D. Frank Smith Frank is a social media journalist for the CDW family of technology magazine websites. (http://www.edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2015/12/5-tech-trends-could-supercharge-education-2016)
The technologies of tomorrow are already making headway into education, and others are poised for mass distribution in 2016. The technologies of tomorrow are already being tested in select classrooms today, laying the seeds for the future of how students could learn. A few of these technologies have already made headway into education, and others are poised for mass distribution, with the promise of ground-shaking change in their wake.
Virtual Reality (VR) Adds New Dimension to Learning
VR is shaping up to be one of the largest technology turf wars of 2016. The immersive power of this technology has also caught the eye of Jon Phillips, managing director of strategy for worldwide education at Dell. Phillips tells EdTech that experiential learning can teach complex problems in a different way than traditional education methods of today.
3D Printing’s Audience on Track for Growth3D printers have already broken through in education, helping students bring their ideas to life or put their hands on concepts that previously lived only in textbooks. But 2016 could prove to be a transformative year for the technology as the devices become more affordable and the barrier to entry continues to drop.
A community of tinkerers, programmers and students are fostering makerspaces — local labs armed with 3D printers and fabrication tools — across the country. Spaces like these are urging learners to develop new engineering skills that could become the bedrock for an industry that’s still being pioneered.
Internet of Things Finds Its Place (IoT)
The number of connected technologies we use each day continues to multiply, and unless Moore’s Law is disproved, they will continue to shrink, unlocking new uses for connectivity, changing how our lives are networked with technology.
For a glimpse at the future, look no further than how companies are gearing up to invest in the IoT. International Data Corp. projects that IoT spending will leap from the $655.8 billion seen in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020, the same year that Gartner Inc. predicts 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet.
Today, the IoT applications for education are still being explored, with some classrooms dabbling in gesture-based controls feeding data to Internet-connected devices. But the potential for the technology looms across a variety of applications.
Wearables Court Mainstream Status
The current star of the Internet of Things concept, wearable technology, still has a lot to prove to educators. Analysts at New Media Consortium (NMC) predict it will be widespread in classrooms in about four years, but there are already examples of the technology making waves in education.
In 2015, UNICEF launched Kid Power, a fitness program that tracked the steps of about 10,000 students while they wore fitness bands. Participants accrued points for walking, which were then converted into monetary donations to purchase food packets for malnourished children.
“Wearables not only assist students, but also offer many benefits to educators. From pinging students’ GPS locations during a field trip to recording point-of-view lessons, teachers have more options to monitor and engage with students. And this engagement can also translate to communication between educators, giving them more options for collaboration,” according to the K-12 Tech Decisions blog.
Tech Gets Smarter, Becomes More Interactive
Analysts see robotics serving a more hands-on role in the classroom. Constance Smith of Frog, a design firm, says robotic toys are capable of changing how special-education students learn in the classroom.
“In the future, we’ll see a rise in robotic toys that serve counselors and playmates to children with various learning disabilities like Autism. Studies have shown that AI toys are extremely effective in getting withdrawn ASD kids in engaging in personal, playful interactions. Special Education departments will soon have whole classrooms of intelligent toys to play with,” Smith writes.
Meanwhile, connected devices like the programmable robot Sphero are already working well in the classroom, reports K-12 educator Sam Patterson. It just takes the right lesson plan to unlock their potential, he says.
“There are hundreds of other great ways to use these robots to support student learning. My advice is get one and put it into the hands of students — see what they can do. Build challenges and celebrate failure. Learning can be hard but fun, and these robots make integration easy,” Patterson writes in an EdTech blog.