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Report: Educators Optimistic about Technology

Most educators believe technology makes them more imaginative, creative, and productive at work, according to a recent study, Humans and Machines: The Role of People in Technology-Driven Organizations, from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The results of the international study, which surveyed leaders in financial services, healthcare, and the public sector in addition to educators, suggest that education leaders are more optimistic about the use and effects of technology than their peers in other industries, according to a news release from Ricoh Europe, the company that sponsored the research.

Ninety percent of education executives who responded said they agree that technology improves imagination and creativity, compared to 74 percent of executives from all fields surveyed. Similarly, 80 percent of educators reported that technology has made their organization more productive versus only 73 percent of all respondents together.

Seventy-two percent of respondents from educational institutions, the largest of any sector, also said that professionals interacting with technology "will be hugely beneficial for the economy as a whole," according to the release, and 71 percent reported that technology helps them make good decisions.

"The positivity from global education leaders is uplifting, as the sector focuses on transforming for the future," said Carsten Bruhn, executive vice president at Ricoh Europe. "But the pace of change is fast, driven by technology and the students who are entering the education system. It is also driving the need for administration and learning environments to review and change the way they work. More efficient and innovative processes are required across a range of functions from attracting new students to enrolment and student services."

Pace of change represents the biggest obstacle, according to respondents, who reported at a 52 percent clip that "technology is evolving more quickly than its processes or ways to use it," and 88 percent agreeing "that human-technology interaction will only add value if humans are more creative with the processes developed to connect the two."

According to Wim Westera, a physicist and instructional technologist at the Netherland's Open University, if educators don't figure out how to connect them, businesses might step in to fill the gap. According to a quote in the report, Westera said, "If higher education remains the way it is, with its 19th-century model of lectures, then within ten years we will have Google University and Walt Disney University taking it over."

According to educators who responded, the technologies most likely to improve imagination and intuition are data analytics, email, and cloud computing and telepresence.

Other findings from the education section of the report include:

  • Human intuition is most critical to teaching itself, according to 34 percent of respondents;
  • Just over a quarter, at 27 percent, said intuition is most critical in the development of new teaching materials;
  • Forty-eight percent of respondents, more than in any other sector, reported that technology has allowed their employees more time to innovate;
  • Only 10 percent agreed that technology makes it more difficult to be creative and imaginative at work;
  • Coaching and tutoring students and devising new teaching practices were tied for the area where imagination or intuition has declined the fastest in the last five years, according to respondents, at 25 percent each;
  • At four percent each, respondents reported that checking homework and delivering tests were the areas where imagination and creativity were the least critical;
  • Seventy-two percent disagreed that technology has complicated communication more than it has facilitated it; and
  • Forty percent said that technology stifles debate and discussion in their organization, while 60 percent disagreed.

"The respondents of the survey are positively embracing the benefits technology can bring to the education system in the future," said Bruhn, in a prepared statement. "However, accelerating the pace of change and transforming the traditional ways of working are essential if they are to continue to boost the knowledge economy and support the needs and demands of the next generation."

Commissioned by Ricoh Europe and undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the report is based on surveys with 432 executives, including 50 from educational institutions, and "20 in-depth interviews conducted with prominent business and technology thinkers as well senior corporate executives across different sectors," according to the report.

To read the full report, visit thoughtleadership.ricoh-europe.com.

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