In a matter of years, the entire Israeli school examination system will be digitised: high school students will sit their matriculation exams on a computer. With teachers embracing increasingly technologically sophisticated ways to teach their students, it makes less and less sense to rely on a pen and paper for exams. When exams are brought into line with modern teaching methods, they will be better suited to the modern age—and they will also revolutionise how our students learn and are taught.
Consider the immense possibilities. Matriculation exams online can be made “open book”, so students can learn how to search for relevant material and engage with fresh information instead of focusing on rote learning. With databases in Mathematics or Economics exams, students can manipulate graphs and play with data. With software in Geography exams, students can explore layers on maps and delve into trends. Once this is what students have to prepare for, teachers can finally embrace the full potential of technology for a real, ground-breaking breakthrough.
Additionally, the results of computerised exams can be mined for valuable data, which can be analysed to ascertain what works and what doesn’t, so the system can continuously learn from experience and constantly improve.
As the deputy chairwoman of the Ministry of Education’s Pedagogical Secretariat, I am responsible for the general paedagogical principles of the Israeli national curriculum. My goal is to overhaul education by embracing, rather than resisting, dramatic technological change. With incredibly powerful smartphones in their hands, our students are already technologically savvy and inundated with multisensory material—and these are trends we have to run with. In the classroom of the future, I expect every student will bring their own laptop or tablet to school, replacing all the other textbooks and materials that fill the average school bag.
There is always a risk that teachers won’t know how to exploit the new technologies to provide added value. They might rely on multimedia content to transmit the material, instead of harnessing it to enhance their students’ education. But here, too, technology provides a solution. First of all, we are using technology to transform how teachers learn, in order to change how students learn down the line. Teachers are now provided with high-quality professional development courses online—giving them not only academic content, but technological skills too.
The school of the future will break the limitations of time and space. Once teachers and students can communicate at any time and in any place, the traditional classroom will cease to be necessary. Suddenly, teachers can send students to explore the best materials, online or in the field—and monitor their progress as if they were there. Just look at how teachers are already using WhatsApp to communicate with students, sending them online materials and sustaining contact. We can already see a change.
Sometimes, people predict that digital technology will increasingly replace human beings. But in education, there is no replacement for human contact between teacher and student, especially at such a formative age. If used correctly, technology will not abolish the relationship between teacher and student—it will enhance it.