Education Is Unbundling—Three Key Trends to Watch


Technology in the classroom has come a long way since its advent in the 1920s, when teachers would air radio broadcasts about topics relevant to their lesson plans. Ten years later, in the 1930s, the overhead projector debuted to display material for the whole class to see all at once, followed by the launch of the Scantron grading system in the 1970s to speed up the standardized testing process. Innovative? Yes, for their time. Powerful for learners? Not really.

While technology in the classroom is not a new phenomenon, these days we are customizing technological innovations to make education adaptive and flexible. We have finally reached the point where we can say goodbye to the one-size-fits-all approach, and move toward ways to cater to the individual needs of each student and teacher.

As a result, we have entered the era of “the unbundling of content.” Schools no longer issue top-down edicts on the specific ways students need to learn, the way school districts used to mandate the use of standardized textbooks or outdated worksheets. Instead, teachers can assemble information drawn from a range of sources, from education blogs to online learning platforms. Advances in technology have made this possible. Three out of four teachers cite technology as the key factor that helps them expand classroom content, as well as motivate students with interesting, interactive lessons. The educational system is putting its faith in educators to create individualized content and lesson plans for their particular groups of students. Compared to the rigid ways of learning in generations past, it is an exciting time for teachers, students and technology companies alike.

This trend is also evident through our use of devices such as Chromebooks and iPads in classrooms. Each student has the opportunity to directly engage with technology, allowing for hands-on trial and error experience, as opposed to being shown something by the teacher at the front of the class. Some schools are even experimenting with virtual reality tools like Google Expeditions to make learning even more up-close-and-personal. As innovative technologies and digital learning tools continue to infiltrate the classroom, teachers are increasingly able to work with their students in more inventive and collaborative ways.

Teachers can use curated videos, interactive games and other engaging resources to bring lessons to life. They can also use analytics provided by online learning platforms to discover which skills individual students are struggling to master. These opportunities provide endless possibilities to influence learning.

Let’s examine three ways that technology is playing a transformative role in the way people learn.

The Content Effect: Creating Impactful Learning Material

When the Common Core state standards were launched in 2009, some teachers were forced to reevaluate their existing lesson plans and think outside of the box. The new standards weren’t fully supported by the textbooks or worksheets that had been used year after year. This was especially challenging for teachers who had been using the same lesson plans and materials for a long time.

Understandably during this transition, many educators were frustrated with the challenging—and seemingly extraneous—work being put on their plates, coupled with the routine stress of grading assignments and managing the classroom. As a result, we saw many educators turn to technology to help them find content for new lesson plans, rather than recreating the wheel on their own.

Though the industry was in many ways nascent in 2009, the digital learning tools made available in the last decade have allowed educators to collaborate with one another—not just within their familiar networks, but with peers all over the country. We’ve also seen the traditional textbook industry lose ground in K-12 schools. What has resulted is the unbundling of content. Large compendiums of knowledge, such as standard texts, have been replaced by bite-sized units assembled from a variety of sources. A natural information flow has arisen within peer-to-peer marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers, as well as within informal sharing networks. These channels provide a huge benefit to students who now get to experience content created by teachers from all over the country.

The Technology Effect: Bigger Players Investing in Schools

By one estimate, the global educational technology market could grow to $252 billion by 2020, as Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and Apple continue to stake their claims in the industry and facilitate innovation. The biggest player in the space today is Google, which has seen massive uptake of Google Classroom and Chromebooks over the past few years.

Teachers are integrating Google products and services like Chromebooks, Google Classroom, and Google Docs into … Next Page »

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2

Matthew Glotzbach is the CEO of San Francisco-based learning tools company Quizlet. He joined Quizlet after 12 years at Google, where he was most recently VP Product Management at YouTube. Follow @mglotzbach

Trending on Xconomy