9 Education Technology Trends and How They Will Change Learning
Education is universally seen as the bedrock of a civil and advanced society. In recent years, thanks to a rising number of education technology trends, there have been concerted efforts to improve the quality of education and increase access to educational resources.
The internet has been a crucial part of these efforts, helping millions of people all over the world get the same education resources as students in top level universities. The dominance of stuffy traditional classrooms is fast fading, replaced by innovative and interactive new technologies. Less than a decade from now, education will have made enormous advances in terms of quality and access. This will in turn have an impact on every other field from medicine to rocket science.
To have a glimpse of the kind of future we are flying toward, here is a look at the most notable emerging innovations in education.
1. VR and AR
Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies have made big gains in the last one year. From a niche technology designed for nerds and tech enthusiasts, VR and AR have gone on to garner mainstream popularity.
Samsung, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have come out as some of the top brands in these two fields. Currently, virtual reality has been mostly focused on gaming and entertainment. But tech experts are starting to realize just how valuable these novel education technology trends are in learning and education. We have seen some quite innovative applications of VR headsets and AR glasses in classrooms.
Microsoft Hololens has already proven to be an invaluable tool in teaching medical courses. Instead of just reading about the human body or looking at pictures in a book, they can actually see a 3D visualization of every body part, including the internal organs. They can see the heart beating, the blood flowing, the muscles contracting and relaxing and so on.
A VR headset like Oculus or the simpler Google Daydream VR could help learners experience other places and cultures more realistically without having to leave the classroom. For younger learners, AR and VR can be used to show them what wild animals actually look like, how the solar system works, how volcanoes form and so on.
This form of interactive and hyper realistic learning is bound to have a much bigger on the quality of education. Not only will they remember what they are taught, they will develop passions in various fields from early on. They will be more passionate about going to space, becoming doctors, saving the planet because they can actually experience these things virtually.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Students at the Georgia Institute of Technology thought they had a very helpful and clever teaching assistant, and they did. They knew her as Jill Watson. She answered questions and gave students important updates via a discussion forum.
But the TA they knew as Jill Watson was actually an AI program developed by IBM. Powered by IBM Watson, the virtual TA was able to fool most of the students. Most importantly, it gave a glimpse of a future where AI is integrated into education.
As AI gets smarter and more intuitive, it will complement the traditional human teacher. By studying a student’s performance, an AI program might be able to automatically determine the problem areas and act as an afterschool tutor. With time, AI might even be able to teach an entire classroom and even interact with the learners.
It is not completely unreasonable to find that a few decades from today, lecturers in universities will be unnecessary. An AI teacher will be able to do everything they do today and then some.
It can teach a class of 200 and still manage to focus on each and every student. It can pull together additional information like no other lecturer can. At lower education levels, human teachers may still be necessary with AI providing complementary lessons or even assisting the teacher during the lesson.
AI will also help in managing vast amounts of data to help in research and improvement of learning methods.
There have been endless criticisms of current educational methods and standards from the inefficiencies of testing to the need for more customized learning approaches. The integration of AI into education might just solve some of the most pressing problems facing our learners today.
3. Real Time Collaboration
Interaction is at the center of quality learning. Teachers need to interact with their students, teachers need to interact with other teachers and students need to interact with other students. This interaction can happen within the same physical location or it can traverse across cities and even countries.
By interacting and collaborating, teachers and students are able to share ideas and in the process improve the quality of learning. The internet has become the main facilitator of collaboration among education stakeholders. It allows individuals in the same facility or continents away to work together virtually.
Various tools aimed at providing a robust and fun collaboration platform have sprouted everywhere:
- With Google Docs you can write documents or fill in sheets data together.
- With ePals, students can learn together in a global classroom.
- With Emaze, kids can come together to create beautiful presentations.
- Other platforms include Wikispaces, Genius, Chalkup, Google Hangouts and Scoot & Doodle.
The aim of most of these collaboration tools is to introduce aspects of fun and teamwork in learning, two things that are often severely lacking in the traditional classroom. With the AI education technology trends discussed in the previous point, you might even find an AI teacher handling an online collaborative class.
4. 3D Printing
The third industrial revolution is what they call it. 3D printing holds the potential of completely upending the relationship between consumers and manufacturers. As 3D printers get cheaper and better, you will be able to print almost anything at home from dinner plates to toys for your kids.
3D printing is also expected to make monumental impact in the medical industry, thanks to the ability to print organs such as the kidney, heart and prosthetics.
But what we are interested in is how it will change education. Imagine a class where students are learning geography and the subject of the day is the lunar landscape. Instead of just reading about all the craters and trenches, they print out a 3D representation representing the rugged nature of the moon’s surface.
If on another day they are learning about the heart and its function, they could print out an actual 3D representation and see all the veins and arteries upclose.
In higher education, students could play around with 3D printing to invent new products and print out prototypes.
Like VR, 3D printing helps inject more realism into learning. Instead of just reading and seeing things on a boring textbook, you create real life object to make learning more fun and productive.
Wearables is another area that has enjoyed a bloom in 2016 alongside VR. Smartwatches and fitness bands have led the way with brands like Fitbit, Samsung and Apple leading the market. It might not seem so but wearables have a role to play in the classroom.
One of the obvious applications is in sports and fitness. Kids could learn how to take their own fitness metrics and work at maintaining a healthy level of fitness. In formal learning environments, wearable devices can be used as complementary learning devices.
Smartwatches for instance, could be loaded with educational apps to help students learn on the go. Or they could help improve real time collaboration and interactions among learners and educators. Some current applications of wearables in education include;
- Duolingo – an app available for Android Wear smartwatches. It helps students learn and practice various languages including Spanish, Italian and German.
- Mover Kit – this is an electronic kit that kids can code to do different things. It can be worn as a smartwatch, a necklace pendant or attached to a bike among other things.
- LeapBand – a colorful activity tracker designed for kids between 4 to 7 years in age.
6. Cloud Computing
Also referred to as SaaS or Software-as-a-Service, could computing is fast catching on in the education sector. It holds a lot of benefits for schools. For one, it reduces hardware needs for institutions that want to improve their students’ access to technological resource.
With the cloud, you can access as many resources as you need and store as much information as you want with no worry about getting extra hardware.
You will find cloud computing platforms that offer automatic updates and management of software, which significantly lessens the IT load on your school. This allows even small skills with limited IT knowhow to take advantage of cloud-based resources.
Cloud computing can be used in real time student collaborations, to create vast online libraries for schools and to create centralized learning hubs.
7. Open Source Platforms
Have you heard about MOOCs? You might know them better as Massive Open Online Courses. These are online courses aimed at unlimited online access globally. These courses take content taught in traditional universities and make it available online for whoever would like to learn. These include filmed lectures, course notes and problem sets.
The emergence of open source platforms has been touted as one of the biggest developments in educational technology.
It has opened up quality education to millions of enthusiastic learners from all over the globe. People from developing countries can now learn courses taught in top-level universities like Stanford and Harvard.
The most notable open source platforms include:
Some of these platforms have begun issuing real certificates (for a fee) to improve the credibility of their graduates to potential employers.
More and more, education is getting out of the classrooms. Platforms such as the ones listed above are providing an alternative for people who cannot or do not want to attend a traditional classroom. They are cheaper and the quality of education is more or less the same as the one you would get in a physical lecture hall.
Adding aspects of gaming to learning has been show to increase motivation, improve memory and help students learn more. Simple things like awarding badges or points for tasks accomplished and new things learned can motivate students to work even harder.
You can also create mini tournaments that push students to practice more and get better at their subjects.
There is a lot of research and education technology trends nowadays that educators can use to integrate gamification into learning. In fact, it does not have to be limited to a single classroom or school.
Developments like cloud computing, open source platforms and collaboration tools allows learners to go up against other learners in other cities or countries.
9. Flexible Displays
We have been hearing about foldable and rollable displays for years now but they never seem to materialize into a proper consumer product. It seems like tech companies are not yet confident enough to implement such displays in their devices. But in the near future, flexible displays could make a big impact in the classroom.
OLED-based displays will become commonplace in the classroom with students being able to take notes, draw images and read content without having to carry any extra books to class. Most importantly, flexible displays will allow students to interact with the content they are reading. They can pinch, zoom and swipe, all things you cannot do with paper.
After the class is over, students can just fold or roll up the displays and stuff them in their pockets until the next sessions. These displays will largely replace traditional paper and pen. You can write all your class notes on it, do your art design on it, read your economics book on it and during leisure time, watch funny cat videos on it.
Education Technology Trends – Tomorrow’s Classroom
If you look at most of these education technology trends, you will notice one uniting thread; they are drawing learning away from traditional classroom-based methods and into new realms that encourage immersion, collaboration, interaction and customization.
When you think about it, how we learn has not changed much in centuries and maybe it is time we changed things up a bit. After all, the demands on our educational system today are far much heavier than in 1400.
We want to colonize Mars, extend the human lifespan, kick out all diseases and other lofty goals. Perhaps a shift to newer education technology trends such as those described above will put our education system more in step with the needs and demands on the modern world.
What do you think tomorrow’s classroom will look like? Leave your comment below.
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