Education used to be quite slow-moving, with only minor changes taking place in the classroom year by year. But nowadays, that couldn’t be further from the truth — schools are modernizing fast. From Artificial Intelligence to Virtual Reality, these technology trends are changing the face of 21st-century education.
We’re feeling quite excited by it all. Hopefully, you are too.
Teachers won’t be replaced by robots any time soon — at least, not that we’re aware of — but artificial intelligence does have a place in modern classrooms.
One of the most exciting uses is the automatic grading of homework papers, which would save a teacher hundreds of hours over the course of an academic year. AI assistants, similar to Amazon’s Alexa, are also being trialed in modern schools. Merlyn is designed to manage a classroom’s laptops, lights, and projectors, leaving the teacher free to focus on the students while the assistant deals with the tech.
Artificial Intelligence can also be used to create personalized learning plans for students, which is something a teacher doesn’t often have time for. By looking at a student’s recent tests and homework papers, the AI can spot any gaps in their knowledge, and prepare a lesson designed specifically for them.
Big data & Analytics
Big data is a term on everyone’s lips. It describes the sheer amount of information that can now be collected about an individual, from the number of times they use their phone, to the amount of money they spend in a week, to the number of steps they take in an hour, and a million other things too.
In a classroom setting, big data could be used to better keep track of student performance, especially in relation to different methods of teaching. Was a student more engaged during a slideshow lecture or as part of a class discussion? Were they more productive first thing in the morning, or straight after lunch?
Armed with all this valuable data, teachers can start to adapt their lessons to better fit their students’ needs. Or maybe, even better — an AI assistant could do it for them.
Big data can also improve education on a larger scale, by helping to demonstrate school-wide and even nationwide trends. Who knows: maybe students across the whole of America perform better when math is on a Monday as opposed to a Friday. If that was the case, the national curriculum could change.
During the coronavirus pandemic, schools around the world were forced to close their doors and switch to a remote learning model.
A few years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. The technology simply wasn’t available. But luckily enough, the transition proved to be relatively simple, thanks to a variety of modern edtech solutions, like interactive classrooms and video conferencing.
Even though the pandemic is over, remote learning is still continuing to rise. The e-learning market is predicted to grow by 15% every year between 2020 and 2025, reaching a total value of $50 billion. It lets children in rural areas access teaching which wouldn’t have otherwise been available to them. It lets university students attend classes and lectures without needing to move away from home. Of all the trends we’ve identified, this is probably the most pronounced.
Cloud learning is closely linked to remote learning. In basic terms, it allows students (and teachers) to access their work from any location, at any time — as long as they have internet access.
This is a pretty big deal, especially for teachers. If students are saving all their work on the cloud, and teachers also have access to that cloud, it makes the process of marking a lot less daunting. Instead of lugging home a pile of crumpled worksheets, a teacher can simply access the work on their laptop.
Even better, there’s no chance of a student forgetting to bring their homework to school, or forgetting to bring the worksheet home in the first place. It’s all on the cloud, and that makes life easier for everyone involved, teachers and students alike. It’s better for the environment too: a lot less wasted paper.
Just like big data, blockchain is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. Basically, it’s a way to structure data in a safer, more secure way.
The term is mainly used in the context of banking and cryptocurrencies, and you might not have heard it used in relation to education. But blockchain technology is an excellent way to manage student records. These blockchain records can’t be hacked or modified, which makes them easy to validate, and virtually impossible to fake.
In other words, students won’t be able to fake their credentials, or lie about their grades, when applying to jobs or further education. They won’t be able to lose their grades either, which can sometimes happen with a physical, paper certificate. Overall, blockchain streamlines the entire system and makes everything more honest and transparent.
Gamification, in simple terms, is about making learning more enjoyable. Education doesn’t need to be dry and boring. Students learn best when they’re having fun. That’s what gamification is about: delivering lessons in the form of games.
This idea isn’t anything new. Teachers have been using games for years, running class quizzes and competitive challenges and other gamified learning. But technological improvements are taking gamification to a whole new level. There are more and more educational video games out there, such as Minecraft’s groundbreaking Education Edition.
It’s fun and engaging, and a great way to learn. Maybe this is the future of schooling: groups of children playing games together without even realizing they’re learning. There’s a lot of money in educational games, and plenty of studios are already starting to follow Minecraft’s lead.
Immersive experiences have always been an amazing way to enhance a child’s learning. Going down to the beach, and looking at stones, is a much better way to study geography than reading about stones in a textbook.
Not so long ago, an example like this would only have been possible for students who happened to live close to a beach. Inner city students, in the middle of the country, would have to make do with the textbook instead. But virtual reality is beginning to change that. Wherever you are in the world, you can use VR to visit geographical field sites, explore historical buildings, and take part in science experiments.
It still doesn’t match the real experience, but it isn’t far off, and it’s definitely better than looking at photos in a textbook. More and more, VR will help to bring school subjects to life, transporting students into situations they have never encountered before. This technology has other uses too, like giving students a chance to practice speaking in front of a virtual audience. It’s a great way to boost a child’s confidence in a safe, virtual space.
You’ve probably heard of STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Since the 1990s, these subjects have been pushed as a way to prepare children for the increasingly technological world. More and more jobs are STEM-related, and schools have tried to follow this trend.
But in the last few years, STEM has started to fade in popularity, with people talking about STEAM instead. It’s the same acronym as before, but with Art thrown into the mix. Even in our modern, technological world, it’s still important for students to learn art-related skills, like creativity, empathy, and collaboration.
These skills work well together: science and art, technology and creativity, or engineering and empathy. Subjects like coding are extremely creative, as we’ve spoken about in the past. There’s no reason why students can’t learn both, and that’s what STEAM is all about.
Long term learning
In the not-so-distant past, there was a clear line between your life at school and your life as an adult. The first part of your life was all about learning, and the rest of your life was about putting that learning into action.
That’s no longer the case. Over the past few years, there has been a massive increase in adult learning, often through apps and websites. Adults can take courses on websites like Udemy, learn a language on an app like Duolingo, study history on a platform like Kinnu, and there are hundreds of other examples.
Long-term learning helps to take the pressure off traditional schooling, as there’s no longer such an obligation to teach a student everything they need to know. Even if they leave with some gaps in their knowledge, there are ways for them to fill those gaps in the future. Just download an app, and suddenly they’re back at school.
You might not have heard this term before, but we’re pretty sure you’ll be hearing a lot of it in the next few years. It’s the idea of using quick, efficient, bite-sized lessons, instead of the long-form classes a lot of us are used to.
This is how students consume information outside of school. Not in long-form chunks, but in short, sharp bursts. That’s what the popular TikTok platform is built on: micro-videos that impart information in tiny, 15-second packages.
When you’ve grown up with this kind of quickfire format, an hour-long class can feel interminable. That’s where nano-learning comes in. It breaks learning content into smaller pieces, which helps students to engage without getting bored. Don’t worry — this approach isn’t meant to replace traditional long-form lessons entirely. But by scattering in some bite-sized content, the rest of your lesson will be far more likely to engage.
Most of the trends we’ve discussed so far have been digital options, rather than physical pieces of technology. But there are also some amazing pieces of hardware that are helping to modernize the classroom.
Smartboards have been around for a while now, but they’re getting better and better with every passing year. They can be used to watch videos, present slideshows, and host games, and they function as excellent whiteboards too. It’s a massive leap forward from the blackboards and chalk which used to be a classroom staple.
As well as this, more and more students are gaining access to laptops and tablets. These can be used for taking notes, hosting ebooks, for playing educational games. It might not be long before certain schools have gone completely paperless. This, surely, is the future.
Schools are changing fast, and that’s something for us all to be excited about: teachers, students, and parents alike. These technological trends are bringing about some major improvements, which should help to improve the educational experience for every single person involved.
And this is only the beginning. A few years ago, some of these technologies didn’t even exist yet, and there’s no way to know what else is waiting just around the corner. Whatever it is, we’re excited to find out. Tomorrow’s classroom is shaping up to be a really amazing place.