Education has always been slow to adopt new technology. However, the educational system is being pressured to keep pace and is making great strides to embrace innovation. By automating activities such as keeping attendance records, teachers can focus more on the students’ needs. Be it a simple wearable gadget that tracks a student’s level of engagement in a lesson, or a pair of glasses that make learning ‘visible’, any tool that can improve and enhance learning is a welcome addition to the classroom. In short, the future of education is driven by innovative technology.
The IoT improves student safety
The IoT has great potential to change the education sector. By connecting classrooms, it’s easier to provide dynamic, engaging lessons, freeing teachers from much of the busy work that keeps them focused on anything but the students. For instance, incorporating Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips into students’ ID cards will make them traceable not only while they’re in a classroom, but also during their lunch break, or while they’re outside. Siemens suggests this technology could change this and “allow smart automatic attendance”, providing data on “how students move through the school, who … they study with, or who they play with at recess”. This can significantly improve safety. Moreover, IoT technology and sensors can help schools to cope with a new type of smoking trend – vaping. For instance, the Aprende Middle School, in Arizona installed sensors in the bathrooms to detect vaping. If the sensor detects that someone is vaping, it will trigger an alarm and send a notification to administrators’ phones and email. The sensors can also detect loud noises. So, if there’s a fight in the bathroom, the school’s officials will be notified immediately.
Tailoring education to students’ needs with big data and AI
Big data could also revolutionise the way students learn and teachers teach. Using this new technology, schools can analyse student behaviour, taking into account their educational needs and testing results. By gathering data about a student’s learning process, schools are able to create a customised study program. Combined with online learning, students can develop their own learning program by taking classes they have an interest in and working at their own pace, while still having a teacher’s guidance.
AI, too, holds tremendous potential for our education system. While in traditional education teaching involves repeated lessons using printed textbooks, where educators use a one-size-fits-all approach, when it comes to AI-based models, things are done a lot differently. An AI-based model of teaching helps students to learn both individually and in groups, as dictated by their educational needs.
AI can also help educators to identify students who suffer from anxiety. This issue is becoming common among students of all ages, and anxiety symptoms aren’t always visible to teachers and parents. For this reason, researchers from the University of Vermont created a system that uses sensors and AI to identify anxiety among students. During testing, the system provided an accuracy of 81 per cent. The researchers believe their innovation could be a valuable tool in anxiety and depression treatment, because it would enable the children to get help at an early stage.
VR makes learning fun and exciting
Since student-centric pedagogies are being directed toward new approaches, embracing virtual reality to restructure learning should be taken as a priority. Though still developing, VR tech can help students not only to learn things, but also to feel them.
Understanding complex lessons is a lot easier thanks to VR. This is why the Blossoms School in Bengaluru, India, decided to introduce VR classes as a pilot project. The main goal is to help all students, including students with special learning needs, to achieve a high score in their exams. The content for these VR classes is downloaded from the internet and converted into a 3D format. So far, 200 students have been included in the pilot, and if it proves to be a success, the school will fully implement the project.
Redesigning education with 3D printing tech
Besides VR, another emerging tech could have a great impact on education. 3D printing is an exciting new technology that offers a multitude of creative and practical applications. Javier Montiel, a bilingual education teacher at the Velasco Elementary School, came up with the brilliant idea to help students learn to speak Spanish through advanced visual aids. This was made possible thanks to the Colorado-based Aleph Objects, Inc. and its LulzBot Mini 3D printer. The idea behind the project was to give students a tactile and engaging way to work with words – a completely new way of learning a language. And it’s as fun as building a lego castle! First, using 3D-printed letters, students practiced with text-to-speech technology that enabled them to check if the words they ‘constructed’ were correct. Then, they used the Syllable Working Mat Paper to construct the words they memorised. This kind of tactile and visual learning helps students retain more knowledge, which is always a good thing.
Thanks to 3D printing, students can also transform their ideas into physical objects and learn design and manufacturing principles in a fun and engaging way. This inspired the engineering company Renishaw to purchase ten 3D printers, which schools in South Wales can borrow for a period of up to three months. The project started in September 2018, and it will last throughout 2019.
Meet the new learning tools in education – robots
However, students and teachers sometimes need more than 3D-printed visual aids, and a helpful solution for their needs lies in robotics. For instance, several schools in Quebec used a robot called Nao to fully engage students into the lesson. Nao, which is equipped with cameras and sensors, is able to recognise humans and answer their questions. This robot especially proved to be a success for students with special needs. One of the teachers who worked with the robot in the classroom, said that students who never talk in class, interacted with the robot with no difficulty.
Often, students who can’t attend regular classes due to illness or physical challenges are provided with online classes or home tutoring and are denied the numerous benefits offered by brick-and-mortar classrooms. But thanks to the VGo robot, they can now have that experience, as it enables them to “to see, be seen and ‘travel’ from classroom to classroom”. The robot is operated by a computer and equipped with audio and video capabilities. Using VGo, remote students can interact with their teachers, participate in classes, and socialise with their classmates as if they’re really there.
Blockchain ensures the security and transparency of academic records
Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, has already caused disruption in sectors such as finance, but it’s easy to recognise its applications for secure data recording in education as well. Blockchain technology will be particularly helpful in assessing the validity of college transcripts and records. A survey conducted by Blind, an anonymous community of employees, revealed that 10 per cent of its tech pros have lied about their academic degrees and technical skills in their resumes or during a job interview. And according to a CareerBuilder report, 57% of job applicants have ‘touched up’ the skills listed in their job application, while 33% weren’t honest about their degree.
It’s no wonder, then, that employers often demand official transcripts to make sure they’re hiring the right person! But a system being developed by Sony Global Education (Sony GE) could solve this. Its blockchain-based technology will keep records of academic accomplishments secure, while sharing them across the system for free.
Technology will help prepare students for the future of work. By integrating innovation into the classroom, 21st-century schools will transform teaching and learning. This will make learning more dynamic and engaging, enabling students to absorb knowledge with all their senses. And in the future, education will move away from traditional textbooks and classrooms toward a tech-enhanced, flexible, immersive learning environment that will make school fun!