Traditionally, the education system comprised of small class sizes where students received personalized attention, more efficient sessions, and a sense of community. Small group settings promoted deeper engagement, active participation, and more meaningful interactions between students and teachers. However, as populations grew, existing school systems were not able to meet the needs of this growth. As a result, classroom sizes started to balloon and the effectiveness of personalized learning suffered. In order to accommodate the larger class sizes and student needs, different methods were implemented. One example was the division of students into skill-based sections. This was meant to help provide personalization in this larger setting, but, ended up causing a degree of subconscious discrimination among young impressionable students, leading to larger adverse effects.
As the school systems battled the shifts in population growth, there were two major issues that came to light and needed to be addressed: a) the wider dispersion in skill-set and capabilities of students and b) the awareness around students with learning differences that were often overlooked in the traditional classroom setting. Unfortunately, these same issues are being battled even today.
The educational system is an archaic model that is not flexible enough to compensate for the countless different learning styles. The one size fits all approach does not work in the world anymore. Despite all the efforts by school systems to try and meet the needs of the students with traditional methods, many are proving to be unsolvable without technology (or at least at scale). Over the past few decades, technology has drastically transformed the way we live and learn. This is particularly true in the classroom, where technological advancements have made it possible for students to have more personalized learning experiences. From tablets and laptops to virtual and augmented reality, technology has opened up new possibilities. Although still nascent in its lifecycle, the advancements we see today are pushing the education system leaps and bounds ahead compared to the previous decades. Some examples of exciting technologies include:
1. Adaptive Learning Software | This software uses algorithms to analyze students' performance and provide them with personalized learning materials and assessments. The software can adjust the pace of instruction, level of difficulty, and content to meet the needs of individual students. Adaptive learning software is particularly helpful for students who struggle with traditional teaching methods or have special learning needs. Some examples are Knewton’s Alta platform which continually adapts assignments while they are being completed to help students focus on areas where they may need the most help or Thinkster which utilizes AI in combination with tutors to help improve students’ math skills. Another effective solution is Century Tech, which identifies knowledge gaps, addresses misconceptions, and supports teacher interventions using AI.
2. Assistive Technology | Taking adaptive learning solutions a step further to better serve children with learning differences is Assistive technology. This can take many forms, from simple software that reads text aloud to more complex tools that provide speech-to-text functionality or even eye-tracking technology. Assistive technology can be used in various ways, such as helping children to overcome reading difficulties, assisting with organization and time management, or improving writing and spelling skills. Examples include Co:Writer, a writing software that provides predictive text and word suggestion tools to help students with writing difficulties, and Learning Ally which provides an audiobook library that helps students with dyslexia and other learning differences access reading material.
3. Augmented or Virtual Reality | Different children learn at different paces, but also have a different preferred mediums for learning. While some learn faster reading, others may have a better understanding through visual or auditory methods. This is where augmented and virtual reality can come into play. Virtual reality can be used to create immersive learning environments that allow students to explore and interact with educational content in a more hands-on way. This same technology can be used to create multi-sensory learning experiences that cater to different learning styles. For example, VR can provide visual and auditory cues that help students with visual or auditory processing difficulties, while AR can provide tactile feedback that helps students with kinesthetic learning styles. zSpace, Unimersive, and Arloopa are some companies that allow students to explore and interact with educational content in 3D, providing a more immersive and multi-sensory learning experience.