialise in policy and digital communications. Today, I have the pleasure to take you down memory lane. When we prepared this edition, we wondered about how life as a student looks in today’s tech-oriented world. We did some digging – and voilà, we came up with our back-to-school edition of #TechAways.
In case you haven’t had enough:
Digital divide in education didn’t begin with pandemic [The Irish Times]