Why are teachers losing their students’ attention?
How to make education appealing in the coming decades!
Prof. Alexiei Dingli
One of the fastest-changing areas worldwide is, without a doubt, education. This is also a crucial area for every country since education prepares and moulds future generations. The events of the past years suddenly catapulted educators into new and novel learning modes.
They knew it was coming, but no one envisaged it would be so sudden. On the other hand, the children of today have unprecedented access to high-quality information. Because of this, educators are finding it challenging to teach such classes.
They have to move away from the traditional classroom style and explore ways in which the teaching takes the form of a collaborative discussion whereby the student and the educator collaborate to explore new knowledge. The type of learning, too, is shifting because of this.
One of the most popular approaches is self-directed learning. In this case, an instructor is not needed, and the student has the opportunity to experience self-paced education. This mode is extremely popular with adults because they can learn at their own pace and convenience while juggling other life obligations.
However, this approach is also seeping into higher education, and most probably, it will permeate the lower levels as well. One must keep in mind that many educational chunks are pretty static; thus, they can be recorded and consumed by the students at their own leisure. However, the role of the teacher doesn’t become superfluous.
Different learning modes (generally referred to as blended learning) can be adopted and used simultaneously, thus providing the student with the digital content and the instructor’s support. The role of the teacher will change to that of mediator of knowledge, assisting the student in the understanding and helping them internalise these concepts using relevant examples.
To achieve even better results, we’re seeing a drive towards adaptive learning systems. These programs use the content mentioned earlier and personalise it further with the help of algorithms, assessments or competency mapping.
This will ensure that the exercises given are not too challenging compared to the students’ actual knowledge (also called the zone of proximal development). In so doing, the effort needed by the student to learn will be minimal and not overwhelming.
Notwithstanding these shifts in modality, we expect the coming years to bring forth some significant changes too!
Microlearning will become a reality in mainstream education. Microlearning can be considered as an evolution of mobile learning whereby students are provided with bite-sized educational chunks.
The concept behind it is that our brains can handle only small pieces of information at one go. This idea is further reinforced by the notion that we tend to forget around 80% of what we learn within one month unless we refresh it.
Thus in microlearning, the syllabus is divided into tiny chunks which are more digestible by the student. Large companies like Toyota and Shell have already subscribed to this model, and they actively use it to upskill their workforce.
Gamification will be an integral part of our learning experiences. Research has shown that game-based learning tends to retain the learns’ attention longer. When applied to the workplace, 83% of employees show more motivation after gamified training. Furthermore, let’s not forget that children are much more open to using games.
Thus games and education form an explosive mix in the class. They can manage to attract the learners’ interests for long periods whilst engagingly imparting knowledge. This is extremely important, especially during online learning, whereby students have to spend long hours in front of a screen.
If adding games is not possible, the addition of gaming elements will help make the experience better. Items such as coins, badges, or other forms of recognition can add a rush among students, resulting in higher engagement and personal productivity.
Video learning will keep on growing. Our students entertain themselves using streaming platforms like YouTube or Netflix. They are used to seeing what they want, where and when they want it. So they find it strange when faced with an educational system that operates using a different model.
Furthermore, apart from the benefits already mentioned, it is a fact that people can recall video-based content 9% more than textual presentations. Video also lends itself more for micro or just-in-time learning aids.
Lessons are morphing into shows. It is a fact that rather than long reads, students prefer visual content. This is not surprising when one considers that the idols of these youngsters are TickTokers, YouTubers and all sorts of online influencers.
So to hook students, educators need to dirty their hands with content creation, try new approaches, learn new skills and create shows which provoke engagement. Essentially, they need to mimic trending online content, thus making their lessons appealing, flexible, affordable, and entertaining.
Combined with these approaches, real-time data is essential to gauge their effectiveness. This can be achieved either through final tests or via continuous assessment. In synthesis, if they want to get through to our kids, teachers need to adjust themselves to the student’s daily perception of reality.
Education seems to be always in transition. But this change accelerated in the past decade, and it will probably keep on progressing. Teachers must be prepared and equipped with adequate resources so that they can face the challenges of today.
If we do so, we can mould a new generation of individuals capable of harnessing information, process it effectively and use it to build a better future for everyone.
Prof. Alexiei Dingli
Prof Alexiei Dingli is a Professor of AI at the University of Malta. He has been conducting research and working in the field of AI for more than two decades, assisting different companies to implement AI solutions. His work has been rated World Class by international experts and he won several local and international awards (such as those by the European Space Agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the United Nations to name a few). He has published several peer-reviewed publications and formed part of the Malta.AI task-force which was set up by the Maltese government, aimed at making Malta one of the top AI countries in the world.