Drivers of change impacting the future of EdTech

Drivers of change impacting the future of Edtech

By Rohan Roberts

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There are many factors that currently influence the direction of education, these include government policy, exam board stipulations, university expectations, parental concerns, teacher competency, and cultural drivers within a school. Educational Technology (EdTech) is just one of many factors.

These new emerging technologies will influence how students interact with their teachers and with each other. They will also influence how students create, collaborate and communicate. In this world, computer code is and will be more important than law, which is fixed in texts. Code displayed on a screen is endlessly tweakable by users, while law is not. Yet code can shape behavior as much as, if not more than, law.

We are a society in flux. Artificial intelligence, algorithms, and automation will have a tremendous impact on all aspects of society – including education. KnowledgeWorks is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to advancing personalised learning that empowers every child to take ownership of their success.

Their 2018 forecast, Navigating the Future of Learning, identifies five drivers of change that will impact education over the next decade and imagines what those drivers of change could mean for learning. These major societal shifts are grounded in trends, patterns, plans and developments that are taking place today:

Automating Choices

“Algorithms and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly embedded in our lives. They are automating many of our experiences, services and interactions with one another to achieve efficiency and personalization and are raising questions related to trust, bias and individual agency.”

The question we need to ask ourselves is in a world of ubiquitous A.I. what are the dangers and pitfalls that await us. When machines can make music, create art and drive cars, what then is the purpose of humans. How with the purpose of education change? With smart agents, recommendation engines, and adaptive learning platforms making decisions how do we ensure students have agency over their own learning?

Civic Superpowers

“Individuals, nonprofits and volunteer organizations are flexing their civic muscles. They are using participatory media, machine learning and data analytics to fill a growing governance gap, with hopes of reweaving the social fabric and redefining civic engagement.”

Parents are becoming increasingly disillusioned with mainstream educational models. New learning pathways are emerging. Non-traditional actors (private citizens, non-profits, educational startups) are increasingly involved in offering learners and educators choices and alternatives to influence elected officials, inform policy, and generally make their voices heard. The question parents need to ask themselves is how will they leverage all this emerging technology to shape educational models and compel innovation.

Accelerating Brains

“Rapid advances in technology and neuroscience are combining to transform our cognitive abilities in intended and unintended ways. They are shaping how we partner with digital tools, relate with one another and engage with our surroundings.”

Weve learnt more about the human brain in the last ten years than in all the previous centuries combined. Brain mapping and brain scanning technologies are now growing at an exponential rate and giving us vast insight into how the brain works. Education is becoming a science. Nootropics are a form of cognitive technology and they are becoming increasingly widespread. Nootropics are drugs, supplements, and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. These will be increasingly available to students. Parents and educators need to explore the ethical implications and long-term effects of the use of these substances.

Toxic Narratives

“The narratives and metrics of success and achievement that shape peoples aspirations, choices and behaviors are becoming increasingly detrimental to individual and social health and are contributing to growing toxicity in systems and institutions.”

Currently, most educational institutions measure success solely based on grades and exam results. Schools are based on an outdated 19th century model that prepared students to be obedient workers. Everything about the traditional school system is about creating compliant future citizens who will maintain the status quo. Living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution as we are, it will no longer be adequate to continue business as usual. The question we need to ask ourselves is what new measures of success will be relevant in this new world and how can we create and present new narratives that allow our children to feel happy, fulfilled and relevant in a world of enhanced automation, ubiquitous A.I. and increased outsourcing.

Remaking Geographies

“Migration patterns, small-scale production and efforts to grow placed-based and cultural assets are combining to reshape local geographies in response to economic transition and climate volatility.”

A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. In educating our children we will need to take account the changing economy, the increased access to information, and the pervasiveness of communications technology. Above all, we need to keep in mind the three billion new minds from the developing world who will be coming online and contributing to the global economy and global discourse in ways we could never have imagined in the past.

As these drivers of change play out over the next decade parents, educators, and learners will need to remain vigilant, informed, and ready to constantly adapt, unlearn, and relearn as they respond to the rapidly changing economy and an educational landscape that will be expected to evolve more quickly than it has in the past.


Rohan is the director of the Dubai Science Festival.  He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of several global organisations including,  Intelligent Optimism, Café Scientifique Dubai and Awecademy

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