It is not that long ago when ‘technology-enabled education’ meant a weekly class trip to the computer lab.
Today, students and teachers enjoy a wealth of technology-driven educational resources – from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), YouTube videos on any subject and Google Hangouts, to collaborative study tools, mobile leaning and cloud-based homework applications. School hallways are filled with tablet and laptop carts, while college and university lecture halls are teeming with screens of every type.
This new era is called Education 3.0, an all-encompassing term for how new technologies are changing the way we teach and learn. It is a dynamic time when teachers have access to the best educational content and resources at their fingertips and when students can immerse themselves in customised learning, inside and outside the classroom.
But while Education 3.0 clearly has powerful benefits, it also brings new and real concerns around cyber-security, which need to be addressed to protect students, schools, colleges and universities.
Transformation of Education
Change is not new to education. We have transitioned from the Education 1.0, which focused on a one-to-many teaching model with a fixed set of learning materials and a clear homework / schoolwork divide. Education 2.0 includes more interaction between teachers and students, as well as student-to-student collaboration, along with a blurring between home and at school work, with cooperative learning, online research and greater use of the web, email and social networking. Education 3.0 now takes this a step further, recognising that technology is everywhere, global resources are easily available and for better or worse, students are much more accustomed to sharing and collaborating through social tools and networks.
We have come a long way but the pace of innovation in education is only likely to accelerate as investment in educational technology continues to explode. Recent examples include Google’s launch of its Classroom Android app to enable collaboration between students and teachers. Khan Academy, which provides free online instruction in subjects ranging from maths and science to history, has received substantial funding, including support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has committed $100 million to the AltSchool initiative, which aims to provide the ultimate level of personalised learning with video cameras in the classroom and tablets for each student.
Feel the benefits
While the hype over Education 3.0 may take time to become a reality, there are three major benefits referred to as the ‘three Cs’ of Education 3.0 – Content, Customisation and Collaboration.
Richer resources at substantially lower cost for both students and teachers are just one click away on sites such as YouTube. Movies, real-time video streaming and other visual and interactive online content can give students insight into historical events or scientific discoveries and also provide a useful tool to supplemental homework and revision. Furthermore, internet connectivity can help ensure students are interacting with the most up-to-date and relevant materials, rather than waiting for schools to order the latest textbooks or journals.
Every student learns a little differently and in the past, students who did not thrive in a traditional classroom environment had few alternatives. By that same token, students who excelled often failed to be challenged. Education 3.0 provides tools for lesson customisation down to the most granular level. With Education 3.0, tech-enabled worksheets and educational dashboards can analyse student errors and identify trouble spots, allowing teachers to help struggling students and support gifted students. Technology is also emerging to help address disruptive influences, while students who experience prolonged periods of absence can keep up with their schoolwork through online portals and virtual lessons.
Education 3.0 has the ability to dramatically reduce the costs and friction associated with collaborative, peer learning, which can enhance student confidence and the development of responsibility. Students can use the web, not just to email their classmates about homework, but to engage with peers on the other side of the globe. Online applications like Google Hangouts enable international study groups and peer-to-peer learning. A London pupil can easily interact with his or her counterparts in New York or Beijing with a click of a mouse. Education 3.0 also has the ability to inspire students by connecting them to real world mentors, while when it comes to career planning, students can turn to networks such as LinkedIn to begin making connections before they even enter the workforce.
Risks and rewards
Along with the benefits of Education 3.0 come the cyber-security risks. And the stakes are high, given that the potential victims are children, who may be less cyber-savvy.
• Bad Content: Internet access unlocks a Pandora’s box of illicit material from false or biased Wikipedia articles to violence and pornography. Therefore, schools and administrators need to implement proper web monitoring and filtering controls to block inappropriate sites without impeding access to valuable educational content.
• Bad Actors: As students increasingly use email and the internet to interact with teachers and their peers, they also risk interacting with criminals. Online sex offenders and those intent on radicalisation often use social networking to gain home and school information about the victim and build online relationships. More education and guidance is essential and students and teachers must take precautions when using internet-based peer-to-peer learning.
• Bad Applications: Literally millions of new malware threats are released every day. This malicious software may enter a network as an innocent looking email attachment and go beyond simply disrupting device and application functionality. This has spawned a whole new industry of cyber-crime, where the economic rewards from a successful hack make it an enticing prospect – whatever the age of the victim.
As well as simply mitigating the risks of Education 3.0, schools and institutions also face increasing regulatory compliance challenges to prevent hacking, blocking inappropriate content, safeguarding personal information and educating students about the risks associated with the internet. It’s clear that the more connected education becomes, the more schools need to start thinking about cyber security.
Room for improvement
Education 3.0 offers new ways of teaching and learning that will continue to transform our educational systems. However, a successful transition to Education 3.0 requires the continual review of policy standards about proper conduct on connected devices, as well as the creation of proper cyber-security infrastructure to safeguard information, block offensive material and stop bad actors.
Keeping our students safe in today's learning environment is our most important task.
John Mutch, CEO, iSheriff