You probably learned every organ in the body from a textbook, and your grade depended on recalling what the pancreas does and the difference between the large and small intestines. It’s fair to say that times have changed.
In classrooms across America, teachers are presenting subjects in new ways and students are immersing themselves in individually crafted lessons due to the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets and the introduction of virtual reality (VR) and other technologies. Thanks to the advent of these technologies, teachers have changed the classroom environment to accommodate their students’ learning preferences.
What some might think of as “the classroom of the future” is already here. Here are three tech trends many schools are adopting that will shape the classroom of the not-too-distant future:
1. The explosion of experiential learning technology: VR is poised to become one of the biggest developments in education. Students will “live” out their lessons. Here’s how VR might work in different classrooms:
- After reading passages and discussing together as a class, students will be able to act out book scenes in a digital environment in real time.
- In history class, students can “walk” through historic cities and experience ancient societies with a digital teacher acting as the tour guide.
- In math and engineering courses, students can build, move, and resize shapes as they learn complex geometry and design principles.
3D scanning and printing technologies give students more ways to unleash their potential. Used in the classroom, 3D printing helps teachers and students understand and develop real design concepts. Additionally, students can draw schematics, blueprints, and prototypes that can be scanned into a computer and printed as 3D objects.
2. Creating a more connected classroom: Mobile devices, coupled with better wireless connectivity and cloud technologies, are creating the most connected classrooms ever. Now, teachers can mirror their lessons onto students’ devices, as well as share a student’s work with classmates instantly. Some additional advantages of a truly wireless workspace include:
- Promoting a modular physical space that can be changed to accommodate lessons.
- Improving curriculum quality and content sharing among teachers.
- Setting the foundation for introducing new kinds of hardware to the classroom.
Additionally, a wireless environment reduces hardware refreshes, which in turn saves the school money. Parents and government stakeholders expect their schools to stay future-proof — to prepare children for jobs that have not yet been invented. To maintain high standards under restrictive budgets, schools are fighting back with innovative device solutions that can best be accomplished through a wireless infrastructure. Below are some examples:
- 1-to-1 devices (provided by the school district) that a student carries with them from kindergarten to senior year of high school.
- 1-to-1 devices provided by the school, but insured by parents.
- BYOD programs that allow students to tap into the school Wi-Fi. This frees the school from paying for devices entirely, but creates other issues regarding security and management. Special considerations must also be in place to accommodate low-income or special needs students.
- 1-to-1 devices or BYOD blended with virtual desktop infrastructure relieves primary computing power from the device (all cloud-hosted applications) so the hardware lasts longer.
Schools that make the necessary but sometimes difficult preparations now, even those with limited resources, open more opportunities for themselves in the future.
3. Learning has become more active than ever: The teacher’s role as “sage on the stage” is transforming into that of a “guiding mentor.” Today, many educators are embracing a more active and immersive style of instruction by harnessing the newest tools to improve their teaching style. With improvements in classroom technology, teachers are free to invent non-traditional lesson plans that help students learn in new ways and retain more knowledge.
- Interactive surfaces, boards, and projectors allow students to write notes, research across the internet, and share screens with peers to communicate and solve problems — all at the same time.
- Digital classroom management solutions enable teachers to track students with great precision. As students input their answers and show their work digitally, a classroom management application allows the teacher to tend to a student’s needs directly without disrupting the lesson or embarrassing the struggling student.
- Moveable carts and furniture are saving school districts millions of dollars as they pursue 1-to-1 device initiatives, and schools are taking it one step further: Moveable charging carts are the bridge that’s helping schools transition to charging desks in the future.
The future of education exists today
For years, teachers relied on a textbook to teach algebra. Now, the information in the book is supplemented by millions of websites with new equations and videos explaining concepts in greater detail. Students can share their work with their fellow classmates after just a few clicks.
Technology is pushing education in new directions, and the classroom of the future is really built on technology that’s already in a student’s hands. Students are creating their own video games, using apps to learn how sound waves travel, and 3D printing to understand math and engineering concepts. These tools, and many others, are bringing new lessons to the classroom that weren’t dreamed of a generation ago.
SHI will display and demo many of these technologies at this summer’s ISTE in Denver from June 27 through 29. We look forward to discussing implementation strategies with you at our booth (#1741).
Sophie Marinelli contributed to this post.