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Evolution of Educational Technology

EDTECH: Past to Present

Extended reality

Yes, extended reality or XR is a thing. I know how you probably feel; it seems like it was just last week that you caught on to the possibilities of augmented reality software, Google glass, and the Internet of Things. Now there’s a new one and no one’s ready to classify it yet because of the sheer enormity of its potential application. XR is just the latest in a series of tools designed to upgrade learning spaces, and EdTech developers around the world can’t get enough of it. As there are so many different fields in EdTech, all rapidly developing, it’s tough to take it all in. Educational technology has continued to grow and improve at an accelerated rate, so fast in fact that historians struggle to affix eras to the different trends.

By definition, EdTech can encompass any technology meant to enhance the learning experience: slates and slides, tablets and scrolls and even the occasional marble pillar could all be considered part of EdTech.

This would mean that we have been in the evolution of educational technology for thousands of years! But cutting short our trip down memory lane to even the last twenty years still brings on a myriad of educational tools and resources that remain very relevant and continue to contribute to the advancement of the industry.

The year 2000

The internet was well on its way to becoming mainstream, and with it, online EdTech tools like Wikis, E-Learning platforms, and standards. Learning Objects from various fields had been introduced and were incorporated into standard education practices with varying success. 2004 saw the advent of popular LMS like SCORM and Sum Total Systems, allowing teachers and students to manage their materials online and enhance communication. One year after that, in 2005 YouTube was launched, and with it, an era of increased accessibility to video media for education. Fast forward through early virtual environments like SecondLife and the establishment of e-portfolios, to 2009 where social media surged in development and began to be recognized as a powerful platform for creative discussion among multiple disciplines.

The year 2010

This year is widely recognized as being the time traditional pedagogies truly adopted the digital context of modern learning. Multiple learning theories were re-evaluated and some were even created. Connectivism, a modern learning theory first proposed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2005, highlighted the self-organization principles around the natural learning process which occurs on the Internet. It was from these new discussions that technologies like Personal Learning Environments, MOOCs, and Open Textbooks came to significance in the years that followed. 2014 arrived with the surging of interest in data, analytics, and a significant opportunity for educational tools and systems driven by artificial intelligence. Analysis of learner progress, the popularity of courses, and the most commonly used tools became integral to the design and implementation of new EdTech. The sheer volume of this data continued to impress developers around the world, and 2017 saw the possibility of applying blockchain technologies to learning platforms.

In the past three years, EdTech has seen a boom in innovations for e-learning platforms, Virtual Learning environments and the continued creative application of mobile technologies to push forward the rise of augmented, virtual and oh yes – extended reality experiences to enhance learning.

The year 2020

The pandemic pushed the limits of creativity to even further heights, and brought on an immense demand for creative, engaging home school solutions and ideas that catered to a population restricted by health protocols. There does not appear to be a straight path to the future with EdTech. Ingenuity remains at the heart of EdTech development, and for many people in the industry, the feeling of being in Year zero lingers, despite a rich and robust history of advancements. EdTech strives to enhance the learning process and it seems each success creates a new need, a new advancement, a new way to question “What if?”.

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