MEI LIN LOW discusses why technology should matter to every educator in 2017.
With 2017 curriculum planning almost complete for the start of the academic year, technology and its role within classrooms is high on the agenda for educators. Like all industries, the education sector is experiencing rapid change. However, while change is exciting, there are significant challenges to be addressed, if recent ‘report cards’ are anything to go by.
The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 highlighted gaps within the New Zealand education system. Although some of the results in the study showed positive gains in areas like science, more work is needed to address New Zealand’s education inequity.
Additionally, Polycom recently undertook its own Education 2025 study. Within ANZ it identified three inhibitors to creating a more positive education future: funding; the curriculum not keeping pace with future workforce needs, and the lack of government support.
A guide to the top 2017 edu-tech trends making an impact
As we know, schools and colleges are under increasing pressure to deliver technology enhanced learning particularly in areas like maths and science. Here are my thoughts on what technologies we should expect to see more of within classrooms during the next 12 months:
1.) Virtual reality
Delivering deeper engagement than a traditional textbook, virtual reality inside the classroom promotes content-rich learning and social interaction. It provides context in learning because the visual element of virtual reality enhances the relationships between concepts and information much better than reading alone. Tools like Google Cardboard are both a platform and a product to experience and encourage interest in virtual reality.
2.) Augmented reality
Witness the cult-like popularity of Pokémon Go. Augmented reality, which superimposes digital content, including hologram images, onto a user’s view of what they see is still relatively new. Unlike virtual reality, it allows the user to ‘maintain control’ of their environment by seeing the real world around them. Improvements in the performance and cost of solutions like Microsoft HoloLens (think first generation iPod versus latest iPod) will drive this technology into the mainstream.
3.) ‘Learn from anywhere, teach from anywhere’ mobile devices
While smart devices like tablets and smartphones are not new in themselves, they continue to gain in popularity as learning tools for students and educators. Offering ‘learn from anywhere’ accessibility, smart devices are also expected to play a significant role in bridging the education inequalities highlighted by PISA. However, the flip side to widespread availability is increased user familiarity and therefore a higher expectation of ‘what can I do’. To drive user adoption, smart devices and supporting apps will need to adapt to this ‘learn from anywhere, teach from anywhere’ mindset.
4.) Collaboration technology
Widespread accessibility to ultra-fast broadband (UFB) and HD video is changing the way education is delivered. Improvements in equity of access are enabling remote-based students to receive the same education as their city-based peers. Having access to ultra-HD 4k video content inside and outside the classroom is also expected to become a popular way for students to engage with content, experts and each other.
Computer games are reinventing themselves as credible education tools. Popular games like Minecraft are teaching creativity, collaboration and problem solving. Gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students, bringing game design and elements into the learning environment. For example, gaming accessories like Osmo convert any iPad into a learning device that enables children to discover a wide range of subjects from mathematics to coding, art to critical thinking.
Coding continues to grow in popularity as the curriculum catches up with education innovation. Learning coding skills helps children to develop critical thinking skills and problem solving processes that are not only important in computer science, but also in life. Teaching them how to look at the bigger picture, breaking down big challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. More emphasis is expected on areas like coding and programming to ensure that students understand how to program and interact with technology.
7.) The Maker Movement
This refers to the students who are becoming the creators and inventors of tomorrow. Already they are using technology as tools to bring their innovative concepts and ideas to life. The availability of ‘maker tools’ such as 3D printers and Raspberry Pi motherboards is playing a key role in driving this movement. It allows children to take what they’ve learned at school and test their theories by making prototypes or real-life models of their vision.
As these 2017 edu-tech trends indicate, the way we learn, teach and collaborate as educational professionals is set to change significantly. While no one can ever predict the future with absolute accuracy, we can plan for likely outcomes. There’s no denying that the ability to deliver accessible education for all, which is meaningful and relevant to the students of today – our future workforce – will be crucial.