Lee Newman, Dean of IE School of Human Sciences & Technology, recently made his virtual debut in the form of a hologram at a TEDx event in London, where he discussed the future of EdTech. Here’s what he has to say about it.
I wasn’t at the recent TEDx event in London, which explored and demonstrated how universities are using EdTech to transform learning, but that didn’t mean I didn’t participate.
I spoke to moderator Sarah Grant, alongside medical education specialist and iheed CEO Tom Callaghan, about areas where IE School of Human Sciences & Technology (HST) are actively piloting digital experience and automation technologies. I even conducted a quick, show-of-hands poll during the discussion. How could I do this if I was not actually there? I attended and participated as a digital persona, a hologram—the very technology we were talking about.
Digital experience in education
My holographic self was an excellent, real-time demonstration of the type of progress IE University and other innovative universities have already made in breaking down the physical barriers of having to be co-located. Our “learning theater”—called the WOW room—already overcomes many of these barriers by allowing the professor to see and interact with the whole class on a wall of screens. As well enhancing the visual learning experience, it enables one-to-one interaction and fast online polling. Even student engagement can be monitored with an added layer of AI that monitors their faces and attention. It feels so much more like a shared classroom than the standard models of distance learning.
Automation in education
While I believe that insufficient attention has been given to automation in education in the past, I was keen to show that it’s catching up. Menial tasks like biometric identification are already widely in use, but the “gold nugget” of automation in learning is feedback. This is a hugely valuable tool in learning, both for students and professors.
Yet, the economics of feedback are difficult—most often the provision of comments, suggestions, corrections, and other forms of feedback are done manually and require significant time and effort on the part of teachers. The automation of feedback using AI and peer-to-peer tools promises to improve student engagement by allowing students to receive more feedback, more quickly, and in greater depth.
The technology itself, or attitudes toward it?
I may have been a hologram, but I was still able to count the hands that went up when I asked if the audience believed it was the technology itself or attitudes toward it that offer the greater challenge to EdTech uptake. Attitudes seemed to be the bigger issue for attendees, and I wasn’t surprised. Adoption of technology and digital transformation are in the end very human processes.
So while the features or cost-benefit of technology can be barriers, the biggest problem lies in changing behaviors—and in the context of education, behaviors are lifelong teaching styles, pedagogical comfort zones, and the seemingly daunting up-front investment required to build a new study plan and methods for a course.
Like with other areas of tech, however, these EdTech challenges are of course surmountable. As EdTech becomes more widely accepted, being taught by—and teaching—as a hologram or with AI assistants will become everyday EdTech at work. The end result is that education will become more engaging and productive than ever.
Don’t just take my word for it—watch the TEDx to see “me” demonstrating how far we’ve come already.
Lee Newman is the Dean of IE’s School of Human Sciences & Technology, and teaches in the Executive Master in Positive Leadership, Strategy, & Transformation. Discover more about him here.