27 Jan 2023

Google’s Recent Global Report Predicts Different Trends for the Future of Education

By Big Change

“As we march towards a radically different future, what should the role of education be, and how might it look?” Google for Education asked and started to answer in a global report on the future of education

The report’s three parts contain insight from two years of peer-reviewed academic literature, a media narrative analysis across the education sector, and interviews with 94 educational experts from 24 countries, including experts in policy, academic researchers covering education, district-level representatives, school principals and teachers and ed-tech leaders. 

Similar to Big Change’s “A New Education Story,” which shines a light on the actions being taken to drive transformation and showcases examples of global pioneers who are guiding a new way, Google’s report equips “educators and education leaders with a common understanding of the trends informing the future of education, and spark ideas and discussion on how we can best work together to help all learners succeed.” Both reports do not offer a blueprint or uniform view of the future of education. Instead, they highlight context dependency and multiple possible futures of education. This article synthesizes Google’s insight and examples on three specific actions identified in a New Education Story.

Three drivers for transforming education systems. “A New Education Story”.

Make data and information more accessible, useful and interesting to stakeholders

Making well-informed decisions is impossible without the full range of relevant data and information available. For example, as experts in Google’s report point out, better access to data and insights gives educators greater visibility over which teaching styles and tools have the highest impact. Yet, except for a few examples (see here and here), most education data was not made public. 

Google’s report highlights a trend towards an ‘evidence-based education’ movement in education technology: governments are mandating stricter evidence standards for education programs and digital platforms enable educators to easier exchange best practices. With more technology in classrooms, there is an increasing focus on the tool’s effectiveness. Yet, obtaining this information can be challenging due to the cost and complexity of collecting and analysing the evidence.

Numerous solutions have been developed to help educators evaluate the quality of edtech products. Educational researchers created their own banks of evidence with existing research findings on different edtech interventions, for example an EdTech Evidence Exchange Platform. In the US digital tools like LearnPlatform conduct a third-party validation of edtech tools and give educators a greater choice and visibility on new ideas and tools. Digital Promise provides research-driven product certifications that verify edtech products against a specific set of indicators.

“One of the arguments I’ve made for a long time is that a lot of education is not historically based on robust evidence … people are starting to ask more and more questions about whether the practices commonly recommended in the classroom really match up with this evidence.”

Daisy Christodoulou, director of education, No More Marking, and author of three books about education: Teachers vs Tech, Making Good Progress, and Seven Myths about Education, United Kingdom

New information on the effectiveness of edtech can help empower educators and policymakers to make more evidence-based decisions that ultimately support better learning outcomes for all learners. 

Integrate new ways to assess and recognise learning

Both Google’s report and “A New Education Story” highlight how assessments play a pivotal role in a student’s life. Assessments affect learners’ self-perception, higher education opportunities and future careers. Moreover, external assessment and accreditation are high-leverage points of intervention in transforming education systems as they affect the available learning opportunities.

Most assessments fail to capture a broader picture of everything a student has learned, which creates a limited snapshot of their abilities and potential. From the student perspective, the anxiety caused by tests can affect their performance, especially economically disadvantaged students, who tend to experience elevated stress levels in test environments. 

“A lot of learners have capacities which are outside the things that we measure. There’s frustration among parents because we are saying to a child, ‘you are lesser or better,’ but only judging upon a very, very, very small subset of things that are important in life.”

Claire Boonstra, founder Operation Education, the Netherlands

Rising demand for more meaningful ways to track student progress facilitates a shift towards more effective modes of assessment, and education systems around the world are taking steps in this direction. For example, in this secondary school in France, end-of-year testing represents 60 per cent of the final grade, while 40 per cent is determined with more low-stakes assessments throughout the year. Moreover, several schools in New York adopted proficiency-based assessments that allow students to progress through learning material at their own pace, which has already demonstrated its effectiveness in closing equity gaps. The University of Technology Sydney introduced a U@Uni program that enables students from low-socioeconomic partner schools to progress to higher education after completing the course and demonstrating skills such as collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Technology is also helping to provide means of evaluation, for instance, in the form of digital badges that can be earned by demonstrating proficiency in a certain area. More broadly, Google highlights the globalisation of content and curriculum as one of the big shifts with countries increasingly using global content standards and aligned assessments as a way of improving their economic competitiveness. While there are certainly promising changes in this space, integrating new, better ways of assessment can only happen if all stakeholders work together.

Make learning more learner-centred

According to Todd Rose, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard University, and contributor to both the New Education Story and Google’s report, a major problem with schooling is that it is designed around the “average learner”. To address the individual needs of learners, education needs to be more personal. “Personalization aims to increase student engagement and performance by creating responsive learning experiences that take into account each individual learner’s needs and interests”, which, in turn, has the potential to close equity gaps in education, he states in Google’s report. 

Google makes the case for Artificial intelligence (AI) and adaptive technologies as tools to personalize education and enable educators to provide experiences tailored to students’ needs. AI can give students real-time feedback on their work; digital assistants can be informal homework helpers to students, and assistive technologies (AT) can support students with disabilities. For example, Google highlights Carnegie Learning which uses AI to streamline homework and lesson planning for teachers while giving in-depth insights into how students are doing. This enables educators to provide targeted, in-class support to learners. Personalised learning experiences can not only provide in-the-moment support but also ensure content and delivery are adaptable to the needs of the learner.

Teachers also play an essential role in facilitating student-centred learning. Technology can help teachers save time on administrative work, so they can reinvest it in teaching or upskilling and networking. For example, the Edtech platform Gradescope uses AI to sort answers from students’ paper worksheets into groups so that teachers can grade by question rather than by student. This allows teachers to give one piece of feedback to several students at once, which frees up significant amounts of time. “To evolve how we teach and learn, it is critical that teachers have the tools, time, and respect that they need and deserve so that they can continue to guide, grow, and inspire their students.”

In Conclusion

These trends and examples reveal how technology can change the different dimensions of education practice such as assessment for learning, learner-centred personalized learning, and evidence-based decision-making. Together, they hold the potential to create more equitable and effective education systems for all learners.  

One overarching theme that weaves through most of the identified trends is liberating students’ and educators’ agency. The tools and examples highlighted, have in common that they enable learners and teachers to act rather than be acted upon and to shape, rather than be shaped. 

Google Report:

A New Education Story:

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