The next wave of innovation will not be about phones

I do hope that real innovation in areas such as education is more focused on the student, rather than the tools

Innovation is a difficult animal to comprehend because of its unpredictability. The internet has brought about a lot of new doors for innovators to open, and they have done so. Since the mid-90s, when the internet first came about, we have seen a complete reshaping of our lives.

The way we work, the way we interact, the way we socialise and the way we digest content and information has revolutionised our lives in the most profound ways.

These changes have had both positive and negative effects on our lives but, overall, we all can look forward to a better future with technology. It has brought about new opportunities for emerging economies, while solidifying others such as the US and China.

Since the mid-90s all this has happened and there is more to come. However, innovation also happens in cycles, and the consumer product cycle seems to be diminishing in its innovative prowess. If you look at the big products – phones, televisions and computers – over the past three years very little has changed. This means that innovators have to look elsewhere for growth, and this is where I believe technology can develop into more meaningful channels.

Areas such as education have had very minimal innovation over the past two decades. If you take away the interactive whiteboard, all-in-one PCs and tablets, a classroom is pretty much the same as it was fifty years ago.

I do hope that real innovation in areas such as education is more focused on the student, rather than the tools. Big names such as Google, Microsoft and Apple have created interesting projects and platforms in education and there’s more exciting stuff in the pipeline. However, to truly revolutionise this sector one has to prioritise the educational experience of the individual, and this is where it starts to become difficult.

If you create an iPhone, it works pretty much the same for everyone. And that is why it’s so successful. But an education programme needs refinement and individuality. It needs to constantly change. That is the tricky part. Artificial Intelligence can play an important role because it is an input-output process, where the quality grows exponentially with more data. I think these are exciting technologies that we have to prepare for.

Technology and innovation will always have a limiting barrier to what they can achieve. We often minimise the importance of the social and physical environment in the educational process, but it certainly can contribute to more innovation. There’s a general agreement, the world over, that there is much wrong with education systems today and there is room for improvement.

The truth is that the biggest educational innovation over the past 15 years has not been tablets or massive open online courses, but a much more simpler website - YouTube. YouTube has changed how people learn about things. There’s so much content on YouTube that you can learn to do anything - from building a plane in Minecraft to building a plane in real life.

It is difficult to predict what tomorrow’s schools will look like but a good guess would be that they become a place where children can find who they are, learn the values of living together to progress society and become who they wish. I hope that it’s a place where children can be happy and where their sense of discovery is inspired and expanded, rather than diminished.

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