ICT and education: emerging trends in Europe and globally

The pace of change and development in education has picked up substantially in recent years – largely because of the key role ICT is increasingly playing in both teaching and learning. 

To think that only a few years ago we lived in a world with no social networks – today these constitute a vital part of our, and even more, our youngsters’ lives. I for one can hardly imagine a student unable to use a computer when they leave school.
 

This is why predicting what the trends in European education will be in the coming years is almost impossible. However, if I were to hazard a guess I would include some of the obvious developments, such as the latest phrase du jour: cloud computing. With applications increasingly moving from your desktop computer to the internet, cloud computing represent a revolution in how IT services are delivered. It allows users to scale and virtualize resources over the Internet, carrying immense implications for the education sector, in particular as it is likely to dramatically reduce costs for institutions such as schools.

Gaming is probably a surprising area for me to include, however games – or rather so called serious games or edu games, if done right, can become a powerful tool to get groups to work together, increase social interaction and civic engagement among youth. Gaming also allows learners to “fail to success”. This concept of failing forward allows learners to test their limits in a safe environment. In addition, gaming increases muscle memory, or the rehearsal necessary to solidify correct behaviour. Finally, gaming increases an internal and external competitive spirit related to learning opportunities.

New advances in hardware and software are making mobile “smart phones” indispensible tools – in schools as much as elsewhere. Just as cell phones have leapfrogged fixed line technology in the telecommunications industry, it is likely that mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will become a valuable tool along with the personal computers as the information appliance of choice in the classroom.

Finally, one-to-one computing describes a notion that every child should be given a computer or a device that would allow them to have universal access to technology. One-to-one computing will give the student access to knowledge anytime anywhere and it gives the teacher the possibility to personalize the learning to suit the single student’s learning style.  Also some of the benefits associated with this notion include increasing student achievement and engagement. However, it is particularly important to development of the workforce of the future.

All in all, it seems that one of the few things I can say for sure is that ICT is more critical to education now than ever before and likely to increase in its importance. Today, computers, software and the internet aren’t simply part of the educational process, they are embedded in it. With the emergence of increasingly robust connectivity infrastructure and cheaper computers, school systems around the world are developing the ability to provide learning opportunities to students “anytime, anywhere”.  ICT has already transformed how we access information and that has in turn transformed the skills our educated people require.

How they learn those skills and how we teach them is still partly an unanswered questions and partly a question with a developing answer. What Europe will do to make sure we stay ahead of the curve not only in terms of education, but also later in life when it comes to developing a competitive workforce as well. We hope that we will be able to provide a small part of that answer at a roundtable discussion we are organizing on the topic of “Are we doing enough to keep Europeans ahead in education?”. The event will be held in Brussels on 20th April 2010 with a start at 10.30 and will last until approximately 14.30. It will take place in the European quarter in Brussels at the Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Centre on 85 Avenue des Nerviens.