EduTech Asia 2021

The Annual EduTech Asia Conference is one of the most anticipated conference for me. I have been attending and presenting at this conference since 2017. The 2021 conference is my fifth attendance and I must say, it never fails to inspire and rejuvenate my edutech passion. The 2021 conference was held virtually due to the safe distancing measures and continuity of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The conference was held over three days, starting on the 9th of November 2021 till the 11th of November 2021. The first day of the conference (9th November) looked at new pedagogies and online / remote learning for Kindergarten to Primary School learners. It also had topics that explored digital leadership, blended learning in higher education and had inspiring keynotes on digital equity and the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in education.

The second day (10th November) of the conference threw the spotlight on digital transformation, learning technologies across all levels (kindergarten to higher education), access to education and online wellbeing – topics close to heart for every educational leader, especially with the heavy duty online learning and teaching since the pandemic started.

The final day of the conference (11th November) showcased new content for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the enhanced role of ICT departments and strategies for effective collaboration with educational technology.

This is not all! The 2021 conference brought back TeachTeckTalks, which was cancelled in the 2020 conference due to the peak of the pandemic. These TeachTeckTalks (TTTs) were running on-demand throughout the event, as educators and edtech leaders shared their big and best ideas, from creative lesson ideas to inspiring stories about bridging the access to education gap to unconnected students.

Technology is changing how we teach, what we teach and even where we teach. It makes possible what was previously inconceivable. While the affordances of the teachnology were already there and every edtech and school leader was discussing about shifting midsets and fostering tech adoption, the covid-19 pandemic came as a huge wave, forcing a do-or-die sort of urgency for tech adoption, leaving no time for mindset shifts. In a way, it proved to everyone that it could have been done much earlier, just that deliberations and planned professional development pathways to tech adoption and integration was taking its sweet time.

While the pandemic has changed or disrupted lives in many ways and the world is adapting to many new normals, without doubt, new habits have emerged. Perhaps, the best news for EdTech is that the world looks like it is finally ready to embrace and receptive to online learning.

Among the various edtech trends observed, the one that stands out the most is the teacher ad learners’ expectations and preferences. (a) Support for remote learning has shifted from good-to-have to must-have; (b) speed and connectivity is preferred even more than before; (c) teacher ot trainer’s location matters less than quality of the lesson; (d) learners’ pace and personalisation have garnered more attention than before.

Remote and online learning is not new and while it has been touted to be an effective way to learn productively, years of trials and experience with various technologies and learning models are yet to demonstrate the desired efficacy. The lack of outcomes spark discussions around these three aspects:

The number of completing online courses are alot fewer than the number of people signing up for the same courses. Why do e-learners lose interest when they had signed up for the course?

E-Learners often report about not being able to apply learnt concepts to real life situations. Could this be due to the absence of physical presence and interaction?

Teacher-learner interaction in online learning spaces are reportedly not as frequent, robust or even absent as compared to physical setups. Can online learning spaces or courses be structured such that learners are engaged?

Despite these issues, the pandemic has brought an increase in focus and transformation in reskilling the workforce and transforming the economy. It now has another opportunity to rise up to the challenge of demonstrating and achieving desired efficacy. More importantly, if done right, remote and online learning can can potentially disrupt physical learning and even become the preferred mode of learning.

This led me to reflect on my contributions to two DAS programmes – iStudySmart and e-SEED. These are e-learning programmes for DAS students and educational therapists respectively. My work on these programmes include the creation of e-learning packages and setting up of and managing the learning management systems. I am extremely proud of both iStudySmart and e-SEED in terms of effectiveness and user engagement, these programmes have been on point. They are both highly targeted in imparting skills and knowledge and also have sufficient room for end-users to demonstrate their application of what they have learnt; and also have consultation sessions inbetween the weekly e-learning sessions (for iStudySmart) and frequent reminders to reach out to Educational Advisors (for e-SEED). Without engaging professional e-learning designers, these programmes were created from scratch (content and learning package design) with those three points in mind (achievement, effectiveness and engagement).

With the DAS Education Portal in the pipeline, my wish is for more e-learning programmes to be implemented for DAS students and educational therapists. This will not only extend the 2 hour in-person classes our students attend in our centres, it will also make training more accessible and convenient for educational therapists, as the courses can be accessed when one is mentallu and physically ready to receive them instead of attending in-person sessions scheduled at fixed dates and times in three hourly blocks.

Soofrina Mubarak
Senior Educational Therapist & EduTech Coordinator
RETA Fellow

Learn more about Soofrina!