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Meet the students who were the best at “The future of technology in education” essay competition

June 19th, 2017


Meet the students who were the best at “The future of technology in education” essay competition

Catherine Vigil, a 19 year old girl from the biggest city in the state of New Mexico in the US, at this time, probably is ±2220 miles away from her home. And the reason for this is simple – Catherine is studying Biology and Systems Theory at Harvard University. Despite intense studies, she found time to write an essay worth the 1st place in CGTrader’s Annual Essay Competition.

Catherine Vigil, 1st place winner

Meet the students who were the best at “The future of technology in education” essay competition 1

It is really exciting for CGTrader to be organizing only a second competition and getting almost a thousand essays analysing and discussing different aspects of how modern technologies will affect future learning. We are really grateful to everyone l, who participated in this competition and dedicated time to polishing essays– we hope this is not time wasted for you and was a mind-challenging experience.

Winning the competition means Catherine will be rewarded $2,000 in cash prize for the educational bills and hopefully an even bigger motivation to pursue the dreams, take chances and believe in own ideas. This contest is certainly not the last one and we will be announcing the theme for the next edition shortly - who knows, maybe you will be the next master of writing?

You can read Catherine’s essay here. In the meantime, let’s learn a bit more about the contest winner Catherine Vigil and her interesting view on some thought provoking questions.

Can you share 3 activities you like doing and 3 you don’t enjoy that much. Is writing actually among your favorites?

Absolutely! I have always been really active in theater and drama, so I suppose acting, directing, and singing are probably the first things I would say I enjoy doing. Writing is definitely one of my favorite activities – I really love how it helps the mind process ideas and get into a creative zone – but for lack of time, I don’t write as much as I would like to outside of school. Lately I have also been getting into rock climbing.

What is your dream job?

My dream job? That is a tough question. I think what is difficult for me is that I have many dream jobs, and I would love to be able to do them all at once. I would really like to be involved in scientific research (probably some sort of biology, neuroscience, or systems theory kind of thing) but it is also very important to me that I have a creative outlet like theater or music. So I suppose my dream job would be a scientist who makes youtube videos, theater, and sings in a band.

It’s highly valuable these days to be not only a programmer, but to be a programmer who can, for instance, picture his ideas via graphic design. You also support the idea of multi-disciplinarity and relations between fields. What fields and relations are the most interesting to you personally? Have you ever considered about not the idea of a cooperation of different-thinking persons, but about versatile human which is trained by technologies?

Yes! I find that to be a very exciting possibility. Like I said in the essay, I think that technology is going to help us (and already is!) find connections between things we have forgotten might be related. Personally, I find both science and the humanities to be fascinating fields, and I actually believe that at the core of things there is a huge difference between them – just different methods of understanding the natural world. Right now I find Systems Theory or Systems Science to be a really fascinating field, and one that both utilizes and can be applied to computer science, biology, social science, economics, mathematics…all sorts of things. I hope to learn more about complex systems in college.

Holodeck scenario is , as you have said, the first thing that pops in your mind when thinking about technology. Is this your vision of an ideal future or simply something you believe is the most likely to break through?

I think it is a major possibility, given how games and entertainment generally seem to have been striving to become more and more realistic from the start. Still, I think that it is sometimes difficult to predict what technology will suddenly become more accessible and exciting to consumers. For me, having grown up with consoles like the connect and wii, and being a curious student - it would certainly be exciting possibility. I’m sure it would come with its own problems, too.

You speak a lot about help of magic-wand devices while learning, but smartphones are also often the reason of distraction, and concentration is one of the vital skills when studying. How people will deal with that in the future, or maybe the learning process will change to somewhat adapted to small bits of information?

That’s a great question. Although our changing (probably, shortening) attention spans are a source of issues when focusing academically or otherwise, I tend to think that just as with anything else our minds and learning strategies will adapt to the change. As for how long that will take – I have no idea. Maybe schools will have shorter class periods or assign a different kind of classwork. Perhaps the distraction factor is part of the reason fidget spinners have become so popular?

You state that technology help to store information freeing brain capacity, do you think that people’s ability to absorb information can grow?

Wow, that is a tough one, and it comes down to a bunch of different factors including some neuroscience I am definitely not qualified to talk about. I think it depends a lot on how closely our brains actually resemble computers. Does it all basically come down to basic input/output, or is there something more going on? Do we have a “storage capacity” (I think I remember reading somewhere that the human brain storage capacity has been estimated?). Personally, I am inclined to believe that our ability to absorb information can grow, and that perhaps the more we read, process, and absorb, the more we are capable.


There 2nd and 3rd places were awarded to Teo Jun Yean from Singapore and Andrew Jou from the US. While Teo is studying Public Policy and Global Affairs in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Andrew is enrolled in a Computer Science program in University of Michigan.

Probably this wasn’t the first time when you thought about the impact of technologies in future learning, but how often do you indeed think about that and how do you feel about technology - are you more scared or excited?
Theo: I am very excited about the possibilities that technology can bring to us, not only in education but in every other field. But at the same time, I am afraid that the business-driven mindset of technology today can drown out the other possibilities for technology, especially if they do not have a viable business model. Using VR to teach greater empathy for example, may not be something that can churn out profits, but is undeniably a public good that we are in greater need of today. Will such public goods ever reach the masses anytime soon? I am afraid that it won't, but I do hope I am wrong.


Thero Juneyand, the winner of he 2nd place

Meet the students who were the best at “The future of technology in education” essay competition 2

Andrew: Having grown up in the 21st century, the usage of technology in classrooms was a commonly accepted reality, one so ingrained into how our generation learns that no one really stops to question it. Because of how widespread and accepted its presence was, I never really thought much about it. However, the recent growth of technology has given me quite a bit of excitement on how it'll evolve in the future. In just the last ten years alone, technological development has allowed us to do things we wouldn't even have imagined twenty, thirty years ago. It has revolutionized nearly every aspect of our lives, from communication to leisure, turning mundane experiences into exciting ones, difficult tasks into simple ones, lengthy processes into efficient ones. I'm all but certain that the field of education will not be spared this reorganization of the very means through which we live our lives. While I am cognizant of the fact that technology can be distracting and, at times, diverge ourselves from the educational progress for which it was designed, I do believe that the benefits from technology's presence outweigh the costs. I do understand that some people may be scared about the rapid technological development our society has experienced in the past few decades. It's a common concern that, maybe one day, technological prowess will exceed the intellectual capacity of humans; I've seen way too many science fiction stories detailing an eventual machine takeover in the future. Or maybe the technology of the future will be so good that it renders human intelligence worthless in comparison, leading our future progeny to lives of laziness and short-term pleasures that will doom our species to an eventual intellectual and academic collapse. But these fears, while possible, just do not reflect the way I believe things will play out in the short-term. Maybe this technological "encroachment" may be an area of concern in the future, but as of now, the growth of technology in the field of education still has much to give us. And because of this, I see no real reason to be scared of technology — or at least so much so that it overrides the excitement that comes with the potential our creations can give toward enhancing the intellectual lives of those who follow us.

Andrew Zhou, 3rd place winner in the essay competition

Meet the students who were the best at “The future of technology in education” essay competition 3


What is your biggest wish about the progress of technology?
Theo: I wish that governments and civil society can take the lead to set the future direction for technology, and not let the discourse be dominated solely by tech firms or venture capitalists. This way, the applications of technology will not be limited solely by whether or not they are profitable, but instead progress beyond the profit-driven approach we see now.

Andrew: While it may seem exciting to muse about the potential benefits that technology may bring to us in the future, my biggest wish about the progress of technology relates not to its growth but rather its access. I hope that, in the future, we will be able to deliver all the benefit that we currently reap from technology to other, less fortunate areas of the world for a cheap price with easy accessibility. Everyone is better off with access to technology that can improve lives and learning, and such an accomplishment is not beyond the realm of possibility either. Even today, much as been done to spread technological resources around the world and lessen the disparity between technology "haves" and "have-nots." In my opinion, technological growth is a given; in just the past few decades, we have obtained more technological progress in the way we live than the human race had ever accomplished in many centuries. But the rate of technological growth is dependent on the innovators of the world who bring their unique insights and creativity to solving the most demanding problems of our time. And the larger we spread our resources, the more perspectives, ideas, and skills we may find, and the faster we may race toward building a better, more technologically advanced future.

Thanks to the winners for their extensive answers, and thanks to everyone who participated! We have just announced the topic for our next scholarship, so don't miss a chance to join!

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