Trends in Tech: How Schools Can Access the Future, Now
Technology has been changing the way teachers instruct and the way classes are held. It will introduce some interesting changes in the future of education. What does the future hold? Consider some up-and-coming possibilities:
Holography was just science fiction a few years ago, but it's now becoming a reality in some fields, such as medicine. This imaging technique, which allows one to see a 3-D view of an image, has yet to become a part of everyday classroom activities. Holography introduced in classroom activities would change entirely how some subjects are taught. Biology, physics, astronomy, and chemistry could be taught on an entirely different level.
Experiential education has been used as an instructional method for years. Field trips have always been a way to introduce students to real-world issues, and to experience what they have learned and studied from books. Technology using virtual reality has introduced new levels of experiential education. Virtual 3-D worlds allow students and teachers to visit places that would have been impossible to visit without it. They can go to space, deserts, or foreign countries without physically traveling there.
Bring Your Own Device
Bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives represent a reversal from schools' original stance on mobile devices. Instead of asking students to put smartphones or tablets away during class time, teachers and administrators are starting to encourage those devices in public school settings. Integrating the technology that students already own and use is an affordable approach to digital forms of learning. Of course, not every student has access to a personal mobile device, but this change of mindset shifts learning control from school officials to the hands of the student user.
Natural User Interfaces
In its simplest definition, a natural user interface (NUI) uses the body's movements to provide outcomes. In the consumer market, examples of NUIs include the Nintendo® WiiTM, Xbox KinectTM, and the iPhone virtual assistant, Siri. The potential in the field of K-12 education is still being realized but will certainly lead to developments in the next half-decade. Students who are blind, deaf, or have physical disabilities or autism can better learn through use of this still-evolving technology.
Personal Learning Environments
With a focus on allowing students to choose resources, often through electronic formats, personal learning environments (PLEs) provide individual learning that fits students' own style and pace. If implemented correctly, students will be empowered to create their own learning futures and reflect on the way these tools impact academic and life success. For public schools to completely embrace this philosophy, cloud computing and mobile device technology needs to be in place. PLEs need to be portable and easily accessed to really provide an academic advantage.
The Internet seems to have changed the preeminence of the printed page. When doing a research project, students rarely use a book to look for information. It's more difficult and takes more time than using Internet tools, where you can go to a specialized Web site using a search engine and read only what's relevant to your search. All of the books needed for school can be carried virtually, using a tablet computer, an e-reader, or similar reading device, or using smartphones. The advantages of carrying hundreds of pages in your pocket (with instant access to millions more) instead of carrying a heavy bag full of books are evident.
When it comes to greater educational collaboration, cloud computing has unlimited potential. This is true for teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-parent, and teacher-to-student applications. By using a common location, academic expectations can be better accessed, along with actual student work. Instructors can also share learning materials and experiences through the remote opportunities that cloud computing provides.
An evolving concept in K-12 classrooms, learning analytics essentially show students what they have achieved and how those goals match up with their peers. If implemented correctly, this technology has the potential to warn teachers early of academic issues while keeping students more accountable. Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences.
Also known as prototyping, 3-D printing technology will allow K-12 students to create tangible models for their ideas. Many fields, like manufacturing, already make use of this technology to determine the effectiveness of ideas on a smaller, printable scale. In education, this technology will bolster creativity and innovation, along with science and math applications.
These Web applications give students the chance to perform physical science experiments over and over, from anywhere with Internet access. As in a physical lab, the performance of the student will determine the results of the experiment. While not a replacement for all in-lab exercises, the virtual version can provide extra practice and guidance. There is no pressure to "get it right" on the first run, and mistakes are allowable because the technology lends itself to no-cost repetition. It also may prove a smart solution to rekindling the American public's interest in the scientific.
While some of these technologies are still in the realm of the hypothetical, several of them are available now. Check out local science groups, maker-fairs, and other tech-savvy gatherings for ideas and inspiration on bringing the future to your students, now.