Aaron Drain, Content Specialist

EdTech Trends for 2018 with Martin McKay

Every year, we ask Texthelp's CTO, head of R&D, and resident EdTech geek Martin McKay to sum up his Education Technology expectations for the next 12 months. From big data to big ideas, AI to AR, read on and discover what trends are anticipated to dominate the EdTech arena in 2018.

What do you think the year ahead has in store in terms of Educational Technology?

2018 is going to be another great year for EdTech. One of the things we are continuing to see is the falling cost of devices. We are also seeing the emergence of devices with a touchscreen or stylus. For education, being able to input in this way is more meaningful for the students and at Texthelp, we can continue to build more efficient interfaces for touch and stylus into our products.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Windows 10 S is adopted. It’s a compelling offering from Microsoft.

Augmented Reality hasn’t really moved too far from the gaming world into education just yet but I would anticipate that happening over the next year.  

Also, teachers who might have been a little hesitant or reluctant to use technology in the past are now beginning to use cool web-based tools to allow students to turn in their homework. This is helping them to realise the role and the potential that technology has to play in the classroom, as well as allowing them to be more open to trying other things as well. The reason for this? Technology companies are getting their act together and making things easy for teachers to use.

There is a big buzz around machine learning - how big a role will this have to play in education in the year ahead?

Machine learning is incredible. It’s a hot topic everywhere at the moment and it’s going to be as relevant in education as it is anywhere else.

If you look at machine learning in medicine, people have been talking about how AI can be better than radiologists at spotting tumors in medical imaging. In the same way, I believe that machine learning is going to be able to spot trends in writing that might be able to pick up dyslexia, which is particularly relevant for us at Texthelp.

What I see in the future is using AI and machine learning to observe students' learning behaviours and identify if they need support with reading and writing; saying “it looks like you need some help with reading, do you want to try this text-to-speech tool or you could benefit from this dictionary tool” or even offering writing assistance based on their writing behaviours.

Machine learning has the ability to be completely transformative this year.

Will big data / learning analytics have a major impact on education this incoming year?

At Texthelp, big data allows us to do two things: observe how students are using our software (and we’ve been able to do that for some time), but also to observe how students are learning - how they are reading and how they are writing. 

We can determine what reading age the content is that they choose to read in their spare time, what subject area it is, what types of words they struggle with and need to use a dictionary to find out meaning for - that gives us an indication of vocabulary ceiling.  

In writing, we can now tell how long the average student’s sentence is, or how many syllables per word they would typically write. That means we can really help the teacher if they were to open up a student's piece of work, we can tell them if that child is on or off track for almost twenty different measures of writing, including text maturity, the number of sentences with subject, verb and object, the percentage of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.

All of this gives us a really powerful insight into how students write and helps to establish a set of norms for on-grade performance which is really going to help teachers to identify where their students are in comparison to their peers, as well as across the nation.


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