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Home-tech versus edtech: balancing safety with education

Read why Steve Jobs and Bill Gates championed edtech in schools but limited their children's use of tech at home.

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The increasing number of children using social media and mobile devices has been a topic of concern among parents. Edtech in schools, however, is highly valued by educational leaders for developing collaborative learning skills and encouraging engagement across mixed-ability classes.

As parents, even IT luminaries Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were wary of technology’s negative impact on their children’s development. Digital pedagogy, however, is essential for encouraging the safe and positive use of technology, both IT leaders acknowledged.

The dark side of technology

Parents are justified in their concern about the impact of technology overuse on children; research published states that risk for depression jumps 27% with children using social media frequently.

According to another study, teenagers who persistently browse Facebook are more likely to display psychological issues such as mania, paranoia, aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, narcissism. What’s more they are at increased risk of cyber bullying.

The difference between home-tech and edtech

The danger of technology on underdeveloped minds, it is suggested, is its addictive nature. Back in 2007, Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, noted his daughter developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game, and limited its use at home. Jobs, the CEO of Apple until his death in 2012, admitted he limited his children’s use of his own Apple devices at home.

According to the Economist, in 1984, the year the first Mac was launched, schools averaged one computer for every 125 pupils. By 2012 there were five for every nine. Clements and Miles, authors of a book tackling the overuse of technology by children, points out that if Jobs’ kids had attended the average US school today, they’d have used tech in the classroom far more than at home. According to our own research, more than 50% of learning time in UK classrooms is now spent using technology.

Edtech is also one of the priorities of the investment fund set up by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and his wife; the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). Why, then, are tech innovators and digital leaders championing the use of tech in schools rather than at home?

Personalised learning with edtech

When used in the correct way, technology encourages differentiation in the classroom; it provides a means of engaging pupils of all abilities.

Personalised learning offers students and teachers the opportunity to move away from a one-size-fits-all model that typically moves students through their educational journey at the same pace, through the same path, at the same time. Edtech facilitates different experiences for various learning profiles.

The combined value of the North American and European edtech markets (including further and higher education as well as schools) is set to grow from USD 75bn in 2014 to USD 120bn in 2019, according to research firm Technavio.

Technology for development not entertainment

The most important difference between edtech and home-tech is control and choice. In a classroom setting, technology provides a platform to foster creativity, encourage collaborative learning and engage mixed-ability classes. It hones valuable digital skills like coding and app development.

At home, unsupervised, children’s use of technology can slip into more dangerous territory. Unhealthy video game or social media reliance, or exposure to sensitive content can negatively impact a child’s psychological development.

“Unadulterated choice is not good,” explained Aylon Samouha of the charity Transcend Education. “You need standards and structure.”

Connecting home-tech and edtech with ActivPanels

Promethean’s ActivPanels provide the ideal bridge between children’s enthusiasm for home-tech and the importance of edtech in schools. The tablet-like experience is intuitive to pupils, it teaches key digital skills while the software brings classroom resources and learning to life. At the same time, the inbuilt restrictions and teacher tools limit pupils’ access to content, providing peace of mind that technology usage is supervised and structured.