​Rethinking education: how technology can drastically change how we learn

Following the success of BAFTA award-winning D-Day: As It Happens, Digit reflects on the opportunities to leverage technology to truly bring educational content to life.
The continued permeation of technology throughout our lives is something that we at Digit grapple with daily. While it’s indisputable that technology has significantly advanced industries such as consumer healthcare, through technology like in-car diabetes monitoring for example, certain aspects of life are treasured for their ‘analogue’, traditional state, where change can be a challenge. Education is one such area; for some, how and what we learn is sacrosanct. However, our recent experience recreating the events of the D-Day landings illustrated the true power technology holds in breathing new life into old stories, subverting the familiar and reintroducing discovery into the way in which we learn.
When the opportunity arose to present the story of D-Day through the eyes of of seven individuals present on 6th June 1944, we jumped at the chance to introduce today’s technology to truly re-engage audiences with a story that many have heard time and again. Through events like Hurricane Sandy and the Arab Spring uprisings platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have proved themselves as valid channels for the communication and education of current events. So why not leverage them to tell stories of the past? In collaboration with Channel 4 and Windfall Films, we built a multi-platform experience that told the stories in real-time, across Twitter and an online platform, alongside two Channel 4 television programmes. The ‘secondary’ channels quickly became primary methods of exploration, seeding real video footage, photos and diary excerpts, allowing followers to explore the content how and when they wished. With over 100,000 site visitors in 48 hours, D-Day: As It Happens indicated that a multi-platform approach can widen audiences, facilitating multiple journeys of discovery.
Historically, the act of learning has occurred in a static, one directional way. Whether sat in a classroom, in front of a whiteboard or reading museum exhibit cards, education has focused on the uptake (and often regurgitation) of knowledge through one medium at a time. Of course, technology is beginning to enhance our spaces of education, consider interactive whiteboards or smartphone museum guides, but there is still a need to look beyond the tactical and consider how it can facilitate learning in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Personalisation & Self-paced Learning
It is widely accepted that how each of us learn and our individual motivations are extremely personalised. The Khan Academy, which started as one individual coaching a cousin via video tutorials and now has 10 million visitors a month, promotes elements such as gamification, instant feedback and self-paced learning. Pupils watch Youtube tutorials of specific curriculum themes, long division for example, and then complete the associated tasks through a personalised online dashboard.
Results have shown that by allowing children to learn subjects at their own pace, with motivational rewards and devoting class time to creative, shared experiences, they are more eager to learn and improve their results (Huffington Post, 2012).  There are opportunities here for brands, particularly those with strong connections to educational or historical content, such as pharmaceutical businesses or publishers, to produce interactive content to supplement curriculums. The WWF app, for example, introduces audiences to endangered species through editorial content, HD videos, and gestural features to interact with the animals at a new level, educating as well as delighting users.
Accessibility and Collaborative Learning
Technology has also facilitated a more open, flexible approach when it comes to access to knowledge. When MIT announced that the majority of its courses would be uploaded online, to be accessed for free by anyone with an Internet connection, it was met by mixed opinion. Undoubtedly a brave step forward and many institutions have followed suit, with the launch of MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses. But by going further to adopt a collaborative or open source approach to content can be of benefit to both businesses and students. The launch of Project Data Sphere, a shared big data collaboration model in the pharmaceutical industry that has achieved buy-in from AstraZeneca, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson among others, is one such opportunity for businesses to extend their data or platform to students or start-ups to allow them to explore and reinterpret their research.
Interactive Experiences
Beyond reading, watching and listening to content, technology is also beginning to educate society through touch and interactive experiences, thereby reaching a much wider audience. Although in its infancy, 3D printing is beginning to provide opportunities for education by allowing people to interact with things that perhaps they may never get to the chance to see in real life. NASA is using 3D printing technology to replicate imagery taken by the Hubble telescope to educate the blind on the nature of outer space, introducing touch as the primary medium of education. Research communities, museums and institutes will soon have the opportunity to offer anyone with access to a 3D printer the chance to reproduce their content remotely and interact with it. Imagine if students could explore replicas of rare art, chemical compounds or sculptures remotely alongside their Google Nexus 7 tablet, ultimately creating a much richer learning experience. 3D printing is not only extending the typical education experience, but also reaching new audiences.
In summary, the success of D-Day: As It Happens has opened our eyes to the wealth of possibilities technology offers educational content. Digital interaction is truly reinvigorating the way in which we learn. By increasing the accessibility to information and diversifying the nature of discovery, knowledge can reach not only a greater audience but one that is more nuanced, to ultimately provide a much richer, more personalised learning experience.

Written by Lauren Smith, Strategist at Digit


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