Is technology the ‘Superman’ that the education sector has been waiting for?

Dealing with lack of support

In the United States, schools that teach students from kindergarten to high school seniors have run into resource issues. Why? It’s due to the global recession and budget cuts that states have habitually made towards education. When I was in public school, I remember the district often holding referendums to help raise money to support its schools.
With fewer resources available to them, that means more students per classroom and a decrease in available courses, leading some to abandon the system and go after private and charter schools, where competition for admission is fierce. Without the tools and solutions available to students, how can they gain the knowledge to figure out what they want to do when they graduate (or rather if they do)?
Today, the system appears to be in major flux with the 5 percent automatic across-the-board cuts being made due to the enactment of the sequestration cuts, reducing the funding for the US Department of Education programs by $2.5 billion.
There’s a bevy of startups in this space that are looking to help students, parents, teachers, and also school districts combat this dilemma. And so while the community is battling with its local government for funding, it appears tech companies are leveraging their know-how to keep the train going, so to speak.

‘Commercialization’ of the classroom?

The adoption of technology in the classroom isn’t a new thing — it’s already being used in practically all schools (hello, Internet?), but there are other services that will help augment what they’re learning in class, potentially helping bolster a student’s academic performance. In a way, it’s akin to the commercialization of the classroom — are tech companies looking to help students learn on devices that they’re already familiar with?
I remember when I was in school, one of the popular education services used was Blackboard, a virtual learning environment and course management system. Back in the late 1990s, education technology startups like Coursera and Khan Academy didn’t exist. If you needed help outside of the classroom, you went to your teacher, a tutor, or companies like Kaplan and Kumon. More than a decade after its founding, Blackboard wound up getting acquired for $1.64 billion from an investment group led by Providence Equity Partners.
In a study recently published by, a vast majority of students are already proficient in using phones, text messages, social media, and the like. Here’s some of its findings:
  • 93 percent of students who own phones use them to send text messages
  • 3D printers are becoming more popular in education environments
  • eBooks continue to replace traditional textbooks
  • Video game-based learning is becoming continuously more effective
  • Educational institutions are continuing to adopt cloud-based technologies
By Ken Yeung
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