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What do you like about your role?

Anything you do with technology in the human rights field reaches a huge and hungry audience as the space is still relatively unchartered territory, but the demand has been there for a long time and is only increasing. This means that everyday there is an immense, but positive pressure, to work faster and better to meet the demands and needs of millions of people worldwide looking for leadership and guidance on defending and promoting human rights, social justice and humanity in general.

Edtech provides opportunities to create deep engagement, and life-changing experiences, for highly motivated and committed people, on a global scale in all languages. It’s incredibly inspiring to pioneer new uses of Edtech with audiences that are so committed and determined to create progressive social change, no matter where they come from, or where they are going. It is a huge privilege to play a part in creating experiences that connect such diverse people and see what they can achieve together.

We have immense global problems to deal with, the more people we connect, the more sharing of brains and ideas, the faster we can advance together.


Share three predictions on the future of Edtech.

1. I believe Edtech currently has the potential to grow into many untapped markets, including fusing with those not traditionally considered educational. I hope the increasing competition will encourage those striving for higher standards. On the other hand, some will engage in a race to the bottom as they attempt to cut costs in haphazard ways, so we will also see an increase in low quality experiences which will tarnish the still relatively strong reputation of education technology. The technology is only ever as effective as the educator wielding it.

2. Edtech has the capability to provide experiences that are increasingly personalised to individuals, their tastes, their behaviour, their demographic indicators and their goals. This is a very disruptive idea as it means people would be increasingly able to educate themselves according to their own needs, rather than being forced to learn things based on other people’s estimates of their needs, or their abilities.

3. If education is truly empowering, and people are able to choose their own paths to their empowerment, then there’s a potential for a shift in power in society. It’s in the interests of some of those currently in power to prevent that shift. Education is an industry already full of conflict but I think Edtech will raise the stakes.


What technologies do you believe have the potential to transform the education industry? 

Virtual Reality is set to become mainstream which will be a catalyst for increasing use of truly immersive opportunities. Educators will have to move from thinking in linear storylines and step by step educational attainment, into 3D multi-directional storylines and achievement levels. This will trickle down into favouring experiential multi-directional AND social learning journeys, over lectures and textbooks, solitary e-learning and read/write styles. Those will still exist, but I think it’s time for kinaesthetic social learning to hog the limelight.

Blockchain will provide the necessary infrastructure to create secure foundations for learning experiences and transactions. I doubt this will get as much attention, and that risks slowing its adoption, but this is where the fireworks will happen.

Artificial Intelligence will enable the necessary personalization of learning experiences. This will empower pioneering educators to educate on more topics, to more people, and with greater impact on the learner. I’m hoping AI will help drop the obsession with ‘completion’ rates in favour of aiming to better serve learners. In the case of AI, the hype actually risks hindering adoption, so this could be a slow burner.


Looking at the key trends over the past 5 years in edtech, what would you say have been the key areas of change that are impacting edtech today? Anything unexpected that surprised you? Trends that were overhyped and never met their expected potential?

I haven’t yet met anyone who doesn’t think that increasing access to education is a good idea. And they really want to believe Edtech will help with that. But technology is not the only restriction. There's a reason some education is exclusive.

For example, there are not enough people with leadership skills they say, and that’s why we are in this mess. Who was supposed to be teaching leadership skills? The most exclusive institutions are exclusive because there’s something about leadership that we don’t want everyone to know about. The fact is, certain education is restricted to those with the right bank balance, the right family, the right looks, the right location; the right affiliation to the status quo. There’s a good reason why some positions are not famous for their diversity and equal access.

Human beings do know how to create systems of universal education. But some knowledge and skills areas are kept exclusive, and the barriers are raised all around those.

While there are people in power propping up exclusive, uncompetitive, and in the end, harmful education practices, Edtech will not achieve its potential in increasing access to education.

However, Edtech is highlighting inequalities in education, it is exposing systems of education that don’t work and it is forcing us to ask ourselves some tough, probing and uncomfortable questions. And while some people are shrinking inwards to shore up their defences, others are jumping in to fill the vacuum. Diverse people from diverse industries are flooding into the education space with new ideas.

So people should believe the hype. Because where there’s diversity, there’s a high chance for brilliance.


Why is it important for all players in the edtech ecosystem to continuously connect, network and learn from each other?

Because joining the dots is where all the innovation happens.


Join Emily and our 150+ thought leader speakers at EdTechXAsia 2017 on 31st October-1st November 2017 - reserve your place now >>