How Technology Can Address Learners’ Problems
According to recent studies, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today . For comparison, goldfish have a 9-second attention span.
1. Short Attention Span
One of the main reasons for decreased attention is global digitalization—people have been conditioned to consume more information in shorter periods of time. In addition, broad usage of social media (Instagram stories, TikTok videos, Twitter, messengers) has made short narrative segments the preferred format for content. Together, they result in an upcoming generation of students who struggle to concentrate for prolonged periods of time. Educational tools must keep up with trends in video and entertainment in order to compete for our increasingly limited attention spans.
2. Lack Of Motivation
According to a recent survey, low motivation was the biggest obstacle to learning among 76% of undergraduates and 56% of graduate students . Things got worse during the pandemic, where distance learning became normalized and the classroom experience became inequitable. The main reason why students are unmotivated is self-doubt. Students with low self-esteem struggle to complete challenging tasks while consumed by negative thinking patterns. They are more likely to give up at the first sign of difficulty. Lack of motivation will always be the biggest obstacle affecting student performance, which also makes it the biggest opportunity for technological impact.
3. Lack Of Practical Education
In the Roman Empire, students were taught simply by observing how their teachers worked. Of course, modern education has changed a lot since those times, but when we look at educational programs today, it is easy to see that they are based on theoretical knowledge rather than practical knowledge. Many students are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information they have to learn in a short time. If that material is not used practically, it rarely gets committed to long-term memory and, as a result, is soon forgotten. If the knowledge our students gain is not useful, they become bored, disengaged, or demotivated. It’s only a matter of time before they give up on studying altogether. While theoretical knowledge provides essential building blocks, it loses value without real-life applications.
4. Education Is Not Personalized
It is not controversial to think that people of the same age and background don’t learn at the same pace or in the same style. But it’s never been practical to create individualized learning plans for every student. Entertainment faced a similar problem, but with the growth of streaming platforms, content algorithms, and expanded access, it has become much easier to find niche or personalized content online. Can the same approach work in education?
It’s time to look at how technology, and the impact it has had on adjacent industries, can address these issues.
1. Microlearning Mobile Apps
These days, finding time and motivation to attend a two-hour lecture is monumental when you consider how digital content competes for our attention. But even the busiest bees can dedicate five minutes here or there to education. This concept, known as microlearning, can make all the difference. According to psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus and his forgetting curve studies, learners tend to forget 50% of what they’ve learned one day after the class and up to 90% within a month . Therefore, learning material should be divided into small, manageable lessons to retain information learned in our memory and transfer it from short-term to long-term memory. That’s why taking short classes regularly is more effective than learning a whole chunk of new material at once. In addition, since most of us carry internet-connected mobile devices wherever we go, learning has never been more accessible. We can learn anywhere and any time we are bored or have free time to kill, so long as the lessons don’t take hours. So why not use five quick minutes as an opportunity to learn something new?
VR gives students the possibility to experience and interact with what they’ve learned without leaving the classroom (or home). It creates the feeling of “being there,” turning learned knowledge into lived experiences. A “rockstar of modern education,” philosopher John Dewey popularized the “learning by doing” approach . He emphasized that people learn better with a hands-on approach, meaning that students should interact with the environment to adapt and learn. This practical approach to studying results in better information retention than text-based learning, since our brains get to experience and remember actions and scenarios instead of just words. In addition, AR/VR allows students to learn from their mistakes, without the negative consequences that mistake-making can cause in the real world. And educators agree: according to a recent Samsung survey, 85% of teachers believe VR can positively impact subject acquisition .
Gamification, which at times feels more like a buzzword than a measured approach, is one of the hottest concepts in EdTech. When done right, gamification can nearly double students’ performance. It’s also more motivating and engaging than traditional coursework . Learners are more likely to engage with enjoyable gamified tasks than traditional lectures. Gamification is not just about performance. It also reduces learners’ stress levels, improves studying results, and helps students remember and retain information better. The reason for increased motivation in students who practiced gamified learning lies in the dopamine released in our bodies every time we achieve something meaningful or win a game. In addition to evoking a reward-satisfaction feeling, dopamine also works as a powerful motivator that, combined with all the other effects, creates a healthy addiction to learning. What a great way to mix business with pleasure!
While AI has had its hands in EdTech for some time, its prevalence has drastically increased during the pandemic when educators were forced to shift to virtual learning. Because each student learns differently and has unique educational goals, it’s almost impossible to create an equitable learning experience in a traditional classroom. This is where AI-enhanced apps come in handy. AI-based solutions adapt to each student’s individual needs, educational goals, and speed of learning. In addition, AI can help students identify their weak points and emphasize the materials that need revision. That focused approach is the key to personalized learning.
Technology, when deployed thoughtfully, can significantly improve how we learn and retain knowledge while helping our minds stay focused and engaged. It can make education more accessible, knowledge more addictive, and students more motivated and on track to achieve their goals. But it’s not a replacement for teachers so much as a tool to be wielded in helping create safe, productive, and fun learning environments for all.