News

September 22, 2017
Technology in the Classroom: a Picture of the Most Modern Silicon Valley Schools

The ongoing discussion regarding the introduction of modern technologies into the learning process has now reached Lithuania. However, while we are just beginning to see projects being done on computers or tablets in Lithuanian schools, in some other countries virtual reality has already being integrated into the learning process. The economist and businessman Eilif Trondsen, who has worked in both the Silicon Valley and in the Baltic region, tells us about the most innovative modern schools, and he urges us to get ready for the inevitable changes that will be dictated by the introduction of new technologies into the educational system.

Modern Technology Placed into the Hands of the Youngest Learners

E. Trondsen says that perhaps the biggest challenge he has noticed in relation to the education of very young children is the fact that, along with modern technology, there are a lot of factors that can arise to distract the attention of the pupils.
“In the near future, one of the most important difficulties facing the educational system will be the introduction of modern technologies in the learning process, particularly those that are internet-connected. This is an inevitable change, but its usefulness for pupils can be reduced by the teachers’ fear of technology and by political or cultural forces that are opposed to radical change. It is essential to prepare for this change in a suitable manner and to use the opportunities it will provide to make the training system more effective, and to achieve total accessibility to quality education with a reduction of costs, savings of the teachers’ time and a greater involvement by the pupils themselves,” E. Trondsen explained.
This philosophy that does not discourage students from spending time with technology, but on the contrary allows them to use all the advantages that technology provides, is particularly popular in the Silicon Valley where the very latest inventions can be accessed.
For example, the AltSchool opened there in 2013, where traditional tests and controls have been abandoned, and instead the teachers attempt to inspire the children to seek their own solutions to real practical problems.
For example, the children learn to create electrical circuits on their own, or to design and build play houses with their own hands. The power of technology is used for these projects – starting with the most basic circuit wires and progressing all the way through to 3D printers or virtual simulation applications.
In this way, it is hoped that the ‘rote learning’ of unnecessary information is eliminated from the students’ daily routines, and that they are instead allowed to work on projects that inspire them to develop their talents and to acquire the necessary skills. In this way, the learning process becomes much more individualised and the child is helped not only by the teacher but also by internet resources. The existing AltSchools are already achieving great success, and there are plans to set up more of them all over the US. As in Lithuania, the young people in the Silicon Valley who are best acquainted with the new technology, and who were among the first to learn such skills at school, find it easiest to find a place in the employment market. On the other hand, not every family can afford to send their children to schools where they have an opportunity to work with the latest systems. The solution to this problem is offered by businesses that have the vision to integrate the resources they have with the state schools, thereby investing right at the school benchmark level in capable youngsters with a huge potential, who it is believed, will become the future employees in their companies. “The rate of change in the educational culture depends very much on the location; but in the US we are already seeing pilot programmes for so-called ‘joint learning initiatives’ that combine the energies of the state and business. A few months ago, all of the Silicon Valley was talking about a pilot partnership project that was developed between a private school and a public school and was run by the technology company Oracle, which allowed a business investment to be combined with the development of young talent on a scale never seen before,” said E. Trondsen. In the Silicon Valley, the free Design Tech High School supported by the technology giant Oracle has been operating for a while, but in 2018 it will move into new accommodation on the company’s premises. As with AltSchool, it features an educational system that is based on the creation of personal learning plans, with as many students as possible undertaking practical projects. The representatives of Oracle say that caring for schoolchildren in this way is useful, not just in hunting for future employees, but also as an effort to encourage young people to be directly involved in the company’s activities, as they have a somewhat more intuitive understanding of technology. High school students are being offered not just practical work, but also short-term work involving the company’s new projects and creations, as a way of incorporating the ideas and solutions of the students that might not occur to older people.

Investment in Youth in Exchange for Their Ideas

As in Lithuania, the young people in the Silicon Valley who are best acquainted with the new technology, and who were among the first to learn such skills at school, find it easiest to find a place in the employment market.
On the other hand, not every family can afford to send their children to schools where they have an opportunity to work with the latest systems. The solution to this problem is offered by businesses that have the vision to integrate the resources they have with the state schools, thereby investing right at the school benchmark level in capable youngsters with a huge potential, who it is believed, will become the future employees in their companies.
“The rate of change in the educational culture depends very much on the location; but in the US we are already seeing pilot programmes for so-called ‘joint learning initiatives’ that combine the energies of the state and business. A few months ago, all of the Silicon Valley was talking about a pilot partnership project that was developed between a private school and a public school and was run by the technology company Oracle, which allowed a business investment to be combined with the development of young talent on a scale never seen before,” said E. Trondsen.
In the Silicon Valley, the free Design Tech High School supported by the technology giant Oracle has been operating for a while, but in 2018 it will move into new accommodation on the company’s premises. As with AltSchool, it features an educational system that is based on the creation of personal learning plans, with as many students as possible undertaking practical projects.
The representatives of Oracle say that caring for schoolchildren in this way is useful, not just in hunting for future employees, but also as an effort to encourage young people to be directly involved in the company’s activities, as they have a somewhat more intuitive understanding of technology.
High school students are being offered not just practical work, but also short-term work involving the company’s new projects and creations, as a way of incorporating the ideas and solutions of the students that might not occur to older people.

Mathematics Lessons with Virtual Reality Glasses

Innovations are not only affecting the Silicon Valley. E. Trondsen explained that the technological revolution that is currently taking place could provide any country the opportunity to find itself at the very centre of an educational revolution.
He said, “We are living at a time when new technologies are continually coming onto the scene. It is not feasible to apply all of these to their full extent, so the winners will be those who manage to be integrated into the training process not only quickly, but also in a useful sense. For example, in my native land of Norway, a group of municipal councils and companies established a partnership that would allow schools in a number of regions to use virtual reality and expanded reality during lessons. It was hoped that this would create an innovative system, in which the children would be involved in the lessons to the maximum possible extent.”
All over the world, most modern schools are united in their desire to create an individual training plan for each student that can respond to his/her abilities and needs, and which will assist the student to learn with the help of technologies that can replace the teacher for part of the time.
The veteran of the Silicon Valley optimistically continued: “Our new reality is creating many challenges, as well as many possibilities. The biggest dividends will be paid to those who are ready to accept the changes that are already in progress and to use the capabilities of technology to the maximum extent. It will be quite difficult to combine these innovations with the current practices used by teachers, but once this problem is solved a lot of other difficulties will disappear.”
E. Trondsen is visiting Lithuania for the “Innovation Drift” forum in Vilnius. The forum, which will take place on 12–13 October, is the largest event organised in the Baltic Sea region on the topic of future technology. More than 50 world-renowned scholars, business world representatives and futurologists will attend this Lithuanian forum, where they will not only share their experiences and insights, but will also look for possibilities for new collaborations and business niches.

 

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