Kids today are growing up in a far different world than we were just a few years ago. In the Digital Era, kids are already “connected” at a very young age; according to a research conducted during 2016, the average age for getting a first smartphone is 10.3 years and 50% of kids have social media accounts by the age of 12 (1).
Many researches are held in order to understand how this new world affects our children; We cannot ignore the benefits of children being exposed to new ideas, global social experiences, access to information and knowledge as well as technology skills. However, many concerns are rising regarding the damage to interpersonal communication skills, negative effect on health as well as decrease in attention span and learning abilities (2).
Kids spend a significant part of their day at school. However, while children habits have changed, most of schools classrooms seem very similar to what they were 10-20 years ago. Moreover, there is a major “digital gap” between how educators view their use of technology in class and how the students themselves perceive it, a survey conducted in U.S. schools shows that while 75% of teachers claim they regularly use technology in the classroom, only 40% of students report that technology is used in their classroom. In Addition, 86% of students report they use more technology outside of school than in it (3).
We can argue the extent to which a change needs to be done, but one will find it hard to argue the importance of this matter. As for U.S. department of education, during the recent years, the conversation has already shifted from whether technology should be used in learning to how technology can improve learning to ensure that all students have access to high-quality educational experiences (4).
Is digitization of education just inevitable? Or can it actually be an opportunity to enhance learning and curiosity in a system already blamed to destroy children creativity?
Google for Education is an ecosystem of digital tools dedicated to provide students and teachers education via digital platforms and innovative technology.
Google Expeditions: over a million students, on trips to virtually anywhere (5)
Google main activity pillars are:
- Virtual classrooms – Cloud based platforms like Google Docs, Calendar and Gmail are allowing teachers and students to operate in a “virtual classroom” in addition to the traditional classroom.
- Devices – being relatively affordable and easy to operate, Chromebooks and Nexus tablets are provided to students and teachers.
- Google Play for education – a content store with apps dedicated for schools and educators.
Training: As for the “digital gap” mentioned above, Google provides different levels of trainings to educators on digital, technology and online teaching platforms.
Creativity: Leveraging the use of different Google products to enhance students experience, for example:
- Virtual reality trips – using Google virtual reality tools to create virtual trips around the world (see video above) (7).
- Google maps – using Google earth, maps and Street View to teach students geography concepts, map reading and distance measurements as well as explore the earth and space.
- Google cultural institute – high resolution digital access to the world most famous museums and art projects, to provide students with the most tangible art learning experience (8).
What should Google do next?
Virtual home schools to increase equality:
“The thing that attracted me to the internet is that it’s a great equalizer. I’ve always been struck by the fact that Google search worked the same… [whether] you were a rural kid anywhere or a professor at Stanford or Harvard.” Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, May 2015 (9).
Home school might not be ideal, but for some populations this might be the only solution. In my view, Google can enhance its education platforms beyond classrooms and connect children from distant areas and with different disabilities to real classrooms and provide them with the opportunity for appropriate education.
Further use of IoT to personalize the learning experience:
Educators constantly need to keep track of students and resources. Time spent on students’ personal development and curricula improvements is minimized in order to maintain logistics and administrative tasks. By efficient use of data on education platforms, Google can track each student activity and provide him or her with a personal learning experience. In addition, by monitoring students’ performance, platforms can dynamically adapt to learners’ needs and help teachers in adjusting their curricula and teaching priorities (10).
While children’s “connectivity” sounds an inevitable development to some of us, others might find it disturbing. Either way, there is an opportunity to leverage digital in ways that can help kids develop and grow.
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(1) “Kids & Tech”: The Evolution of today’s Digital Natives, Influence Central, 2016, http://influence-central.com/kids-tech-the-evolution-of-todays-digital-natives/. Accessed November 2016.
(2) “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media”, American Academy of Pediatrics, November 2016, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/content/138/5/e20162593. Accessed November 2016.
(3) “The Digital Divide”, Institute of education sciences – U.S. Department of Education, 2011, http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ945726.pdf. Accessed November 2016.
(4) Source: office of educational technology – U.S. Department of Education, http://tech.ed.gov/netp/. Accessed November 2016.
(5) Google for Education YouTube Channel, May 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MQ9yG_QfDA&feature=youtu.be, Accessed November 2016.
(6) Source: Google for Education official website, https://www.google.com/edu/?gclid=Cj0KEQiAx7XBBRCdyNOw6PLHrYABEiQAJtyEQxoylSGr6DLe3vJJW_FMMdlnQq-yzIf4gXbOASPdoxYaAik_8P8HAQ. Accessed November 2016.
(7) Google Expeditions website, https://www.google.com/edu/expeditions/. Accessed November 2016.
(8) Google Cultural Institute website, https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/. Accessed November 2016.
(9) “Chasing the next billion with Sundar Pichai”, The Verge, May 2015, http://www.theverge.com/a/sundars-google/sundar-pichai-interview-google-io-2015. Accessed November 2016.
(10) “Internet of Things in Education Systems – a perspective of Platforms”, International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science, March-April 2016, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1798934693/BF3AF28AF15D4D1CPQ/2?accountid=11311, Accessed November 2016.