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Make no mistake. Education is currently one of the smartest investments anyone can make. In fact, a new generation of tech-savvy teachers, increasing government spending and evolving skill-sets are fuelling the growth of the ed-tech market. Traditional classrooms are being transformed by technologies as educational institutes are seen taking a more pragmatic approach to learning. So, what’s changed and what’s next?
1. Looking to virtual classrooms
Can you imagine a classroom that uses Internet of Things to create an intelligent environment for students? As technology evolves, classroom infrastructure will be revamped. Physical environments have traditionally played a major role in the way students learn, and experts suggest that new technologies will help create a more optimal learning environment. One of the biggest advances will be the ability to accommodate several combinations of teaching techniques. Depending on the unique capabilities of each student, classrooms will be able to deploy different learning mechanisms.
Many experts are also predicting that 3D printing will be an integral part of future classrooms as it gives students the chance to create practical prototypes and experiment new ideas. It brings learning to life and is one of the most hands-on approaches available to challenge students.
2. The advent of artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to be the next big thing for classrooms; this doesn’t mean that robots will replace human teachers. It means that AI will play a vital role in helping teachers improve their teaching techniques. For instance, if a student is unable to understand a concept or if the teacher skipped an important aspect of a topic, AI could bring this to the attention of the teacher straight away. Moreover, AI can help enhance out-of-classroom learning by assisting students with problem areas. The fascinating part of AI is that it can provide learning analytics telling students their weak areas and giving them valuable feedback to improve.
Of course, the use of AI in the education sector has its fair share of downsides as well. Many experts argue that AI can’t replace the all-essential ‘human factor’ that teachers provide. After all, learning in school goes beyond just books and theory. It requires the development of soft-skills as well. Human teachers prove to be role-models for students as they are growing up and have an impact on children in a way that technology cannot.
3. The era of social networking
A large proportion of the children today are exposed to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and so on. They only know to survive in a highly-interactive and collaborative environment. How can educational institutes use this to their benefit to create an opportunity for students? In his article on Huffingtonpost.com, Suren Ramasubbu, Co-founder and CEO of Mobicip.com, explains: “Educators are not unaware of the potential of social networking in education. Even as early as 2010, a national survey of 1,200 principals, teachers and librarians found that most agreed that social networking sites can help educators share information and resources, create professional learning communities and improve school wide communications with students and staff.
There are inspiring examples of teachers using social media to make classes more educational and interesting for students. One teacher encouraged students to create Facebook pages for characters from literature. Another taught probability through Twitter. Another creative teacher used GPS treasure hunting games with educational clues. Learning management systems such as Moodle and Blackboard are being increasingly used by educators to distribute lecture notes, to serve as a portal for group and individual assignments and as a chat forum for discussions and doubts.”
There’s no doubt that social networking is a double-edged sword, but the challenge for educators lies in being able to transform this potential distraction into a productive opportunity for students.
4. The role of VR in education
Experts suggest that students will be able to experience concepts first-hand with all the sensory information like touch, feel, sound, etc. For instance, a history class won’t just be theoretical, it will create a life-like environment making students feel like they are physically there.
5. Saying goodbye to textbooks
Another obvious shift is from paper to digital. Study materials are increasingly going online and students will be seen trading backpacks for laptops. Digital libraries are also gaining traction as several schools encourage students and teachers to store their resources in the cloud. Not only does this reduce the physical load for students, but it also means that they can access the materials from anywhere.
6. Integration of technology and learning tools
Online learning tools are appealing for two reasons: they allow personalised learning and give access to one-on-one interactions. Students that aren’t comfortable asking questions in class, for example, can do so digitally. They can also customise their learning preferences and go through materials at a faster or slower pace than their peers. Using online education portals, students can connect with a wide network of teachers — outside just their local institutions. Moreover, the number of skills, languages and subjects they can learn are limitless.
There has also been a lot of discussion about the clever integration of technology into everyday objects rather than the use of additional devices. This can be demonstrated with the example of a digital desk.
What if traditional wooden classroom desks were replaced with interactive display desks, where students have the option to access materials, collaborate with one another and ask questions?
While this kind of development would be extremely beneficial, the biggest problem is the cost of implementing such technology.
7. Gaming could be a real thing
Believe it or not, gamification techniques are becoming a popular tool in higher education schools due to their immersive nature. Teachers are using video games as an alternative teaching method to enable reward-based learning and boost engagement. Games provide a real-life environment where students are competing with others; this ultimately teaches them that a failure is an option and they need to go through several hurdles to advance to the next level.
Looking to the future
All in all, the education sector will need to reshape itself in line with the fourth industrial revolution and come to terms with the ‘man meets machine’ analogy to create new possibilities. The challenge for educators lies in creating a balance between traditional techniques and digital innovations to create learning experiences that keep pace with market changes.
So, is it time to bid adieu to blackboards and chalk dust? Well, we’ll have to wait and see …