Every day, it seems the debate swings back and forth: does technology help or hurt education? Early adopters of tech-infused educational settings created a gold rush of iPad-based classroom learning, smart boards, online homework submissions, and other so-called improvements brought forth by accelerating internet speeds and descending device prices. And yet, in some contexts, as soon as the sight of screens in a classroom became commonplace, they vanished. New research seems to rest on the side of human interaction as the key to learning, and screens seem more often than not to get in the way.
But it would be an overreaction to rule out education technology entirely. While in-person classroom education could perhaps do away with distracting screens in favor of human conversation, tactile interaction, and paper note-taking, the exploding world of internet-stashed media has led to an increasingly high-quality store of free educational content. From Sal Khan’s internet academy to a myriad of YouTube tutorials, the ability to find quick, search-indexed answers to your questions is at an all-time high. Without a doubt, internet access alone provides a treasure trove of learning, inspiration, and information for students, families, and educators.
While a bevy of well-lit vloggers debating the finer points of the Mean Value Theorem is definitely a useful resource, all of this technology-based learning seems to lead to a single ideal dream solution: on-demand, on-the-fly access to a talented educator from the comfort of your bedroom. Or, as we call it, Online Tutoring. The expansion of internet content also means the need to filter through the noise, watch multiple videos, and hope your learning style matches how the information is taught. Discomfort with a subject also makes it harder to use the proper search terms to find good explanations, or sit through bad ones (how exactly do you know if it is good or bad, after all?). Online tutoring captures the best of both worlds: high-quality custom answers to your actual questions, delivered when you actually need them answered.
My contemporaries will frequently wonder, “Hey, it’s almost 2020, where are the flying cars?” And yet, imagine if 25 years ago someone had told you that we would not have flying cars but would instead have a device around the size of a wallet that allows us to instantly connect to practically anyone or anything. Humans acclimate quickly (one of our superpowers) to these conveniences, but the true power of high-quality instantaneous video and voice communication is incredible—and somewhat underutilized. Continued improvements to video-chat platforms and increasing internet bandwidth bring us all closer together, making for a more lifelike internet experience.
And so, while the impact of technology in the classroom is hotly contested right now, and the ever-expanding universe of internet advice is becoming as cumbersome as it is informative, the strongest contribution of technology to education is the power to bring an individual from thousands of miles away into your home to have a one-on-one discussion about… well… anything!