Education academic shares insights into influence of digital technology

Dr Jon Mason contributes to international discussion about the impact of digital technology on education.

Dr Jon Mason, Associate Professor in Education at the College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts, has recently shared his insights into the impact of digital technology on education through an international publication.

With an expertise in e-learning, Dr Mason was invited to contribute to the Horizon Report published by EDUCAUSE, a publication that identifies key trends, emerging technologies and practices shaping the future of teaching and learning in higher education.

Dr Mason shared perspectives about artificial intelligence, micro-credentials and data analytics and identified challenges in access to education through digital technology.

“Education in a country like Australia is accessible until you dig deeper into it. We have always considered ourselves the ‘lucky country’, and in the era of digital technology, we are early adopters and have long experience in distance education,” Dr Mason said.

“But there is a disparity in the opportunities and a ‘digital divide’. The better a student’s resources are, the better position they are in,” he said.

“People from lower socio-economic backgrounds don’t have what most of us take for granted, and that’s a big challenge.”

Dr Mason pointed out that according to UNESCO, the number of children without access to formal education had increased from 260 million to over 1.6 billion since the beginning of COVID-19.

Dr Mason’s research also focuses on the influence of artificial intelligence on education, using the term “black boxing of society” to describe how algorithms make judgment “for us and about us”.

“Digital technology is an incredibly powerful instrument of change in education. I use the words ‘search, social and smart’ to describe the key genres of digital technology in recent decades,” he said.

“But while technology can empower, there is also a flip side, it can disrupt and be destructive. While most people enjoy benefits of social media, it also leads to the tribalisation of society and limits people’s access to broader information.”

“It can go from ‘smart’ to ‘stupid’ if the impact is not handled properly,” Dr Mason said.

Dr Mason teaches several digital technology units in the Teaching programs at Charles Darwin University and continues to research in the “digital frontiers” impacting education.

“As 21st century educators, we need to teach the next generation about this in ways they understand,” he said.

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