Expect cloud computing in classrooms within a year and augmented reality within five, according to an educational technology think tank. The New Media Consortium published a short report March 30 that predicts when different technologies will enter kindergarten-through-12th-grade classroom. The report also links to examples of forward-thinking schools where those technologies are already being used. It’s a whirlwind tour of the classroom of a very near future—all of the report’s predictions fall within five years.
In the short term, the consortium members expect cloud services to increase schools’ access to high processing power and cloud-based apps. They also expect classes to use virtual spaces to collaborate with each other and perhaps with students in other places in the U.S. and around the world. And they expect that, instead of banning devices, schools will let kids bring their own smartphones or tablets so they can use educational apps. Rock Hill School in South Carolina is already piloting a program that allows students to use their own devices at school, freeing up the school’s devices for students who don’t have one at home to use, ZDNet reported.
Schools may also provide students with the devices, which are cheaper than laptops for schools to buy. One elementary school in Switzerland now gives 5th graders smartphones and allows them to connect to the Internet at no charge, the consortium reported.
The New Media Consortium expects all the cloud, collaboration and devices changes to show up within a year.
Within three years, the consortium report predicts people will have a single sign-in for all their web accounts, which would make it easier to deliver lessons to students online. It thinks programs and services will arise that can gather data about students as they work and send report to teachers, to help them spot struggling kids faster. It also thinks there will be a boom in educational games. Surely students will be happy to play the next-generation Oregon Trail or Number Munchers.
Four or five years in the future, the report predicts students will have access to augmented reality, or apps that layer virtual data over real-life sites. A visit to a desert that was formerly a sea could show illustrations that would bring that geological transformation to life. LearnAR has some educational augmented reality apps, such as one that shows where a friend’s internal organs are when a user holds a smartphone up to him.
The consortium also thought it will be important to know how to assess students’ digital skills within four to five years, but found “almost no research in this area, and a paucity of examples or demonstration projects.”
Overall, the consortium’s view of education trends falls in line with common thinking about trends of the future. Its descriptions of working pilot projects add concrete, vivid details to help readers imagine what that future might look like. The group plans to publish a longer report in June.