Zeqr EU & AUS Scholarship – The Winning Essay
Even though Zeqr as a platform is only a year old, we absolutely understood our responsibilities as a learning facility right from the beginning. And it was with this in mind that we started the first Zeqr E-Learning Award Scholarships in 2017, one of them being for North America and the other being International (limited to Europe and Oceania regions), hoping to further help two specific students along the path of their formal education.
Our stance on e-learning being the way forward is absolutely firm, but it doesn’t mean that we have anything against formal education. Quite the opposite, we have strong faith in the power of education, but we see the future of all education being in e-learning.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the brilliant essay from Alessandra Ciadamidaro from Southfields Academy, United Kingdom, one of the two winners of the Zeqr E-Learning Award Scholarships for 2017.
E-Learning Is A Wonderful Innovative Tool, But We Must Be Aware Of Its Limitations
By Alessandra Ciadamidaro
Lift your eyes from this sheet of paper and have a look around. Computers, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches. All electronic devices with constant access to the Internet, to Google, to any information at any time. All these gadgets affect our daily life, our routine, the things we do and how we do them: from the time we get up until we go to bed, monitoring our sleep and providing detailed feedback the day after. The new generation, more than any one, is integrated with all these technologies, having grown up with iPads and iPhones instead of skateboards and dolls. New technologies are part of their life now more than ever before, and their presence is not restricted just between their houses’ walls, but goes even further, until it touches education. Children don’t learn the same way their parents used to: iPad, interactive boards, online access to any sort of resource. Desks and paper textbooks are now out of fashion. However, this process is not just limited to the 21st century’s newborns: the way of learning is changing, guiding any age group though what is today called eLearning. E-learning involves learning through the use of new technologies and the Internet.
The way it works is pretty simple: as long as you have an internet connection and a device that can use it, an infinite number of resources are readily available. From MOOCs to online courses or conferences, everyone can learn something new about a specific topic every day. Some people say that eLearning will shape the future of education, and I couldn’t agree more. Information is quick, easy to access, and available at any time. This makes learning easy for those people who need to balance their work and family responsibilities, but who also would love to attend that advanced Mathematics course on Tuesday afternoon to broaden their knowledge about the subject.
With eLearning, they are now able to follow the course digitally while they wait for their children to end the ballet class or to listen to conferences held at the Royal Society of Arts on Spotify while they commute to work. Distances are reduced to zero with eLearning. It doesn’t matter where you are; through online resources you are able to access data and read articles from Brazil, Japan, and the Middle East. Students can access lectures held by prestigious professors from Oxbridge, research and advanced studies conducted in Chinaabout DNA, psychology or the complexity of the human body. You can access literally anything from any part of the world. Learners are then able to compare and analyse information from their textbooks with the most up to date discussions, opinions and research from scientists and academics around the world. Seen in this way, eLearning may be viewed as just relative to high school students, undergraduates and adults. Accessing lectures, reading articles, all of this may not seem to suit the needs of children and the younger generation. Yes, surely they will be able to access all that information when their teachers start to assign them research to do. But at the age of 5, 6, 7, how will eLearning shape their future?
About three days ago I was babysitting my neighbour’s little daughter. She is seven and just started dealing with sums and subtractions. Her parents asked me to help with her maths homework and I was really happy to do it, as I have not dealt with primary school level homework in a while. I thought it would be fun to see if any new way to sum two digits numbers changed or if everything was still the same. Now, just a quick introduction. I was born in an era when new technologies had just started their first boom and children did not have the easy access they enjoy today. I had my first mobile phone at the age of 13 and downloaded Instagram at the age of 15, removing the by then out-of-fashion Facebook. We were part of the new generation that dedicated a bit of more time to computing, but nothing extraordinary. I still used to write essays on paper and write plenty of notes listening to the teacher explaining history with only the text book in front of her. When I arrived at my neighbour’s house I was expecting the girl to come to me with her exercise book, a pen and her text book to start her homework.
But she didn’t.
Instead, she came to me with her mini iPad and her School Pod website open. She opened the link her teacher sent her and a new website page opened in front of us, with a little green alien giving us additions and subtractions to do and an annoying and repetitive song in the background. We worked for about an hour, listening to this little box and choosing the solutions of our equations between the ones proposed. Neither paper nor pens needed.
That afternoon I realised how much the traditional learning model has changed in only a few years’ time. This girl is barely 10 years younger than me and her education system is mainly based on online School Pods, smart boards, iPads and iPhones. This digital environment is a daily routine she deals with; interactive tools replacing old-fashioned books. She is engaged, motivated to receive that “Well done!” or “Excellent!” compliment from that puffy green alien and reach the next level of additions and subtractions, to get that reward that will make her stand out with her friends and with the teachers. The system is now personalised, adapted to everyone’s abilities, and teachers are more than ever aware of the level of their students, which makes them more productive in terms of helping students achieve their goals and deal with any difficulties.
Education is facing inevitable changes in and out the school environment. There has been debate about the idea that teachers could be completely replaced by robots; with future generations of children being taught by machines and artificial intelligence. These rumours, however, don’t consider the complexity of the human being as a whole, the thing that machines will never be able to replace. Apart from knowledge and understanding and problem solving skills, humans also have a sensitive side, missing in machines and robots. Teachers can understand when students are particularly upset and they can read their feelings and help them not just as teachers but also as life educators. Machines programmed to teach students human biology will never be able to feel that empathy and this is something they cannot be programmed for.
Nothing can replace human contact.
In conclusion, how does the future of education look like? With the advancement of eLearning, surely it will be innovative, exciting, individually tailored and unrestricted. However, elements such as the human factor and the accessibility to this new education model are problems that must be addressed: not everyone, globally speaking, can access digital equipment and broadband, and the human nature makes the presence of human contact required, in and out of the classroom. eLearning is a wonderful tool to innovate the way we learn but, as with all the new technologies, we must be aware of its limitations.