AI learning apps, educational robots, and VR/AR herald the future of education

Technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and VR/AR are changing the way students learn and teachers teach

  • Smart technology helps students better understand complex concepts
  • Innovative educational methods enable improved student engagement
  • What will schools of the future look like?
  • Future success requires new skills and values
  • Educators need to upgrade their skills as well
  • Ethical issues with using technology in the classroom

Young generations are going to inherit the most technologically advanced world ever, where everything is increasingly digitalised. That’s why it’s of crucial importance that their schools adequately prepare them for the future. However, that may be easier said than done. Our education system hasn’t really changed much over the last couple of decades and teachers still primarily rely on traditional methods to deliver instruction. This will no longer suffice. What we need is a radical transformation of the existing education system.

To thrive in the world of tomorrow, we’re going to need new skills. Not just tech-related skills, mind you, but soft skills as well. And that’s where technology comes in. Digital learning will provide tailor-made education and artificial intelligence will support teachers as well as students. Technology will change how teachers impart knowledge to their students and make the learning process more fun and enjoyable. Innovative teaching methods and learning environments will make the learning experience more accessible and personalised, fostering student engagement and creativity.

Smart technology helps students better understand complex concepts

Technology plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st-century workforce. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies can generate new learning opportunities and increase teacher efficiency. AI-powered apps and platforms can personalise learning and allow students to reach their full potential. Socratic is Google’s new AI tool, designed to help high school and college students find answers to difficult questions while studying on their own. A student first needs to take a picture of the problem or ask a question via voice search, after which Socratic will try to find resources that provide alternative explanations of the underlying concepts. The app can tackle problems in various fields, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, biology, chemistry, physics, history, and literature. It can even simplify concepts into smaller lessons that are easier to understand.

The use of robotics in classrooms is also a great way to make learning more enjoyable, and it can widen access to education by allowing sick students to attend classes remotely through telepresence robots. Although robotic technology isn’t yet commonplace in classrooms, a growing number of schools are already implementing it. The California-based tech startup Double Robotics, for instance, recently unveiled a new version of its Double telepresence robot. Designed for schools and offices, Double 3 is equipped with an array of 3D sensors that enable it to understand its environment and move through it autonomously without bumping into obstacles. It also features a new mixed-reality, click-to-drive interface that enables operators to move by simply clicking on the dots drawn on the floor. The iPad that adorned previous iterations has been replaced with a fully-integrated solution, equipped with the Nvidia Jetson TX2 GPU technology, two 13-megapixel cameras that provide an ultra-wide field of view and multiple levels of zoom, and an array of six microphones that enable the operator to hear people from farther away.

Teachers are also turning to immersive tech such as AR and VR to help students better visualise the lessons they’re learning. Mixed reality tech allows students to travel in time and space and provides them with hands-on experiences that help them better retain complex information and gain a new perspective on abstract concepts. VictoryXR is a leading provider of VR/AR education solutions. The company offers the world’s only virtual reality science curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It consists of a total of 240 virtual reality experiences spanning 48 educational units, covering topics like earth & space science, engineering, life science, and physical science. These unique experiences include 48 virtual field trips all over the world, 48 interactive edutainment experiences, 48 experiments and teaching moments, and 3 standardised multiple-choice assessments testing critical thinking skills per unit, as well as VR comic books, animations, movies, and explorative journeys. The technology is compatible with a wide variety of headsets, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and Oculus Go mobile VR headsets.

Innovative educational methods enable improved student engagement

One of the biggest challenges teachers face is how to engage students who have grown up surrounded by smart devices. They have notoriously short attention spans, and educators need to reinvent their teaching methods to teach them more effectively. By abandoning the one-size-fits-all approach and designing and implementing new teaching methods into the classroom, educators can accommodate these pupils’ needs more effectively.

Game-based learning, for instance, is becoming increasingly widespread in schools around the world. It involves students learning educational content and developing academic skills by playing computer games. This innovative teaching method has proven rather effective at capturing students’ attention and engaging them fully in the learning process, allowing them to acquire knowledge and master skills like critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication without even realising it.

Adventure Academy is a new educational massively multiplayer online game aimed at elementary and middle school students. It features a fun and safe virtual world in which students complete quests and challenges presented by in-game characters, earning points that allow them to unlock new activities and upgrade their avatars. Students can choose from thousands of activities in the form of narrated text, videos, and challenges, covering topics like English language arts, math, science, and social studies. The curriculum was designed by a team of 40 experts with hundreds of years of combined classroom and curriculum development experience.

What will schools of the future look like?

The learning environments of the future are increasingly becoming ‘informal learning spaces’ – flexibly designed, rich in technology, with plenty of room for experimentation, self-directed learning, and active group work. In these spaces, students work together and with reflection, using new learning technologies and materials. Within these ‘learning labs’, students will work with wearables, gaming, telepresence technology, and 3D printers to develop prototypes. However, this growing reliance on tech is also accompanied by certain risks. Schools need to take serious action to strengthen their cybersecurity and protect themselves from cyber-threats.

Buddinge School in Gladsaxe, Denmark recently unveiled the Lab for New Learning Principles, a creative and project-oriented learning environment for 8th and 9th grade students that will serve as a basis for future school development in Gladsaxe Municipality. In the past, this area of the school featured traditional classrooms connected by long hallways and large common areas. These classrooms have now however been transformed into a coherent, open learning landscape that inspires students to be more actively engaged in the learning process. “We break with the traditional classroom. Instead, we have created a space for differentiated learning situations, where students move among private, semi-private and open spaces throughout the school day,” says senior architect Jeppe Kleinheinz.

East Forsyth Middle School in Kernersville, North Carolina, recently partnered with telecommunications giant Verizon to open a state-of-the-art innovative learning lab that will change the way educators at this institution teach and engage their students. Equipped with the latest technologies like virtual and augmented reality, 3D printers, and coding robots, the lab will enable students to explore the solar system, take a tour inside the human body, design their own 3D objects, and learn how to code. “I see this as a space where our current students and students that come in the future will always be able to come in and get excited about learning, to be involved and be able to build things and see things,” says Principal Dossie Poteat.

Future success requires new skills and values

Schools need to make an effort to prepare students for the labour market and make sure they remain relevant in the future workforce. This means instilling new values and skills. To thrive in a technology-rich society, students need to acquire STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. In the process, students also learn to improve skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The goal is that students become innovative problem-solvers and creators – which is essential for every aspect of future careers.

The 2018 Future of Jobs report lists analytical thinking and innovation, technology design and programming, effective coordination and communication skills, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as the skills students will need for success in tomorrow’s society. “It is important that parents encourage and promote STEM learning and that we all recognise the shift in essential society skills,” says Sam O’Leary, teacher at St Martin’s Catholic Primary School in Australia. “As educators, it is imperative that we embrace change and are creative about how to integrate STEM skills, give opportunities for students to tackle challenges and collaboratively develop solutions. Children are so capable. As teachers we just need to give them the environment, encouragement and structure to achieve.”

Educators need to upgrade their skills as well

The educator of the future is agile, has the ability to activate the students’ investigative skills, and has creative abilities so that he or she can innovate. Collaboration with the business community is crucial to realising tailor-made, sustainable, and innovative education for everyone. In collaboration with companies, the educator of the future will put together a dynamic curriculum in which innovative thinking and digital skills take centre stage. This way, we can achieve ‘lifelong learning’ for future generations of pupils and students. A recent survey published by Gallup revealed that 65 per cent of teachers in the United States use digital tools in their work every day and this number is set to increase even further over the coming years.

Ethical issues with using technology in the classroom

The growing adoption of technology in the school environment has certainly made the learning process more enjoyable for students and made teachers’ jobs easier, but it’s also raised some ethical concerns that need to be addressed. Will technology make human teachers redundant one day? Could it create an even bigger digital divide rather than bridging it? How do we solve the problem of AI bias? Can we protect student privacy? Schools need to think carefully about pros and cons before they bring new technology into the classroom and make sure to educate their students about how it works and what its societal impact could be.

Just like almost every other industry, the education sector is undergoing a major tech-driven transformation, forever changing the way students learn and teachers teach. From AI-enabled apps and educational robots to innovative learning environments that use VR/AR technology and video games to impart knowledge and foster student creativity, technology is becoming an increasingly important tool in classrooms around the world. In addition to making the learning process more fun and enjoyable for students, it’s also helping teachers better engage students and be more effective at their jobs.

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business.

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