The education space presents one of the biggest areas of opportunity for display technology and improvement, as anyone who knows a kid that relied on a tablet to complete their schoolwork, even before the pandemic forced nearly all children to switch to remote learning last fall.
In China today, we can preview the future of edtech tools and see what’s possible when a government invests in putting tablets designed for educational use into the hands of school-age children.
We spoke to our new General Manager of Operations in China Shirley Gu to gain some insights into what the biggest issues in the Chinese public education system are today and how better display tech fits into their hands-on solution.
The Main Challenges and Initiatives at Play in Chinese Education Today
These challenges won’t look unfamiliar to parents and educators in the States, although there are important nuances in the differences:
- The low teacher-to-student ratio makes it very difficult to give students the individualized attention they need to improve.
- Regional imbalances in staffing create barriers for students that don’t live in major cities to get a quality education.
The government’s answer to these issues is to bring digitization and automation to classrooms with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
This nationwide focus on digital education has the support of the government and major enterprises, including electronics manufacturers. Both are working to improve teaching efficiency in the classroom and balance available teaching resources over the country’s vast geography. But what does this look like in practice?
Connected whiteboards in classrooms and a tablet in the hands of every student.
The Upsides of Digital Education: Better Accessibility
There are many upsides to China’s Digital Education initiative, but three stand out:
- Better connectivity. This tablet-based program gives teachers more visibility into student activities and responses in real-time in the classroom.
- More individual instruction. By leveraging AI to provide students with more problem sets like the ones they find challenging, students get individualized attention without having to wait for a teacher to become available within a large classroom or after school hours when the students are studying.
- Increased access to educational information. While students in urban areas typically have at least one tablet at home, students in rural areas greatly benefit from having a school tablet they can take home to do homework and study.
The Downsides of Digital Education: A Rise in Myopia
Of course, there are also downsides to this program, which are exacerbated by the scale at which this rollout needs to happen. While the country continues to roll out this program nationally, schools have deeply unequal access to technology and instructional resources.
Nationwide, myopia in school-aged children is among the biggest concerns in China today, and we’re seeing this issue with eye health emerge earlier and earlier as students adopt screen-based technology at an earlier age.
According to a recent WHO bulletin on myopia prevention in China, data from as early in the edtech revolution as 2014 showed that 80 percent of students who completed secondary education were myopic.
The same report found that “increased myopia prevalence among younger children and higher rates of progression during school years have led to a growing burden (estimated at 10-20 percent) of high myopia among high school graduates.”
Logistically speaking, however, the largest issue is that there is no single good hardware solution that schools and government agree are usable every day.
A Vision for the Future of Tablets for Education
Most of the tablets used in schools today as part of the Digital Education initiative use reflective displays like E Ink, but today’s students are used to full-color backlit displays at home. Kids in the 21st century simply don’t find this technology as engaging, although it is a better alternative for their eye health than traditional backlit LCDs provide.
There’s a real need for reflective display technology in the classrooms that can deliver great color, support videos, and meet eye health standards.
LCD 2.0 is an obvious fit for this puzzle: Reflective LCD displays have the same low-power requirements as E Ink and the performance quality today’s digital natives are accustomed to.
The Next Generation of Edtech Tools Will Come with Reflective Displays
Anyone reading this blog post knows just how much more screen time we’ve all been experiencing in the past year – and this increase has been particularly dramatic for students and teachers in the West. While concerns over myopia are not as pronounced in the United States as they are in China today, screen time remains a contentious issue here as well.
Westerners can expect to see an increased focus on digital education and health-conscious edtech in the next five years, and we can look to Chinese classrooms to see what kinds of connected devices are headed our way.