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Students in wonderland!

by Eddie Rayner

Students will be learning subjects of their choosing, using various technologies, and working with teachers of their choice. What exactly are we talking about? No less than the future of education and a wonderland of learning!

Phil Redhead, an independent education consultant based in Dubai and the Director of Education and Innovation at Kinteract, a UK-based edtech company committed to providing hyper-personalised learning for all, takes us further down the rabbit hole, explaining: “The use of technology will aid the teaching and learning process. Learning will become more creative and practical as time goes on. Students’ critical-thinking, problem-solving abilities and soft skills will be evaluated, and their performance in real world, creative projects of their own choosing.”

Schools will become exploratory places that are designed for each individual student to learn and develop. “Good teachers will still be crucial, but they’ll serve as facilitators, not content providers,” Phil says, who is himself a qualified teacher and school leader, with over 20 years experience in global education. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and real-world teaching and learning experiences will gradually transform education.”

Hyper-Personalised Learning

The most significant benefits of this transformation will come in the form of a hyper-personalised education that is delivered in a customised manner. But what exactly is hyper-personalised learning?

“Maslow called it self-actualization or being all one can be,” Phil says. “Csikszentmihalyi created the concept of ‘flow’ and Sir Ken Robinson framed it as ‘being in our element’. The Japanese talk about finding one’s ‘ikigai’ or purpose in life. At Kinteract, we believe that education is about far more than just the traditional basics. That’s why, as well as accelerating progress and raising achievement in the core school curriculum, our solution goes further, in supporting holistic, personalised learning and development in any field and for all ages.

“There is no way that every learner can be served by high-quality teachers in a face to face model, within a brick and mortar institution, no matter how ‘state-of-the-art’ the facilities or well-planned the curriculum.

“Learning will become more creative and practical as time goes on”

“John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, saw the child as the curriculum and, when we internalise this as the reality and imagine how technology can help deliver this hyper-personalised experience of lifelong learning, we are moving towards a better world.

“So this is what we are working on – building a better, fairer world by levelling up society and helping everyone to achieve their dreams and find their purpose in life.”

Education Driven by Social Change

Technology will shape the future of education, but social change and improved energy infrastructure will drive it.

Education remains an inaccessible birthright for millions of children around the world, with 260 million youngsters out of school in 2020. Millions more are in classrooms but don’t get a quality education. According to a UNDESA study, 188 million children still attend schools without electricity. That means no lights or fans, no heat or comfort, no internet, no computers or digital learning aids, and low staff and student retention.

“To reach vulnerable socioeconomic groups, the future of education lies in a mix of stable energy availability and adapted educational tools,” Phil explains.

“To be even more aspirational, if you get this right long term, you more or less empty the prisons; you create a safe, fair, equal society where everyone is happy and fulfilled. You’ll always get some crime, but for the most part, if everyone has a purpose and a reason to succeed, and are given the skills and values to achieve their goals, they will contribute to society.”

“The learner will be put at the centre of everything”

AI and the Metaverse

The metaverse makes use of the Substrate modular framework for increased scalability, long-term expansion, and support to connect decentralised applications, services, and other independent blockchains to connect, exchange information, and transactions at a lower cost. At least that’s how a ‘techie’ would explain it.

However, there is another explanation, which is far more exciting: ‘Entering Wonderland (the metaverse) will inspire and enthral; each person’s interpretation of Wonderland is unique, but all convey the sense that anything is possible.’

Phil takes up the story: “In the metaverse, students will be able to create a ‘digital twin’, and within a few seconds see where they might be in a few years time if they follow a particular path. And that path need not be a lawyer, doctor or civil engineer; it can be a musician, artist, sportsperson, or any one of a million possibilities that are out there.

“The metaverse will become more influential very quickly, too. Today, all the kids want to be on YouTube, but I don’t think they will in five or ten years; they’ll all be in the metaverse. The learner will be put at the centre of everything.”

Virtual Reality (VR) will allow people, instead of using a computer, to enter the metaverse, possibly using a headset to enter a virtual world connecting all sorts of digital environments. Unlike existing VR, which is mostly utilised for gaming, this virtual environment might be used for anything – work, education, concerts, or simply hanging out.

“There will be smart recommendations for every learner – not just the next maths question in an adaptive programme, but a Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) that leverages rich data to connect the learner with content, teachers, peers, institutions, courses, causes, projects, internships, mentors, funding, and everything else they need to succeed,” Phil explains.

Most people imagine that when you use the metaverse, you’ll have a 3D avatar – a version of yourself. But it’s early days, so there’s no single agreed definition just yet. What we can say, though, is that the metaverse will be interactive, immersive, and collaborative.

“Blockchain and NFTs are driving this new age of creativity. A trend that started with the ability to create one’s own space on the web (e.g. MySpace) and is now booming in YouTube, TikTok, etc., is about to explode with the advent of NFTs and the metaverse, providing the ability to  monetise one’s own creations and influence others to a whole new level.”

The True Promise of Edtech

The metaverse can be conceived of as a collection of worlds, similar to how the physical universe is made up of worlds, and it will allow education to become hyper-personalised, or as Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, ‘Which way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to …’

Nevertheless, many people are concerned that as technology rapidly changes the environment around us, it will supplant human input. Technology, though, is not a replacement for good teaching. Instead, it gives the finest educators the tools they need to engage students in learning, enhancing and expanding on what the best teachers are already good at: explaining, illustrating, involving and guiding, supporting and inspiring students.

“If you get this right long term, you more or less empty the prisons”

“There is a growing realisation that traditional institutions and models of education cannot alone provide the knowledge, skills, attributes and values that students need for a life of hyper-personalised learning. This shift to the democratisation of learning through the application of exponential technologies to new models and modalities of education provision that place the learner at the centre is the true promise of edtech.