Technology is an ever-evolving element that impacts classrooms across the globe. In the not so distant past, today’s technologies would probably have seemed like science fiction. Now educators and districts are scrambling to keep learning environments up-to-date and relevant to best equip students for acquiring the skills needed when they enter tech-driven workplaces.
As new technological advancements are introduced and/or adapted for usage within educational communities, students become better prepared for whatever the future may hold. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition studied which developments are in line for becoming the norm within a five year tech growth window. Our three part series is taking a look at the three growth milestones presented.
Two to Three Years
In Part 1 of The Future of Technology in the Classroom, we looked at the tech developments that are already making an appearance and/or will be entering learning environments within the next year. The ability to tinker in makerspaces and supplement or differentiate curriculum with online learning are the first technological innovations shared in the Horizon Report. Moving beyond the one year window, the report’s experts determined two additional developments that are expected to hit mainstream usage within two to three years.
The concept of virtual reality is an amazing one that truly opens students’ eyes to a new way of viewing and interacting with curricular concepts. Until this point, virtual reality has typically been reserved for military operations and gaming, but the educational proponents of this technological development can do wonders within the classroom. Through a VR lens, students can explore faraway places, get lost in simulated worlds, interact with people and/or objects in computer-generated environments, etc. A student’s perspective on ideas that had previously been relegated to words on a page can now come to virtual life.
When all that theory is put into practice within a VR world, students experience higher levels of engagement and retention. A tiresome tour through a textbook becomes an engaging and memorable journey. With programs like Nearpod and Google Expeditions, the virtual reality breakthrough into mainstream environments is beginning to take place and will be another commonly accessed go-to component for integrating technology to enhance learning.
The STEM elements of robotics are finding their way into schools, but at this time, it’s typically via an after school or extension program that only impacts a handful of students. Report experts see the future of robotics moving from usage with a select few students to a high-interest tool that will impact the masses. The engaging nature of working with robotics and the computer science skills that are reinforced as students explore these technological devices make the benefits of using them a win-win for all.
While the hands-on practice for strengthening coding skills is an excellent learning outcome of working with robotics, educators are finding a host of other classroom uses for this technological development. The Horizon Report shares the successes of robotics usage with students on the autism spectrum, ELL, and a host of other STEM applications. With proper training and curricular integration ideas, robotics can become a valuable teaching and learning tool with innumerable impacts on a wide variety of learners.
While these technological developments may sound familiar, they may not have a familiar presence within classrooms at this time. As the access to materials and training become more widespread so will the benefits of integrating elements like virtual reality and robotics. The final two developments that are expected to see hit the mainstream scene within the next five years will be the focus of Part Three of our The Future of Technology in the Classroom series.