Are You Keeping Up with Digital Transformation in the Education Industry? Here’s What You Might Be Missing
It’s no great secret that the world has gone digital, but the unfortunate truth is that the education sector is falling behind this development. In fact, the 2023 THE Journal Digital Transformation Survey found only 35.87% of respondents in a survey of school districts were rolling out technologies to some degree while the rest fell into the following categories:
- 31% were still just setting goals and a roadmap.
- 31% were only now defining digital transformation.
- 31% were simply exploring the idea.
- 21% had given no thought to digital transformation.
These numbers are concerning, but they aren’t a complete surprise. IT leaders within school districts are often hindered by extreme budget limitations, public policy, and a justified cautiousness regarding the protection of students’ privacy. There will always be some hesitance about digital transformations, but districts are doing students and faculty a disservice if they fail to embrace the following IT use cases.
1.) Immersive Tech
There are some lessons that are best learned with clear and engaging visual aids. Though you might not be able to take your students to the Pyramids at Giza on a field trip or afford a life-size, layered model of the human body, you can deliver those experiences through the virtual world.
Students are increasingly able to explore incredible lessons on science, math, and other subjects that would have been impossible without augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).
We’re already seeing this technology being used for good in Texas. Students in a graphic design class offered through San Angelo Independent School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs were able to engage with murals and make their own contributions to the works of art themselves. Programs like this are a great way to incorporate STEAM principles and collaboration into the classroom.
Often, there are products available which aren’t all that cost-prohibitive. Some applications or solutions can be used on existing mobile devices. In other cases, you can use hardware or software provided by nonprofits on field trips or outings to engage with their particular programs or knowledge. Learn what your teachers and staff want to impart to students, and you can facilitate the experience for them.
2.) Accessible Learning Experiences
How can we help every student maximize their educational journey? Moreover, how do we engage learners in ways that address their abilities, learning styles, and life experience to boost their academic performance? The goal of accessible learning has been to embrace instructional methods and tools that help every student learn the lessons they need—and digital transformations are making that possible.
For example, there’s a project pioneered by a team of researchers at Georgia Tech to use EarSketch, a coding learning program, to teach blind and visually impaired students to code. Researchers are looking to make data audible and accessible in a way that improves engagement and opens the world of computer science to students with visual impairments.
There are even innovations for students in their extracurricular activities. A recent partnership between AT&T and Gallaudet University has created a 5G-connected football helmet to improve on-field communication with deaf students. A helmet visual display can give them coaching during the game and allow them to stay up-to-the-minute with plays and direction. Though this innovation is at the collegiate level, there may be grants and funding if you know where to look (we covered that in one of our recent blogs).
There are numerous software, hardware, and mobile applications available to help students with a range of disabilities and experiences to flourish. For these programs to work, IT leaders need to have awareness of the student body’s current accessibility needs and collaborate with faculty to determine which technologies can deliver the best results.
3.) Robust Data Privacy Solutions
Protecting students is always a priority, but it’s not quite so easy anymore. Hackers are frequently circling your school districts’ digital security perimeter, even if you can’t see their fins above the water. Though IT leaders work tirelessly to maximize their coverage and monitoring and prevent data breaches, some of those efforts are currently little better than treading water.
For instance, a shocking 96% of apps used by U.S. education institutions share the personal information of children with third parties. Even worse, 78% of those examples are for the sake of advertising and monetization, needlessly exposing that information to compromise if those organizations are breached.
What do school districts need to do to defend student data? In many cases, the solution is choosing managed detection and response solutions. An outside cybersecurity partner can help to maximize the budget of schools while using machine learning models to probe and neutralize attacks. These experts can handle the tasks involved in 24/7 cyber protection to prevent criminals from targeting students or stealing their personally identifiable information.
4.) Artificial Intelligence
In the educational world, AI is a sticky subject. In the last year, there has been an explosion of text-generating solutions and platforms. ChatGPT, Lunchbreak AI, and other generative AI solutions have allowed students to create entire essays and written assignments with rudimentary prompts. Though educators and college admissions boards think 100% AI-written content is plagiarism, there is value to school districts adopting the technology.
For starters, there is some appetite for educating students on or with this technology. An analysis conducted by Study.com found that 43% of surveyed Texas parents favor the idea of using ChatGPT and other AI tools to enhance the learning process. Though some are skeptical, the right applications can really hit home the value of these platforms.
When introduced in a controlled classroom setting, educators can demonstrate the uses of tools like ChatGPT and even teach them how to generate results that can improve their understanding of new concepts. Additionally, AI-fueled intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs) can present information to students at their estimated education level, gauge their knowledge, and even determine the types of errors they make. There’s great potential to push education forward.
On a final note, we recommend against using AI for one application: AI-writing detection software. These tools are mostly inaccurate. OpenAI discontinued their own tool because it was only 26% accurate and labelled human-written content as machine-written 9% of the time. Save your district the money and students the hassle by avoiding these tools completely.
Keeping Your District Current with Trends
Though you might be well-versed in all these trends, the chances are that your administrators and superintendents are not. They’ll need to be convinced of potential use cases if you’re going to earmark enough money in your budget for these programs. If you need help finding funding, working with the right partners can help to narrow down your search and maximize the education of students in your district.
Want to help your school district complete its digital transformation? iSphere is here to help implement the latest innovations and create uses cases that further education.