The Impact of Technologies in Education
The Impact of Technologies in Education
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The Impact of Technologies in Education

Editor-in-Chief

Laura Del Vecchio

image

Nathan Watson @ Unsplash

Why assessing the impact of emerging technologies so critical?
Why assessing the impact of emerging technologies so critical?

⚔️ The Knife Anecdote

Technologies certainly shape the way society develops. The same tool, for instance, can be applied in different ways, frequently taking a heavy toll on specific areas but producing less impact on others. Why does this happen?

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Jimmy Chang @ Unsplash

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Jimmy Chang @ Unsplash

Technology behaves depending on how humans use it. A knife, for example, can be used for chopping vegetables, or on a more nebulous note, a person can decide to use it to stab someone. The uses given to the tools we handle are strictly related to the ends of the person who controls them.

Of course, knives are not emerging technologies, but are technologies that helped shape how humans interact with the world. Artificial intelligence, in a broader sense, due to its countless applications, follows the same rationale as the knife:

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Remember those tales of machines ruling the world and enslaving humans? This dystopian scenario is only feasible if we decide to train an AI to do it. Simple as that.

Nonetheless, instead of observing how humanity uses these technological tools and allowing the consequences to unfold without assessing their expected impact on future generations —and current ones— a closer look at the repercussions of their applications is needed.

♟️ Anticipating Potential Outcomes

Assessing the impact of emerging technologies is not only strategic, but also a reliable formula for understanding the tools we have at hand.

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What could have been done in society if we had accurately assessed the impact of plastic before widely implementing it?

We will never know the answer to this question, but we can imagine distinct plausible pathways from the current paradigm we live in now.

In order to anticipate challenges and foresee possible opportunities related to technological developments, Envisioning together with GIZ, developed the techImpact, an exercise designed to evaluate the behavior of emerging technologies targeted to specific areas and contexts with a focus on sustainability. The most recent techImpact exercise was held with a selection of GIZ specialists working on the topic of Education, where participants gathered to examine and rate technological tools according to their potential in supporting sustainable practices —or even driving them backward.

The assessment was based on the Sustainability Impact Metric, a quantitative and qualitative survey designed by Envisioning and GIZ in an effort to engage discussions on the uses we are giving to technologies.

🧨 Feeling the Impact

Prior to the exercise, participants of the techImpact received a brief introduction to foresight thinking and Envisioning's methodology. This gave them the tools to understand the value of their analysis and how important it is to assess the impact of these technological tools.

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Andy Kelly @ Unsplash

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Andy Kelly @ Unsplash

Participants were grouped into pairs, and each team received a canvas containing information related to specific technologies. The assessment exercise took 40 minutes, and each participant had time to analyze and rate the technologies according to the sustainability impact from +2 (highly positive) to -2 (highly negative).

Once the analysis phase was accomplished, the groups met to share their ratings and impressions of the technologies. All participants were education experts, but not all of them had expertise in the field of technological developments. The exercise proved to be useful as participants had access to a deeper understanding of the footprint left behind the application of technologies.

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Curious fact:

The techImpact exercise took place virtually, with the help of decentralized and cutting-edge tools tested and deployed by Envisioning and GIZ teams.

👁️ Learning from these Tools

We have learned so far that there is no neutral use of technology. From a Social Program Matching Database to an AI Therapist, each one holds a massive positive or negative potential, depending on the context and usage; this is why it is key to develop ways of interpreting these implications.

During 2020, the educational sector was subject to adaptations in its dynamics, which were expected to occur in the near future but not at that particular moment. COVID-19 accelerated the trend of mobile learning initiatives and helped lower the stigma towards distance learning. Now teachers and education providers can reach their students more efficiently, making online class interactions extra engaging through decentralized solutions that enable collaboration between peers, as well as proceeding with certification, scoring, and assessing students' development.

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Yasmim Seadi @ Envisioning

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Yasmim Seadi @ Envisioning

However, beyond decentralization, we can observe other developments too. Expanding access to information through emerging technologies can produce opportunities for individuals who never had access to proper training or education, and generate new professions that do not exist yet. Combined with the imperatives of the Climate Crisis and automation, the world's growth is deeply rooted in how work, skills, and business activity emerge.

In the following section, we disclose general interpretations and quantitative assessments related to technologies that were rated by the GIZ team during a techImpact exercise. The ratings show interpretations and analysis of the expected role these technologies may play in the education and training sectors of the future. You are now invited to get closer to some of these technological solutions and discover their potential impact.

Potentially Positive

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Fakurian Design @ Unsplash

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Fakurian Design @ Unsplash

Social Program Matching Database

Why potentially positive?

In the following years, solutions such as the Social Program Matching Database might be popularized as an integrative catalyst towards reducing poverty and inequality, thus building a reliable welfare ecosystem by delivering benefits to the right people at the right time.

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Chat UI

Why potentially positive?

Since a Chat UI could be integrated into virtually any platform, the expectancy is to have such interfaces as a primary feature everywhere. In the educational and training sectors, this technology enables better communication between mentors and students, trainers and employees.

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Overall Neutral

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Fakurian Design @ Unsplash

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Fakurian Design @ Unsplash

Multi-touch LCD Screen

Why overall neutral?

This multi-touch device can generate infinite combinations of imagery inputs, enhancing the experience students have in educational settings. If embedded with 3D modeling systems, the interactive stimuli provided by this touchscreen could be improved and, therefore, become more immersive. For example, kids can interact with more realistic images that help boost learning engagement and decrease distraction levels. Yet, there are some concerns over generating more electronic waste, which is a considerable hurdle of the current electronic devices being produced.

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Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)

Why overall neutral?

The global digital transition does not occur in the same way everywhere. In the pursuit of including every individual, digital technologies and development operations need to be mindful of local needs. In places where the internet's availability and the affordability of devices remains a considerable obstacle, escalating USSD technology could leapfrog these structural challenges and transition into positive socio-economic changes.

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Attentively Negative

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Richard Horvath @ Unsplash

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Richard Horvath @ Unsplash

AI Therapist

Why attentively negative?

Being ever-present online as an app or operational system, an AI Therapist could be consulted at any time, answering questions and giving feedback on a patient’s decisions. In public mental health programs, for instance, the gathered data could assign therapists directly to users. It could be a positive feature, but could also allow for an intrusive level of control imposed by those in power. In this sense, governments could continuously monitor citizens through AI Therapists.

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Blockchain Certificate

Why attentively negative?

This model requires excessive computing power to verify transactions, has high energy consumption rates, and thus is not an environmentally-friendly solution.

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7 topics
Decentralization & Local Governance
Education
Employment and Labour Markets
Higher Education
Inclusion of People with Disabilities
Peace Building & Social Cohesion
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
6 SDGs
04 Quality Education
05 Gender Equality
08 Decent Work and Economic Growth
09 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10 Reduce inequalities
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

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5 technology domains
6 technology applications
6 stories
5 industries
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Environment & Resources
  • Government & Citizenship
  • Media & Interface
7 topics
  • Decentralization & Local Governance
  • Education
  • Employment and Labour Markets
  • Higher Education
  • Inclusion of People with Disabilities
  • Peace Building & Social Cohesion
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)
6 SDGs
  • 04 Quality Education
  • 05 Gender Equality
  • 08 Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 09 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • 10 Reduce inequalities
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities