On 19 January 2021, the IEC – International Electrotechnical Commission organised a virtual Strategic Seminar with members of MSB – Market Strategy Board, composed of 15 top-level technology officers appointed from leading industries all over the world. The aim of the seminar was to identify the principal technological trends and market needs in the IEC’s fields of activity.
Dr Maurizio Bragagni, CEO of Tratos UK Ltd and member of MSB-IEC, delivered a presentation on “Education on technologies”, which was prepared in close cooperation with Regent College London’s Head of Research, Dr Chris Wood. Dr Bragagni serves as the Chair of the Board of Governors at Regent College London.
Dr Bragagni’s presentation was followed with increased interest by the audience, as the use and impact of technology in education is extremely high, particularly in light of the significant disruption to education systems globally caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout his presentation, drawing on the latest data available, Dr Bragagni emphasized the great potential of educational technology in providing enhanced access to educational content, enrichment experiences and learning communities as well as its role in making learning more interactive and collaborative, helping students to better engage with course material.
Starting from the 1990s, when computers became more commonplace in educational settings, the early 21st century has witnessed more widespread and commonplace educational use of PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, educational software, applications and online resources, especially in developed countries. As the century progresses, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are beginning to have a major impact on education.
Recent closures to educational settings forced on the world by the Covid-19 pandemic have put pressure on schools, universities, students and families to rapidly rethink traditional paradigms and embrace technology as an educational lifeline now and for the future.
There is now increasingly widespread recognition that digital technology has a fundamental role to play in future education systems alongside an urgent need to develop and implement high-quality and affordable technology-enabled programmes that ‘blend’ face to face and online learning.
Thanks to technology, the learning environment no longer has fixed boundaries. Instruction can be provided by any number of subject matter experts in addition to the person teaching a particular course.
While the technology-enabled teacher still needs to be ‘in the classroom’ (physical or virtual), their role is shifting from that of instructor – the sage on the stage – to facilitator and coach – the guide on the side.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help to personalise learning to an individual’s needs. For example, they can automate the e-learning feed, create recommendations based on individual learning history and help students to choose a future career based on data regarding their learning ability across subjects. At the same time, by analysing student’s data, teachers (or indeed AI systems) can better set the curriculum to match each student’s capability.
Dr Bragagni also warned that technology in itself, although undoubtedly a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic, is not a panacea. Technology must be used correctly to be effective, must be matched to the instructional environment and context. As well, it is especially important to strike the right balance between widening digital access and opportunity whilst at the same time ensuring that children are protected when online.
He brought to the attention of the audience recent data, illustrating the high variations in the world in relation to internet penetration, PC and smart phones ownership in households and warned that Covid-19 has highlighted stark inequalities between least developed countries and economically prosperous nations.
In conclusion, Dr Bragagni, as a successful entrepreneur and leader with strong focus on corporate social responsibility, stressed the importance of and offered his unconditional cooperation to working together with governments, academia, businesses and international organisations to narrow the dangerous gap of digital inequity in learning.
He asked the IEC to speed up the standardisation process, which could help in increasing accessibility and affordability to modern technology by all the countries of the world.
During the Q&A session, the audience elaborated more on this request and asked for standardisation to be applied not only to the hardware, but as well to the software, which could make the e-learning platforms and tools accessible to all.