Virtual Reality, Makerspaces, and Online Learning on the Horizon for Education

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Over the next five years, technology is going to shake up K-12 education. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition, published by the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking, shares the technology that politicians, education experts, school administrators, and teachers should be integrating into classrooms.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less  

  • Makerspaces–As STEM skills become increasingly more important in the 21st-century job market, schools are focusing on ways to develop that skill set. To address the needs of the future, the report explains that a growing number of classrooms, libraries, and community centers are being transformed into makerspaces, physical environments that offer tools and opportunities for hands-on learning and creation. In addition to helping children develop skills they’ll need to succeed in the job market, makerspaces also allow educators to engage students in active learning, as well as promote creative, higher-order problem-solving through design, construction, and iteration.
  • Online Learning–While learning used to be limited to the physical classroom, both formal and informal learning is moving online. However, many schools don’t have the technology or infrastructure they need to make the jump to online learning. Schools need to strengthen their infrastructure and technology offerings because, as the report explains, educators are becoming more comfortable testing various levels of integration in their existing classes and programs, and many believe that online learning can be an effective catalyst for thoughtful discussion on all pedagogical practice. While it is unlikely that education will ever move completely online, when combined with immersive technology such as virtual reality, online learning can enable simulations that strengthen a student’s understanding of a topic and allow students to play out how they would react in real-life situations.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

  • Robotics–While a robot maid like Rosie from The Jetsons may still be a couple of decades off, robots are transforming industries such as mining, manufacturing, and transportation–to name only a few. Educators are also turning to robotics in the classroom to engage students and improve student outcomes. K-12 educators can use robotics to engage students in hands-on learning, and learning how to code a robot can strengthen computational thinking skills. Additionally, the report explains that emerging studies also show that interaction with humanoid robots can help learners with spectrum disorders develop better communication and social skills.
  • Virtual Reality–Virtual reality in the classroom can allow students to travel to the Great Pyramid of Giza, rather than simply read about it in a book. While common adoption for classroom use is still a few years off, VR is gaining traction in video games. Since the gamification of the classroom is on the rise, the use of VR to improve engagement and make learning more enjoyable, realistic, and hands-on will rise in coming years.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

  • Artificial Intelligence–AI in the classroom offers numerous benefits for both teachers and students. Smart chatbots can help students answer questions and complete homework, while taking part of the workload off of teachers. AI programs could also help teachers grade essays and papers, giving teachers more time to tutor students or lesson plan. The report also notes that many students may not be aware of their encounters with AI as it is embedded in adaptive learning platforms, in which intelligent software personalizes learning experiences based on how each student is responding to prompts and progressing through videos and readings in virtual environments.
  • Wearable Technology–Wearable technology has impacts in numerous K-12 school subjects. Whether it’s to improve student fitness by encouraging exercise through goal-setting and health competition, or making STEM more fun by coding wearables, wearables could be integrated into many parts of a student’s day. Additionally, wearable technology can also be coupled with VR to create truly immersive educational experiences.

The report also highlights key trends in education industry, as well as new technologies that will shake things up over the next five years.

Also from The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition:

Challenges on the Horizon for K-12 Education

Redesigned Learning Spaces, Collaborative Learning on the Horizon for K-12

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering education.
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