Last year I wrote an article for the Guardian on the future of technology in education. This article focused on ‘The Cloud’ and its impact on education, whilst only briefly mentioning devices. As its now 2014, I thought it would useful to revisit this subject and take a look at some things to look out for and how they can be used to support teaching and learning over the coming years.
Schools are taking tablets very seriously at the moment and many are investing in new devices. Apple has a bit of a strangle hold in education with its iPad but with an influx of cheaper tablets more and more schools may opt for Android devices like the Tesco Hudl. Microsoft are trying to get involved with its new Surface 2, so 2014 or 2015 may see Apple losing its grip. For me, the iPad is my prefered device but it is expensive and schools need to decide how tablets will be used to support teaching and learning before they splash out. From a personal point of view Apple need to make some improvement in order to keep ahead. Not all schools want to go 1:1 and there needs to be far better ways to manage devices used across the school. Multiple profiles on devices would be fantastic as would true multitasking with apps working side by side, some operating systems are already offering this. Apple and other providers need to start talking to schools if they want us to invest money in their devices. Tablets are not always suitable for some needs, Google Chromebooks are making headway in schools as many are looking at adopting Google Apps, which is free for education use.
Wearable tech is all the rage at the moment, especially smart watches. Samsung and Sony are both getting in on the action and lets not forget the Kickstarter funded Pebble watch. Apple are also rumoured to be getting in on the action this year with their iWatch. These devices are a great way for students and teachers to be connected to their smartphones. Emails, texts, reminders about homework/assignments/lesson plans or even notifications from their social networks could all be useful in a education environment. The usefulness of these devices will all depend on how productively students and teachers are using their smartphones. The next big device in wearables is of course, Google Glass, although it has a vival on its way called iOptik which looks like an exciting product. These sorts of devices could be used to easily film and share lessons, searching the internet whilst doing something at the same time, easily taking photos/videos, using augmented reality to interact with the environment inside or outside of school or pushing resources to students devices, among other things. Students could watch educational videos anywhere and without the need of a tablet or computer. There are a lot of possibilities but will students and teachers be willing to use these sorts of glasses? Privacy is a concern, as is the problem with monitoring such devices not to mention the cost.
Virtual Reality (VR)
When people think of Virtual Reality (VR) they envision The Lawnmower Man and the 90’s. However, with the advent of products like ‘Oculus Rift’ people are really beginning to see the possibility of a product that actually work as intended. Originally designed for video games, it won’t be too long before it is adopted by others, especially when you look at the current trend of ‘gamification’. VR could bring a fantastic immersive experience into the classroom in all subjects. I love the idea of students exploring environments or historical moments in time without leaving the classroom all the time feeling like they are actually there. Combine this with motion sensors like Kinect 2.0 and you have something really special. Could VR be used by absent students or distance learning students so that they can a virtual presence in the classroom? Its sounds like something from a science fiction film but this is certainly something I would love to see. Imagine all the people that would benefit from this technology. This will not replace a traditional classroom, simply extend upon it.
Motions Sensor Devices
Another piece of gaming technology that has exciting possibilities are motion sensors like the Kinect 2.0 that comes with the new Xbox One or a stand alone device like Leap Motion. I love the idea of students and teachers being able to augment and control what they see on the board or screen. This could be 3D models of the human body all the way control to basic controls of on screen presentations. Think about how Kinect 2.0 could be used in design and technology. You only have to look at this video of Kinect and Oculus Rift from NASA to get excited about the possibilities, a powerful educational tool indeed when combine with VR. Doctors are already using it during surgery and its just a matter of time before it start to be used more in schools. Some educators are using Kinect with applications like scratch to make interactive games, whilst teaching young people how to code. With this new technology, the sensors are so powerful they can work out the heart rate of an individual or the pressure exerted on parts the body. PE, Games or Science anyone? This is another example of the gaming world crossing over into education.