27 August 2018
It’s a world crisis: teacher shortage. The statistics are unsettling as they cast huge concerns for the future of education on a global scale. According to the World Economic Forum: “Currently Nigeria faces the biggest shortages – the West African nation needs an additional 380,000 teachers. India also faces shortages in excess of 350,000, while Indonesia needs nearly 190,000 more teachers.”
The challenges faced by young people living in remote communities in gaining access to education is troubling. Lacking even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills, one-in-three children in Africa still don’t even make it into the classroom. Combine this with the worsening global teacher shortage and the future looks bleak for a huge percentage of the youth of today.
But there is some light on the horizon and it comes from the glow of a computer screen!
Interactive learning in the form of a digital teacher is the catalyst in transforming the floundering education sector by tapping into the Gen Y love of digital media. A digital teacher available anytime on your computer, your tablet or even mobile who looks like a human and behaves like a human. A digital teacher who is pushing the boundaries of education by interacting with students through engaging face-to-face learning. A digital teacher who can be programmed to deliver content in a way that draws in students who previously struggled with more academically focused teaching techniques. And the best part of all is, this is not limited to simply the richer nations of the world.
Digital learning has the potential to bridge the abyss by reaching out to those previously excluded from schooling. Now, more and more classrooms have access to computers as market competition brings prices down and with the cost of internet access cheaper than ever before this has opened up opportunities for technology to reach underprivileged classrooms. Even the challenges of providing tech to the most remote communities on the planet are being harnessed with the rise of robust routers (such as the SupaBRCK) that is not only waterproof but is “solar-powered Wi-Fi that operates as a 3G hotspot and off-grid server.” [TechCrunch]
“…there’s no denying that the use of devices and systems that promote engagement and collaboration bring tremendous value to the learning environment.” [Education Technology]
It may seem more like a futuristic dream, but digital teaching is not sequestered in the future but is currently being trialled in the form of Will, a digital educator created by Soul Machines for Vector, an energy company in New Zealand. Will interacts with young people in a lively and friendly manner as he shares interesting information and fascinating facts around how renewable energy will shape our future world. At the end of each future energy topic, as selected by the user, Will asks a pertinent question which the young students answer by picking from a multiple choice selection. The engagement factor of this form of learning is high, with interactions that stimulate problem-solving and critical thinking which can awaken young and curious minds.
So, if digital educators can help with the world’s teacher shortage, if they can enhance learning through dynamic interactions and if they can reach remote communities then they can affect change on a global scale. Every child has the right to an education and if a digital teacher can help open doors to a future that was previously shut to so many, then a digital teacher could play a vital part in transforming education as we know it.
Sources from media quotes: