It has taken a long time for IT to be accepted in the school classroom. For many traditionalists who believed in the sanctity of the text book and blackboard, the novelty of a laptop and an iPad has often been seen as simply a distraction in a real learning environment.
But now as we look back with hindsight it is clear that because digital communication, information sources and education programmes have become such a major part of western society – to ignore them would be depriving our children educationally at a fundamental level. Now, it is these learning technologies we must rely on in the future.
Education technology comes of age
For many parents who view hyperspace as a playground at best and a dangerous jungle at worst, the idea of the internet being intrinsic to learning in the classroom has sometimes been a hard pill to swallow, but it is only now, as we see the great results of the technological revolution in education, that it is clear the world of IT is a fixture for generations to come. Parents over 50 tend to stand back in wonder at how the classroom has changed immeasurably – but ask an expert on the use of technology in schools, or a teacher and they will tell you that there have not been enough changes yet.
Predicting assistive technology devices
However when we try to predict what our schools will look like in the future it is no easy matter because technology changes so fast. For instance, iPads are not uncommon in the classroom today, but 5 years ago they had not even been invented and clunky laptops were the order of the day.
There is a real need for the education department and individual educational institutions to look to the future of technology in schools because buying the correct equipment calls for either a firm knowledge of the industry itself or access to reliable consultants who both understand the complexities of IT and the financial options. As ICT requirements within educational establishments have grown so have those advisors to meet that need.
Where is classroom technology likely to be going in the future?
The fact is IT experts believe you have to go far deeper than just looking at how technology can advance. You also need to analyse the school curriculum itself. According to a recent online BBC article, it is the 19th century education curriculum which is holding back real advances. Therefore, we also need to look at how we teach. Educationalist and author cites the three ideas which confront the modern concept of teaching:
The flipped classroom
This concept turns the classroom idea totally on its head. Instructions and core teaching is given online and can be viewed anywhere via the internet and computer apps and the input that we would normally call “homework” is completed in the classroom. This idea is currently taking a hold in the US. Rather than being “controllers”, teachers become guides and facilitators.
This is an extension of the flipped classroom concept. This is where mentors teach through real-time communication portals. As the name suggests there is already a system in place where retired individuals living in the UK teach large numbers of children in India via Skype.
The idea that gaming could be used as an educational tool would be a horrific idea to many parents, but a Canadian teacher has created an online educational programme which mimics the rules found in modern games. The main character gets points for such tasks as handing in homework or jobs well done. In this way the benefit from the programme is about creating motivation and a good attitude for learning – sweetening the pill rather than just providing the content itself.
One thing all these concepts have in common is they are online and one invention which is sure to remain within educational technology is “the Cloud”. It makes the complexities of building a robust technologically sound IT infrastructure so much easier. Because everything is in one place it is easier to set up, there is no need for in-house software, it will be easier to network and there are far fewer things that can go wrong.
As the Cloud becomes fundamental to the school infrastructure, it will integrate into every area of the institution – not just academic subjects. Games fields, gyms and school trips will all change – offsite or onsite the school, teachers, students and support staff will all be connected and classrooms will be paperless.
In the same way, because the school is providing the basic infrastructure for technological devices to be used, it is likely that students will be using more of their own devices (BYOD). As the use of apps in education becomes more prolific, the traditional classroom is likely to become a thing of the past. There will be no need for walls which create restrictive boundaries.
Nothing is more certain than change
The future technology for schools seem to be more around re-defining teaching rather than just finding faster and smarter ways to access data and engage our children. As we have seen just over the past decade, technology will no doubt become easier and easier to use. But we must remember that the teachers, who must remain central to the system, are trained in how to use any new technology of the future, and, with all new inevitable changes, our children do not just become guinea pigs until we get it right.