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New Learning Technologies

(by UNESCO Bangkok, ICT in Education)

© Flickr/Ferran Jorda

On May 19-22, the world leaders and key stakeholders in education and development willgather in Incheon, South Korea at the World Education Forum 2015 to review key achievements from the Education for All movement since its inception in 2000 and to define the new education agenda beyond the EFA movement. For the past years, UNESCO, as the leading UN agency in education, has been working with a wide range of stakeholders, carrying out extensive consultation processes to identify the new education goals and targets. With a suggested overarching goal as “Ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality lifelong learning for all”, the WEF will be an important milestone in reaching a consensus on the education agenda for 2015-2030 and will call for urgent attention from the international community to put their efforts together to achieve these new goals.

As the new education agenda indicates, albeit tentative, an important shift is being made in the education sphere. A school is no longer the only place where learning takes place. Largely due to technological advances, learning today takes place anywhere and anytime no matter whether learners intend or even realize it. In light of this, skills to pace and manage oneself in becoming a self-dependent learner throughout one’s life become a key competency for the 21st century.

A report from the World Economic Forum, entitled “New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology” identifies 16 skills in three broad categories that meet the needs of a 21st century work place, as shown in Figure 1, and analyzed nearly 100 countries regarding students’ readiness in these skills. The analysis revealed large gaps in many of these skills between developed and developing countries, within countries and even among countries at the same income levels.  

Figure 1 Sixteen skills for the 21st Century, From New Vision for Education, p. 3

Educational technology, if used thoughtfully and holistically, has great potential in helping address these skill gaps, especially in developing communication and collaboration skills. Emerging technologies such as 3D printers and coding platforms help mature learners into effective problem-solvers and creators, as shown in one of the featured articles, Teaching Science and Engineering through Historical Reconstructions from the Smithsonian Museum. Adaptive learning technologies together with learning analytics provide personalized learning opportunities that meet the students’ unique needs and preferred learning paths. The ‘Internet of Things’ enables data transmission amongst objects, augmenting knowledge that an individual can acquire based on his/her location. An automatic museum tour service in your smart phone, triggered by your entering into the venue is one such example. Interested readers may find the New Horizon Report 2015: Higher Education Edition (one of the featured articles in this issue) useful as it identifies new emerging trends and technologies that will lead to changes in higher education in the next five years.

Through the examples of emerging learning technologies provided throughout this issue, we hope to show readers a balanced view of risks and opportunities that these tools can offer in the lifelong learning era. While making every effort to realize technology-enabled ubiquitous lifelong learning, it is equally important to endow our future citizens of the world with digital wisdom and the awareness of cyberwellness. It is also our hope that through this issue readers understand the importance of building a comprehensive and supportive system where potentials of new learning technologies can be fully harnessed to close the skill gaps for the 21st century. To truly realize technology-enabled lifelong learning, much work should be done to properly recognize skills and knowledge obtained through informal learning paths, such as social media and games.

More often than not, introduction of new technologies can be disruptive. In order to turn this disruption into successful integration, technologies need to be considered and embedded into each and every step of an instructional system, including the creation of learning objectives, development of curricula and instructional strategies, delivering of instruction, embedding of ongoing assessment, providing interventions, and tracking outcomes and learning (WEF, 2015).

In the future, education will no longer be restricted to the walls of the classrooms, and technology will quickly permeate into the normal part of learning and teaching. Through the use of these new tools, learning can take place outside the traditional spaces, and do so effectively. Most importantly, the smart use of these technologies will be able to teach our students that learning is not a chore, but a critical and normal part of life, at any place, and any time.


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WEF (World Economic Forum). (2015). New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology. Retrieved from