The power of technology to enrich young people’s lives cannot be overstated, and in no environment is this more obvious than the modern classroom. Right across the UK and indeed the world, teachers and their students are embracing new, tech-infused ways of learning.
Just as personal computers revolutionised learning back in the 1990s, a new wave of gadgets and concepts are helping to transform teaching for the better. Below are a few examples to look out for in the new year.
Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality – or VR – is all the rage at present. Various big-name tech manufacturers released their own headsets in 2016, including Sony, Microsoft and Samsung, and aside from being a lot of fun for consumers, these devices have plenty of potential in the classroom.
Instead of relying on their imaginations to make dull history books more exciting, pupils can step into mind-blowingly immersive virtual worlds to learn (almost) first hand. It may be the recreation of an ancient Egyptian tomb, or perhaps a famous historic battle scene – whatever the content, VR promises a lot more engagement than its conventional equivalents.
We’re in the early days of a new VR era, so the quality of content will only improve going forward.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is becoming more powerful by the day, and by the look of this survey, the business world knows it. In education, much of the potential lies in its ability to replicate human attention – one of the classroom’s most valuable but sometimes scarcest commodities.
The AI-fuelled tools out there at present can help to cover the fundamental elements of subjects like maths and English, giving teachers extra time to spend where they see fit. As we move forward and these aids become more sophisticated, they may be able to help with more high-order thinking and creativity. Watch this space.
Marking is another consideration. Artificially intelligent bots that can recognise things like sentence structures and even just basic mathematic equations will be able to automate the process, once again giving teachers more valuable time.
This certainly isn’t a new trend, but it’s one that shows no sign of slowing down.
The ever-growing popularity of mobile devices has led many schools to increase their reliance on smartphones and tablets. Most young people are already adept with mobile technologies, having grown up using them, and while it’s important not to encourage constant use, there’s a huge and clear opportunity to boost engagement among students.
The key is to use the right applications, and there are plenty to consider for both Android and iOS devices. Lots are free but that’s not to say the paid-for programs should be shunned – many are worth the expense.
Once again, this is about providing an engaging, fun-to-use and intuitive alternative to traditional textbooks. That ties in nicely with our next trend…
Gaming is huge business these days, and while setting up Call of Duty in the classroom might not be a good idea, teachers can use some of the medium’s elements as part of the learning process.
Gamification is the application of competition and challenges to learning. It’s about making the process fun, and therefore more engaging. The foreign language courses provided by Duolingo are a great example – they challenge users to remember new words and complete sentences, giving points upon completion. The user then feels as though they’ve achieved something, and is spurred on to return and collect more points.
The approach may be particularly popular in languages, but it can work well in any subject area. Maths teachers can use mini games to help their students learn algebra processes, for instance, and science teachers can make the periodic table easier to remember.
Schools and academies have a certain responsibility to encourage active, healthy lifestyles, and while technology is often blamed for doing the exact opposite for young people, it can be used for good.
Wearable devices such as smartwatches and GPS trackers can be used in physical education programmes to keep pupils interested in their health. Rather than just pitting children against one another, teachers can encourage them to improve on their own achievements.
The data produced by these devices can be used to highlight progress, which again, encourages more engagement. So, with prices coming down and technology improving, we could well see bigger investments in wearables.
The digital revolution
These are just some of the technologies likely to impact the education sector in the coming year – there are more. Social media, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) could also play a big part. What’s more, many of these concepts will work hand in hand to provide even more fruitful learning opportunities.
Bringing lots of costly new tech equipment into the classroom doesn’t come without challenges, however. Head teachers and staff must be ready to manage these expanding asset collections, accounting for all devices to ensure investments aren’t wasted. This is where asset management software is particularly useful – it makes the deployment and auditing of technologies like those above extremely simple, so you can focus on providing better education rather than completing extra admin.
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