Technology has transformed the classroom over the past decade. Computers, smart boards and laser cutters - which were once few and far between - are now commonplace thanks to the £900m spent on education tech every year. These changes have gone a long way in creating a more engaging learning experience, but the next wave of developments will take things to the next level, by creating more sensory experiences that help educators convey concepts to students in new, hands-on ways. So what should your school be looking to invest in? Here are three top choices.
1. The power of virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) has the power to immerse users in a completely new environment. When applied to education, it can enable students to virtually visit a broad range of places and see theories conceptualised in a highly immersive way, all from their classroom. For example, VR headsets are being used by schools in Dubai to virtually transport students to Egypt, where they can measure the bases of pyramids.
With the appropriate financial investment, this technology could easily be instituted in the UK and used for the same purpose in a whole host of subjects. Students could take a virtual trip inside a live volcano for Geography, or go on a tour of the human heart when learning about its structure in Biology. Anything is possible, and everything will deliver a sensory, interactive and highly engaging learning opportunity.
2. The potential of smart materials
Over the next couple of years, we can expect to see intelligent surfaces and smart fabrics make their entrance onto the classroom stage. These will build on existing smartboard technology by turning any wall or tabletop into an interactive canvas for collaborative learning. For instance, it could be used in a Maths class to enable students to work together on a problem, facilitating not only academic development but also social skills.
3. The use of 3D printing
3D printing provides numerous possibilities for creating tailored, multi-dimensional learning tools that can bring experiences normally only accessible outside the classroom inside its walls. For instance, it would be financially and logistically impossible for most students studying Ancient Egypt to travel to Cairo to see the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. However, with 3D printing they could not only print a replica - bringing them face-to-face with the history they’re studying - but also handle the object, which is impossible with real artefacts.
As 3D printing technology improves, so does the level of engagement it can deliver. It used to only be possible to print in one or two colours, but new models can now create full-colour designs. For colourful objects, like our Tutankhamen example, these advanced capabilities make all the difference in creating a more realistic and visually engaging copy.
Designing a complex 3D model using CAD or CAM may be beyond the capabilities of certain age groups. However, many 3D printing companies produce scanners that enable users to create designs by scanning existing objects and converting them into printable files, as well as offering pre-made printable designs. This means that students could, for instance, download and print molecule parts, recreating the type of experience they could have at a science museum.
The value of virtual reality headsets, smart materials and 3D printers for facilitating learning across all subjects by providing more creative educational experiences is clear. With this in mind, it’s vital that schools and their governing bodies direct the £129 billion expected to be spent on edtech globally by 2020 into these avenues so that pupils can have the best learning experiences possible.
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‘Immersion’ – chances are that anyone who has ever taught or studied languages will have heard this word a lot! In the realms of language education, ‘immersion’ refers to being in an environment in which only the language being learned is spoken. ‘Immersion’ in technology, meanwhile, refers to blurring reality and the digital. Through immersive technologies, it is possible to simulate the real world, and real-world situations, without the need to travel.
From virtual reality (VR) field trips to virtual campus tours to aid recruitment, the future of education is one filled with exciting and untold possibilities. The Innovation Index survey, carried out by an independent party and commissioned by Bett, consisted of extensive research into the UK and EU education market, with responses from over 1,700 educators. There was a strong consensus on the benefits of edtech among 87% of the educators surveyed. Findings revealed that VR is not only here to stay; it’s set to become the ‘next-big-thing’ in the classroom, with headsets being considered by nearly a quarter of institutions.
As someone in the education sector, you’ve probably heard about the exciting opportunities to use virtual reality (VR) to help students learn. Bringing the technology into a curriculum makes sense, especially because many individuals are already eager to start or continue using VR headsets. Doing so in the classroom makes learning more enjoyable.
Edtech has made a huge impact in the education sector. The advent of digitally-enabled classrooms, cloud-based content, ebooks, and online assessment modified the learning process in a truly positive way throughout last year. You can expect to see these edtech trends of 2017 continue to flourish in the coming year.
Coming to a classroom near you… Virtual Reality (or simply VR), the immersive learning experience that enables students to see, feel, and smell the past! Sound a bit futuristic? Well, VR is here to stay. Various incarnations have been used in films, medicine, science, art, leisure, and now it’s making its way into schools.
On Wednesday last week I sat in an innovation symposium with a Virtual Reality headset on. I was then strapped into a sports seat mirroring one that one would find in a modern racing car. The helpful assistant informed me that when the program begins I might find the 360°, fully immersive experience slightly disorientating. Being a son of a digital revolution that for me began with the Amstrad CPC 464, I dismissed his comment with an arrogance that these days is usually demonstrated by someone located in an office that is oval shaped. How dare he think that I would find the experience disorientating? He has clearly never played Manic Miner!
Whilst the technology for virtual reality has been around since the 1950s, it is only in recent years that it has moved from the realms of the gamer to a mainstream audience and is now knocking at the classroom door. And it’s not just adventurous startups that are exploring the world of VR. Corporate giants can see the value of the technology and are investing heavily in the educational arena. More than a million students (including many at Putney High School) have taken virtual adventures with Google’s VR Pioneer Expeditions programme.