Technology for Education

Technology has revolutionized the way we live and communicate. Now it may even change the way we acquire new knowledge.


The galloping development of science and technology has impacted our life deeply. As a significant part of modern life, education is also changing greatly with technology, bringing technology for education to our attention.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Some people believe that technology is exerting positive influence on education by lowering the cost of education, increasing the efficiency, and opening up more opportunities of pursuing education. However, others contend that technology can never achieve what a traditional class can and may even decrease the efficiency, and that introducing technology into education is a waste of resources.

What does technology mean to you? What are some of the most cutting-edge technologies that can be applied to education? What can we do with it? What are their influences, and what do people think about them? By answering these questions, we hope to provide you with a more comprehensive purview of technology for education.

We will also be investigating some of the most representative technologies, listed as follows:
· Augmented Reality (AR), which is considered to be the next-generation technology and has great potentials;
· Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), which have existed for several years, yet still causes heated discussions;
· Lifelong learning, which we believe is going to be one of the hottest topics in education. Technology may be more essential in lifelong learning than we can possibly imagine.

(Foreword by Melody, edited by Edison)

Clashing Opinions:
The Myths and Facts of
Technologies for Education

As the debates on the influence of technology for education keep repeating themselves, a considerable amount of researches have been carried out in the quest for truth.
By Melody Ye / Background Image ©BrainCert

What Researchers Tell Us

Source: The Paradox of Classroom Technology: Despite Proliferation and Access, Students Not Using Technology for Learning. Ludwig van Broekhuizen, Ph. D.

Source: The Paradox of Classroom Technology: Despite Proliferation and Access, Students Not Using Technology for Learning. Ludwig van Broekhuizen, Ph. D.

Researches reveal that in the classroom, students are not necessarily using the technology to learn [1].

It is common to see students nowadays, instead of concentrating on the class, pay more attention to their cell phones, which create distractions and lower their study efficiency. However, some people contend that with the access to digital tools such as smartphones, iPads and laptops, students can learn more freely: they can review the slides whenever they want during the class, they can get access to the Internet and search whatever they have trouble understanding, and they can even discuss online with classmates. All of these seem to improve learning and teaching in the classroom. To find out exactly how these technology influence students’ learning in the classroom, researchers did a survey in some K-12 schools, indicating that technologies in the classroom actually do not meet our expectations.

Proper application of technologies does improve teaching and learning in some ways [2].

Although the research mentioned above indicates that students are actually not using technology for studying, not all technologies negativly impact on students' learning process, considering the fact that the technologies investigated in the above research are limited to personal digital tools. In fact, other researches demonstrate some positive affect of proper application of technologies. These technologies are generally major teaching facilities like projectors and information and communication technology like Microsoft Office, which are used by teachers in their teaching. When the technologies are used in the charge of teachers, distraction on students can be properly solved, thus making the best use of the advantages.

With the use of the ICT-applications MICROSOFT WORD, MICROSOFT EXCEL and MICROSOFT POWERPOINT by the teachers in the teaching in the primary education the active participation of the pupils is increasing. (...) the pupils' interest about the curriculum is increasing.

Source: [2]

Technology evidently increases the efficiency of education outside classroom.

Generally speaking, the advantages and disadvantages of technology for education both lie in the enormous amount of information various accesses to information technology can provide. Insides the classroom, when teacher leads the teaching and learning, other ways to learn can be distraction for the possible conflict between teacher and technology. But if the teaching and learning process is led by students, which refers to student-centered education, students can choose the best way for them to learn as long as they have the ability to survive in the ocean of information. In this case, when it comes to education outsides the classroom, which is mainly student-centered education, technology can exert more positive influence by providing more choice and more convenient access to information.

Advantages of Informational society:
1. Enriching spare time.
2. Enabling teleworking.
3. Providing new opportunities for raising national productivity and competitive atmosphere.
4. Increasing employment.
5. Life-long education.

Source: [4]

Technology development encourage education outside classroom which will take a large and important proportion in education in the future.

(...) most people who left school before 1990 had no computers in their schools. (...) Nearly all teachers said that the biggest change in schools since they attended is the wide-spread use of technology throughout the school.

Source: "How Technology in schools has changed in the past Century?", St. Mary's College.

Regarding the advantages of education outside the classroom, mainly online course system, can provide, more and more people choose to take course online, more and more people choose to embrace what technology for education can bring them. Researches show that technology is used much more widely in education, and online education is more and more popular all around world. Technology integration in education seem to be a trend we cannot stop. Technology for education is going to exert great impact, negative or positive, on education.

1. The Paradox of Classroom Technology: Despite Proliferation and Access, Students Not Using Technology
for Learning. Ludwig van Broekhuizen, AdvancED Research.
2. The Application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and its Relationship with Improvement in Teaching and Learning. Ahmadi et al., 2011.
3. Does Technology Influence Teaching Practices in the Classroom? By April O. Di Benedetto.
4. Information Technology in Education. Hamidi et al., 2011.
5. The influence of using the information and communications
technology in primary education. Dance et al., 2010.

Listen to our interview with Prof. Ann Marie Ross who teaches the Media Literacy class at University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) in Beijing, China.

Slow Internet connection? View the transcript.

Will these technologies thrive? Drawing on her own experience, Prof. Ross reviews the influence of technologies for education and expresses some of her opinions on MOOCs in this short podcast.
Host: Chris Kan

EXCLUSIVE: Students' Opinions

Based on a survey conducted on 67 UCAS students

Illustration by Melody Ye

Illustration by Melody Ye

We did our own survey on the attitude of our students and teachers, indicating the differences between the opinions of these two groups.

Here is our analysis based on the results:

Source: our survey

Source: our survey

1. Students hold a relatively positive attitude towards the deployment of technology into classrooms.
According to our survey, students hold a quite positive attitude towards technology for education and believe that generally speaking, technology increase their learning efficiency. However, as we have mentioned, researches indicate that students might not be using technology for studying at all (and many of those questioned admit it).

2. Teachers' opinions divide dramatically when it comes to the application of technology in classrooms.

We interviewed some teachers in UCAS, finding that teachers' opinion towards the application of technology divide dramatically. Some teachers, for example, Lewis Sandler, who teaches Creative Writing and American Culture at UCAS, dislikes those "advanced" technologies. He would rather focus on teaching itself and prefer oral communications with students. Teachers also think that applying technology into class can be a burden for teachers, for they have to learn how to customize the technology into their teaching process. On the contrary, Dr. Torsten Juelich, who teaches the Academic Writing and Reading class at UCAS believes that proper use of technology can help him communicate with students, especially when the students outnumber teachers (in this case, teacher). He encourages students to bring their smartphones and laptops to the class, and use MOOC platform during the class. Even though teachers disagree with each other, they all believe that whatever works out fine is the best.

3. Teaching aids such as projectors and ICT (information and communication technology) positively influence teaching and learning processes in the classroom.
Our survey draw to the same conclusion as that reached by the research mentioned above. Although personal digital tools can distract students in the classroom, important teaching aids such as projectors and ICT (information and communication technology) have positive influence on the learning process by helping students understand better.

4. Personal digital tools including smartphones, iPads, and laptops exert relatively negative influence on students’ learning performances in the classroom.

Based on the above survey, we hold the following opinions:

Measures should be taken to deal with the distraction caused by using personal digital tools in the classroom. Students may lack the ability to control themselves when exposed to a great variety of access to information. However, technology should not be blamed. If the teachers can help students to control themselves or simply cut off some of the approaches, students may be able to use technology more properly and efficiently.

Teachers need help in the process of technology integration but should be free to choose their own teaching methods. As teachers complain the application of technology into class may be a burden to them, help should be offered to teachers to encourage the integration of technology. Researches indicate that teacher training on the use of technology can help teachers to customize technology into class better and even change the stereotype of technology to some degree. Dr. Torsten also suggests that teachers may need TAs to help them deal with the technology part (based on his personal experience).

Integration of technology into education is a trend we cannot avoid, so we should embrace technology and use it properly. We believe that integration of technology is an unavoidable trend not even in education but in all the other fields. Debate on technology will never end but facts proves that technology is doing a better job in our society. Instead of resisting technology, we should embrace technology and make efforts to fix the problems we face.

Click to view the original questionnaire and the final results.

(Questionnaires designed and collected by Melody)

OPINION: Augmented Reality (AR) - Is It the Future?

By Sinzer Li

Augmented reality (AR) has more or less influenced our life in some way. In the following paragraph, I will show a panoramic view of AR technology in the classroom today.

However, in spite of the many merits AR might own, according to observations of researchers, there are still relatively few schools in China that have embraced AR technology on a daily basis, though it has become popular outside campus. Most teachers stick to traditional pedagogical methods to ensure the teaching quality, which in China means to make students attain higher scores in tests, or for the sake of lacking educational fund.

Two viewpoints prevail. Many contend that AR technology in education is a fantastic and avant-garde idea because students can perfectly utilize it to enhance their personal experience and thus grow their interests in certain fields. For example, medicine majors can apply AR to help them locate patients’ organs and do the operation more precisely. Considering that there are many free AR-related applications that can be downloaded form the internet, it will actually cost only a small amount of money.

However, conservative hold the view that now that existing pedagogy works not bad, why bother? From a certain perspective, their point makes sense. Making an adaptation to the new situation never goes easy, extremely in the field of education. Both teachers and students may struggle to learn the new method, which so far has not been justified to have the magic power to strenthen pupils’ cognitive ability.

As far as I am concerned, we should divide the problem and conquer it. The priority is to enhance the educational quality and bring positive changes to students’ mind through courses, rather than meretricious gadgets to win standing ovation from educational officials. For those subjects that require personal or emotional experience such as art or biochemistry, AR technology enable the surrounding environment contribute to the acquisition of knowledge; But for those subjects that more focus on abstract conceptual understanding such as maths, AR technology is not necessary because these knowledge can only be obtained through arduous thinking where graphical demonstration may only have counterproductive results.

1. Better Learning Though Augmented Reality: AR in the Classroom. By A Manning, R Powers and X Pedisich (2012).
2. Implementing Augmented Reality in the Classroom. By Douglas Robert Miller and Tonia Dousay (2015).
3. Augmented Reality Trends in Education: A Systematic Review of Research and Applications. Bacca et al., 2014.
4. The AdvancED report (mentioned earlier).

How Far Will They Go?
MOOCs and Flipped Classrooms

While the free and open access to educational resources freed many students from previous barriers, MOOCs may not be capturing the essence of the traditional classroom experience. Flipped classrooms may, to an extent, lend some help to that.

By Edison Zhang

If you haven't signed up for any MOOCs...

With some of the worlds’ top professors and interactive forums that facilitate interactions between students and TAs, students from around the world can now enjoy top-notch classes at home, or on the subway – as long as you have Internet access. In cases where Internet connections aren't available, you may also download them onto your phone. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have to some extent resolved the educational inequality problem. They provide free and open access to great educational resources to a diverse population. They are also becoming super useful to those who learn because they wish to update their skills for a further step in their careers; to those who are previewing or reviewing classes for higher grades or better understanding of knowledge (including me).

Here are some of the most popular MOOC sites lying around. Take a look if you haven't used any of them:

MIT OpenCourseware:
Khan Academy:
Chinese University MOOCs (中国大学MOOC):
XuetangX (学堂在线):

In this video, Daphne Koller talks about what she and her team achieved by building Coursera, one of the most popular MOOC sites. Source: TED

Check out this wonderful TED talk from Coursera’s former CEO, Daphne Koller, a former Stanford CS professor.

It is also worth noticing that in recent years, the MOOC revolution has reached the traditional universities as well. For example, Stanford University launched a project named Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE), which "expands the Stanford experience to students and educators online and at no charge".

Can MOOCs replace Universities?

Among the non-believers of universities is Mark Twain, who criticised the "cramming" lecture style of universities. The success of MOOCs seem to have given them some ground. But can MOOCs really replace universities?

Source: Flickr "MOOC Poster V3", by Mathieu Plourde

Source: Flickr "MOOC Poster V3", by Mathieu Plourde

College is a place where a professor's lecture notes go straight to the students' lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.

Mark Twain

Indeed, MOOCs can reach millions of students. Moreover, unlike traditional classrooms, a student may pause at any time to watch the part they struggle with. However, the biggest problem with MOOCs is that they are too impersonal. The real university experience - sitting in a classroom and listening to the the professor you admired for many years lecture, staying up late into the night discussing with your friends or classmates, working on a project - these are simply irreplacable.

It was reported that the current average completion rate for MOOCs is approximately 15% (numbers from June 2015). Another study from University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education showed that of 1 million people who signed up for courses offered on Coursera from June 2012 to June 2013, only 4 percent completed the classes. On the other hand, in traditional classrooms, the pressure of failing to some extent helps you keep engaging in the learning process. Smart incentives and peer pressure from MOOC platforms may be good, but they won't last forever. Moreover, obtaining a degree can be very different from collecting a bunch of completion certificates issued by MOOC platforms. These certificates might not be any less legitimate, but they do not guarantee that the students actually acquired new problem solving skills that one would cultivate in a prominent university. In addition, with so many students taking part in the same class, plagirism may become a very serious issue. In conclusion, we believe that MOOCs work best as a continuous learning tool and not a replacement for universities. However, the new flipped classroom model to be introduced below provides some new insight into this dillema.

Flipped Classrooms

While MOOCs have proved themselves powerful tools for self-teaching, as we mentioned above, criticism remains that they lack human interactions and does not help students cultivate personalities. To this end a pedagogical model named the flipped classroom was proposed, in which the typical lecture and homework elements are reversed.

1. "Are MOOCs already over?", The Washington Post, by Valerie Strauss (2013).
2. "The Revolution Is Not Being MOOC-ized", New Scientist, by Gayle Christensen and Brandon Alcorn (2014).
3. "Can MOOCs and Universities Co-Exist?", The Wall Street Journal, by Douglas Belkin (2014).
4. "Things You Should Know about Flipped Classrooms", EduCause.

How MOOC Helped Him Nail a Class with 400+ Students

Dr. Torsten Juelich tells us why he introduced MOOC into his academic writing class at UCAS, and shares his opinions on technology for education.

Torsten introducing his teaching methodology to other teachers at UCAS. Source: Foreign Languages Department, UCAS

How did you come up with the idea of introducing the MOOC platform into your class? In which way did you expect MOOC to help with your teaching?

The idea of MOOC came up when the college asked me to teach 400 students! I did some research, and was introduced to MOOC by Yizhou*. He then set up the system, and we have been using it for our classes ever since, with great success.
(* Editor's note: Yizhou Fan [Chinese: 范逸洲] is a graduate student from the graduate school of education of Peking University. He specializes in the utilization of MOOCs and flipped classroom models.)

There are a number of things where MOOC is beneficial: enabling the teacher to handle so many students; enabling students to preview and review the material as often as they like; and enabling students and teachers to communicate with each other freely, using one platform.

It was very successful when we used it last semester. (It was) very convenient. And actually there's a concept called "flipped classroom" which means students learn online and discuss with the teachers offline?

Glad to hear! Yes, that is exactly how we use MOOC; students prepare for next class, and we then go through the solutions and questions, as well as do more exercises.

But researches also showed that boys do better in flipped classroom settings than girls, because girls sometimes need more communication...

Okay, for that, we have Q&A after class. So far, there is no sign of more girls making use of that communication channel than boys.

So generally speaking, you think MOOC helps a lot.

It certainly helps the teacher, and from the feedback we receive, it also helps our students, yes, especially for second language courses like ours.

But you stopped using it for the Academic Reading class. Why? Are you still using it for the graduates' class in Huairou?

Because we do not cover writing theory. We mostly do reading, so no need for MOOC. And yes, most definitely! We are now in part 2, peer review on our SPOC (Small Private Online Course).

Glad to hear that. I like that peer review! So, definitely positive comments on MOOC. What do you think about your students using electronic devices in your class? Do you think they are using electronic devices to learn or for fun?

We encourage our students to use e-devices, mainly to do our in-class tasks via Wenjuan. While this is very convenient, students sometimes complain that it is difficult to use for writing. Also, I feel students use their mobile phones too often to check their WeChat accounts, but by and large, I have no problems with it, and think it is a useful tool.

If you can introduce another brand new technology into your classroom, what would it be? For example, AR, VR, holographic displays, interactive blackboards etc.

I really need some technology that allows me as a teacher instant feedback with my students writing, or answers
there are a number of different types around, but never had a chance to test them.

Like an interactive blackboard?

Maybe... if that allows students to write something on their phones, and that gets submitted to the blackboard? As for VR, I am not sure if that would serve the purpose of teacher-student interaction in class. Students still emphasize the need for personal interaction, so our mix of MOOC and class is probably best.

Students can take notes or make annotations on their iPads, and the blackboard can show them. We have this kind of blackboard on campus in some classrooms, but teachers don't like to use it.

Well, I would like to get an introduction into this type of tech.

So for you, interaction between students and teachers is the most important thing!

For me as a teacher too, yes - but students themselves express that need too. Neither I nor Yizhou believe in tech-only classes. The question is more: how many students should be in one class, and what exactly should the teacher do with class time.

Yes, I agree. It won't be long before the new tech gets used widely! Okay, so what do you think is the influence of technology for education on teachers? I met some teachers who prefer the traditional class. They think learning how to customize the tech into their class can make a lot of trouble.

In general, teachers fear that new tech will increase their workload even more, so often they are reluctant to use it. In contrast, we embraced it because it was the only feasible way to handle so many students! So, I think it does mean extra work in the beginning, but in the long run it makes things much easier.

That's true. Maybe teachers need more excellent TAs like Yizhou!

(Laughs) I know, I am very lucky.

But here comes the question. What if the school spend money on hiring more teachers?

There will never be enough teachers to have small classes of 10-20 students. It's too expensive for universities. Education is becoming a service, (and) profit is priority number one, not quality of education. That's the way the cookie crumbles. So we are doing our best to combine both worlds' impact on students.

What do you think technologies for education mean for students?

Difficult for me to answer, but studies show that the best students learn well no matter what system is used; however, students with learning difficulties seem to be somewhat handicapped by too much technology. Again, in our mixed model, these issues should not come up; we offer students a Q&A after every class.

In general, what is your attitude towards the different technologies that are being applied to education?

I think new tech can enrich the learning experience, and provide most students with additional assistance for their
learning processes; however, it is still important to provide as much time and space for direct interaction with the teaching team as possible. Therefore new tech must not be used to reduce the number of teachers, but should be seen as a tool to facilitate learning.

So actually the best technology is not the newest one, but the one that can meet the teacher's need...

Exactly! We always need to be careful when choosing tech, as we cannot be sure why it was invented: to enable a company to improve its profit margins, or because it has been proven to assist in learning objectives.

Lifelong Learning

Above: Ellagreen via GettyImages; Background: The Economist, Jan 14, 2017

Above: Ellagreen via GettyImages; Background: The Economist, Jan 14, 2017

By Chris Kan

The influence of technology does not only unfold within the classroom. Apart from the MOOCs which challenge the necessity of professors and AR that redefines our learning experience, the arising of AI and information technologies are either replacing or redefining traditional jobs.

The reformation of education is required under the radical change of technology. How many times did you cram up before the exam and forget everything immediately and spontaneously right after? This phenomenon is considered to be quite natural in traditional classes. Though it may work in elementary educations for adolescents to build up their basic knowledge and skills, this kind of learning by rote is never suitable but instead detrimental to adults who are facing enormous challenges in this fast evolving world.

The Economist closely examined this problem and dedicated its Jan 14th issue to it, the cover headlines reading: “Lifelong learning - How to survive in the age of automation”.

One of the most dramatic consequences is discrimination. Driven by the capital market aided by technology, there exists considerable growth in the wage premium associated with higher education and cognitive ability. Skill demands have persistently risen in industrialized countries, and the economic value of inequality alongside its potential social costs is to be seriously considered.

Therefore, governments and organizations should endeavor to combine technology with education to keep the job market alive and reduce inequality.

Source: Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the “other 99 percent”, by David H. Autor. Appears in Science, 23 May 2014.

While not everyone will successfully navigate the shifting jobs market, technology can help and offers various ways for life-long learning, the foundation of which lies in the redefining of learning and rethinking the status of human being against machines. In such an age of information explosion, information is too easy to get. It is not information itself that counts, for whatever you want to know just it consult the internet, but the capability of internalization, the formation of structures between bunches of soft materials and the attention payed to any possible connections are definitely critical. Creativity prefers the connected mind, and the way to reach such a stage is to rise above all the traditional staffs with the help of technology while not losing our self-awareness to form our own structure of knowledge.

Source: Web

Source: Web

All in all, we are compelled to brood on the essence of education under the circumstance that the technology is constantly shifting the world around us. In terms of learning, as the famous predictor Alvin Toffler put it, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Technology require us to question the ultimate goal of education which I believe is also the core meaning of life-long learning. Albert Einstein’s famous quotation is now more than significant: once you stop learning, you start dying.

1. "Lifelong Learning": from The Economist, Jan 14th 2017.
2. Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the “other 99 percent”, by David H. Autor. Science 23 May 2014:Vol. 344, Issue 6186, pp. 843-851.