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The future of education? It will be called EdTech

Companies, already today, invest practically half of their training budget in digital learning services and products. This figure alone is enough to understand how relevant the EdTech sector, the term that merges the words “education” and “technology” together, is becoming. Taking stock of this world was the Milan Polytechnic, with the 1st EdTech Observatory, supported, among others, by PHYD.
We met with Camillo Loro, researcher and director of the EdTech Observatory, to better understand what is happening in the world of education.

Camillo, first of all, what emerged from the First Observatory on the industry conducted by the Milan Polytechnic?

The pandemic has shaken up the entire EdTech demand market in Italy: from distance learning to corporate training, educational institutions, universities, and businesses have somehow had to make strides in the digital transformation in education. And the benefits have been significant: from improving administrative processes in schools, to sharing experiences among learners and between trainers and learners, to improving educational quality itself. The creation of new educational products increases people’s curiosity and getting involved, and technology allows for the extension of learning opportunities, according to times and places that are independently manageable.

All right, then?

In fact, there is still a long way to go. Just as institutions and businesses need to invest in technology with the achievable return in terms of effectiveness in mind rather than the economic aspect, teachers need to make the effort to acquire the skills necessary for effective use of technology and “innovative” content design.

Innovation and education: how interrelated are these two aspects?

The theme of innovation in education originated as early as the 1950s in the US. The focus is on the tension between pedagogical-educational and technology-related aspects. Between the 1970s and 1980s, people began to talk about EdTech as an integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, and technology at all stages of learning. In the 1990s, the stages of the learning process that can be mediated by technologies are defined: the design, development, use, management, and evaluation of the learning process. Next, we move toward a conception that technology support is primarily through hardware, going a bit narrower. In more recent years, EdTech is seen as the set of tools that can best support an individual’s development of new knowledge and skills.

What about today?

The Observatory defines innovation in support of education, or rather Educational Technology, as “the set of solutions that support the educational process, aimed at maximizing the quality of the learning experience and enabled by hardware to software technologies that mediate and innovate the (i) the transmission channel, (ii) the way content is created and organized, (iii) teacher-learner, learner-learner and teacher-learner interaction, (iv) the design of the learning environment and (v) the mode of assessment, at all educational levels.

What to expect in the coming years? Where will the EdTech world be headed?

We envision three main directions:

  • customization of content. Increasingly, there is a move toward solutions capable of creating customized training paths by taking into account various parameters (e.g., natural inclinations, abilities) in order to close individual skill gaps;
  • upskilling and reskilling. The trend is to support the development of new skills with respect to the individual’s area of specialization or for market repositioning;
  • analytics and virtual reality. Investment is also beginning to be made in the EdTech world in tools capable of supporting the effective implementation of training (e.g., through virtual labs) and to provide new and innovative learning experiences.

A career in EdTech: what advice would you give?

Imagining a career in EdTech is both interesting and challenging! I would essentially give three indispensable pieces of advice for those venturing into this fascinating world:

  • continuing education and assiduous comparison with experts in the field, including starting to take innovative training courses that allow people to personally test technological support for the training process;
  • Be aware of the benefits that can be achieved through technological solutions and content innovations in the training process, to be clear about the achievable goals in the EdTech transformation journey;
  • Keep abreast of expected developments in the EdTech world, taking Italian best practices and international initiatives as reference points.

And, of course, we add, continue to follow the work of the Observatory, which, after this first year, we hope will be a reference point on digital innovation in the EdTech world!



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