Are South African schools ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As a developing country still dependant on labour-intensive industries such as mining and agriculture, South Africa is at a risk of not optimally taking advantage of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

The increasing intersection between physical and digital technologies is changing the world of work in several key ways. As Schwab says, ‘physical products and services … can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value’. Today’s worker needs to understand how digital and physical components can combine to create faster, more efficient and effective products and hybrid solutions.

In education, the challenge is to equip learners in South Africa to function effectively in the 21st Century, and use technology to innovate, collaborate and create.

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How edtech can equip learners with the right skills for the 4th industrial revolution

In recent times there has been much talk of a ‘4th industrial revolution’, as the lines between physical and digital experiences blur more and more. What exactly is the 4th industrial revolution and what skills can edtech help learners develop?

What is the 4th industrial revolution?

It is the rapid advancement of new technologies that is building on the developments of the third industrial revolution (the advent of electronics and automated production). According to Klaus Schwab, the Founder and executive chairman of the WEF, the fourth industrial revolution ‘is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’.

How is it changing the world of work?

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5 elements of a gamified approach to use in education

‘Gamification’ – the process of using elements of interactive game design in other applications – has become popular in education. This is for good reason. There are traits in the gamer personality that can be profitably developed in learners (traits such as perseverance and focus). Here are 5 elements of a gamified approach and how to use them in education:

1. The gamer personality

Video gamers show great drive to improve their skills and ‘master’ games. Mastering learning materials becomes attractive when elements that drive gamers to persevere are used in educational materials.

One element of a gamified approach that helps to recreate this positive element of the gamer personality is ‘unlockable’ content. Learners only gain access to materials in educational apps once they have fulfilled certain requirements and reached a certain level. This fosters the will to continue and succeed.

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What are the benefits of digital education?

Digital education requires teachers to acquire new skills that they may not have had the opportunity to acquire before. However, the benefits of digital education for both learners and teachers provides significant impetus for teachers to develop new skills.

Consider the infographic below. It illustrates the impact that teachers in sub-Saharan Africa believe digital education can have on teaching and learning.

Teachers who have used digital tools in their classrooms will have experienced many of the benefits of digital education that I will discuss in this blog post.

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Defining digital education

Digital education is when teachers use electronic tools to create, store and process content and information to enhance teaching and learning. It is the teacher’s role to choose the electronic tools and devices that complement their teaching approach. The decision on what digital tools to use to achieve what outcome is an important part of the process of moving towards integrating digital teaching in the classroom. The use of technology in digital education improves the quality of learning through access to digital media such as video clips, online tools (such as interactive assessments) and teacher-specific tools (such as analytics that track learners’ progress). Digital media also provides learners with opportunities to self-study and interact with ideas and topics in new and exciting ways. 

Digital education is not a new phenomenon. For over 25 years teachers have used technology to enhance the learning experience in their classrooms. There is a wealth of information and experience on what works and how to use it. For example, teachers have used video content to show science experiments and documentaries on historical events, CD-ROMs to provide interactive experiences, test banks to assist in the development of classroom assessment and audio CDs to assist with listening and pronunciation. More recently, this digital content has been made available through interactive whiteboards in classrooms. With the advent of the internet and the provision of online access, as well as the ever-increasing availability of affordable devices such as tablets, a variety of digital education options are now available and widespread adoption is expected in coming years.

Learners can interact with digital education tools at their own pace and use these tools in ways that respond to their learning styles. For learners who are exposed to various digital media applications (apps) in their day-to-day lives, digital education tools offer new ways to engage these 21st Century learners, for example through educational strategies such as gamification or approaches such as mobile learning.

Learners using tablets in the classroom

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