Published on Digital Development

Makers and education, part one: how are disruptive technologies affecting the way we educate?

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Girls learning how to design and make a toy with a laser cutter, which increases
interest in STEM career options. Photo: Saori Imaizumi/World Bank Group

Affordable, accessible technologies can democratize opportunities for EVERYONE to become innovators and inventors. Countries can take advantage of this opportunity to create new jobs, new industry and skilled workers to achieve further economic growth and increase competitiveness. Also, preparing citizens with problem solving skills and entrepreneurial mindsets helps solve various social problems in the country in an innovative manner.
In a 2013 report entitled “ Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” the McKinsey Global Institute identified 12 potentially economically disruptive technologies, including mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and advanced materials.
Team-based learning through
technologies. Photo: Saori
​Imaizumi/World Bank Group

​I touched upon how these disruptive technologies and low-cost technologies affect the pedagogy of skills development and education, as well as their implications for international development in my previous blogs ( New Technologies for Children Learning STEM/STEAM Subjects and the 21st Century Skills and What’s the implication of 3D printers for the World Bank’s mission?) and a feature story ( Communities of "Makers" Tackle Local Problems).
Elaborating on these posts, I will explore the topic on “how can kids, youth and adults prepare in response to rapid technological changes” from the pedagogy and institutional model perspectives. My analysis is derived from the lively discussion that I recently attended on “ Exploring 3D Printing for Development,” organized by IREX and my work at the World Bank.
The key for successfully taking advantage of disruptive technologies is not about learning how to use technologies but how teachers can teach differently using technologies.
To summarize lessons learned from the interviews and discussion with those who are involved in “makers and education,” space, bringing disruptive and emerging technologies (such as 3D printers, micro computers, micro electronic circuits, sensors and laser cutters) into a classroom is not only about developing skills for using new technologies, but also about behavioral changes in teaching and learning and development of new collaboration and partnership opportunities, which could potentially bring about innovation. Technologies will act as a catalyst for behavior change in teachers, students and schools.
In the table below, I’ve analyzed and showcased what behavior changes occur in teaching and learning style when bringing technologies into classrooms. The results show that these changes in pedagogy and learning style can help equip students with 21 st century skills, which are highly demanded in the labor market. The analysis is derived from the discussion with teachers, National Science Foundation scholars, a representative from the District of Columbia Public Library system and an online education course provider called “ Tech Change” that focuses on the use of technology for social change.
Table: How do technologies bring changes in teaching and learning?


Multidisciplinary learning
using a 3D printer (computer
programming + design software
+ cooking).
Photo: Saori Imaizumi/
​World Bank Group
So, how can these changes be applied to a school system and the curriculum? In both high-income and low-income countries, similar challenges exist: a lack of time and resources for teachers to learn new pedagogy and technologies, a lack of funding for infrastructural investment, limited space available for machines, and difficulties in getting buy-in from stakeholders to introduce new technologies.
In developing countries, extra challenges are added, such as limited access to broadband internet and electricity, access to raw materials to build machines, maintenance of machines and often extremely high student-teacher ratio, which inhibits teachers from instructing students in a thorough manner.
Despite these challenges, it is possible to bring new technologies into classrooms and teaching and learning to prepare the future citizens. This can be accomplished through leveraging available resources in the country, including public libraries, local telecenters, and non-profit and for-profit local innovation centers, as well as private sector resources through development of public-private partnerships.
In my next blog, I will introduce different institutional models integrating changes that technologies can bring into educational institutions.
I also look forward to hearing from those who are reading this blog about your experience on how technologies brought changes in teaching and learning styles, and what were the benefits and challenges from these changes.


Saori Imaizumi

Education Specialist (EdTech)

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