Education and technology: A perfect alliance

By | 4 minute read | December 15, 2020

By Andrea Obaid, journalist from Chile and Master in Scientific, Medical and Environmental Communication from Pompeu Fabra University, Spain

The pandemic is a great challenge all over the world and it has also led to important advances for our society’s digital transformation which are here to stay. Remote work, e-commerce, as well as cloud, artificial intelligence and using big data are growing even more advanced. And even education has gone through a major change from the traditional face-to-face classrooms to virtual lessons, making it a great challenge for students and teachers to adapt. But how has technology helped during this process? What opportunities and challenges does it face?

Since 1983, the year when the Internet was born, the world was revolutionized. While classrooms gradually have stopped using blackboards, chalk, papers and books, they are starting a path towards the true technological revolution and the digitization of educational processes, where teachers use computers, tablets and interactive technologies such as eletronic whiteboards and the use of social media. Concurrently for many countries this is still a problem given the digital divide.

But, the benefits for both school and universities are technologies allow for a more interactive and participatory learning style, favoring collaborative work. The possibility of distance learning, flexible schedules, adapting to students with special needs, as well as increasing creativity teaching styles.

It also brings interesting and difficult challenges, such as training teachers so that they can take advantage of technological resources and incorporate them into their clases. During the training, we must take into account that they are not digital natives like their students, and may be more reluctant to adapt to the classic form of educatton. And it is not only a professional transformation, educational centers must also invest and change their infrastructure to have an Internet connection that allows it to be used by multiple computers and devices. But the most important thing is that a paradigm shift in the contents of the curriculum and in the evaluation systems are necessary.

Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are on the rise and are projected to dominate jobs by 2030. Nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, computer science and automation provide multiple solutions to current problems in society and are applicable in sectors such as health, the environment, agriculture, mining and astronomy, to name a few.

In this sense, I would like to highlight IBM’s academic initiatives which seek to enhance the skills of students, teachers and entrepreneurs, and as well as minimize the technological divide that exists in Latin America.

However one of the great challenges along this path remains the lack of gender parity in STEM careers and jobs. In fact, a study conducted in 2018 by the University of Melbourne, in Australia, analyzed data from 36 million authors of more than 10 million articles published in 6,000 scientific journals in the last 15 years. They concluded a great gender gap exists. For example, in Chile, 37% of the people who work in these STEM careers are women.

It is important that all actors generate change–from universities, public institutions, government, companies and social organizations–to promote STEM education and create new talent to fill the jobs of the present and future.

I recently found a platform that is undoubtedly helping, and will help, those who want to be part of this change. I am referring to Open P-TECH, a free digital education and professional preparation platform for teenage students and teachers in areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Today the platform has more than 47.000 registrations in Latin America.

As part of its commitment to expand valuable access and content to more people, IBM together with astronimic organizations and institutions from Latin America announced an agreement to train students in new technologies, astronomy and related sciences, in local languages – Spanish and Portuguese – through IBM’s free digital education platform, Open P-TECH.

Through the Open P-TECH Astronomy channel students and teachers from Latin America will be able to access scientific content from Asociación Argentina de Astronomía, Facultad de Ciencias Astronómicas y Geofísicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata y el Observatorio Astronómico de Córdoba, in Argentina;  Fundación de Apoyo a la Investigación Científica del Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP); Observátorio Nacional Do Brasil; Fundación Chilena de Astronomía (Fuchas); Instituto Milenio de Astrofísica (MAS) from Chile; el Instituto de Astronomía y Ciencias Planetarias de la Universidad de Atacama in Chile; Institutos de Astronomía, Radioastronomía y Astrofísica de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) and Sociedad Astronómica de Zacatecas de México; and Instituto Geofísico de Perú.

We are in a unique moment in our humanity, full of learning, opportunities and challenges. I invite you to get on this bullet train of knowledge and fulfill your dreams to be part of this new technological era!