West meets East: Across the Great Dividing Wall

From guest writer: Judy Bloxham.

China is the fastest growing economy in the world despite some of the recent economic setbacks. It is a country of new wealth and an odd mix of private initiatives and state control. A country of paradoxes, where all around you see the ubiquitous smart phones, yet long cultural traditions and old working practices are equally visible.

The Chinese are embracing technology. I have never seen so many QR codes. They have been used for mass advertising and communication in Japan and the USA for many years, and the UK is starting to catch up. However China just seems to have leapt to the forefront of use.

IMG_0579In at least two places I observed the use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology as a form of entertainment. It’s quite amazing how a cry of ‘let me out’ sounds equally identifiable in any language.

You may have heard of the great firewall of China, and yes, it is very real. There is a complete block of western social media sites. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing don’t work. Emails can be received but don’t always send out. And despite Google having mapped Beijing you can’t access the maps. This lack of access to all the usual internet facilities for two weeks helps you appreciate what we have come to take for granted.

So what lessons can be learnt from these experiences:

We need to accept that smartphones are a phenomenal tool used everywhere, and yes especially as an educational tool.

IMG_0583If a country like China can embrace QR codes as rapidly and widely as they have then perhaps we need to look at how and where we can make use to provide rapid access to information.

Emerging technologies like VR are becoming commonplace, so we should look for ways to use this technology to provide experiences in education that could be difficult to do via ‘reality’.

We shouldn’t pooh-pooh the value of search engines, social media and the internet as educational tools. We have become so used to expecting these tools to be available everywhere we go. Try living without it for just a few days to really appreciate how much use you make of it on a daily basis. Then when you realise that, think of how important it is for education to show how it can be used as a tool not just a source of entertainment.

Judy Bloxham                                                                                                                                                             Training Manager

See also: Why mobile devices are an absolute must in vocational learning
Tell me more about: Virtual Reality
Tell me more about: Augmented Reality

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