Future of EdTech – VR/AR, Robots and Online Classrooms

The future of edtech is actually quite exciting! With new introductions of virtual and augmented reality, robots and online classrooms, what’s not to like? You will be surprised but this type of radical change and accelerated innovation in education actually does frighten a few!

Only a small number people can actually deal with change and if there is one skill that our young children need to learn for their future, it is learning to cope with change. It is no surprise that we are living in a technological world that is moving at a phenomenal pace and so to be stuck in one’s ways, without even entertaining trial and error, can create inertia and resistance.

“It is better to try and fail than to never try at all.”

 

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

One area in which traditional education can make a change is in dabbling with VR and AR immersive learning environments. There are some obvious benefits in leveraging the use of these new innovations particularly in lessons where students are encouraged to fly through space to study the formation of stars or shrink down to inspect the insides of the human anatomy. The possibilities are endless and companies such as Class VR or Agent of Discovery have made leaps and bounds into creating new content for the curriculum. Understandably cost is always an issue but it is possible to innovate on a budget and those that are interested in taking VR into their teaching, there is always the option of investing in Google Cardboard. It is a simple, fun and affordable way for students to gain heightened and transformative educational benefits.

 

Robots

So, what about robots in the classroom? Is there any educational value in bringing in robots into teaching and learning? There is much room for debate here and while countries such as China have adopted artificial robotic assistance with interaction in the classroom, the UK have yet to decide whether a robot can actually replace a teacher. My personal opinion is that a teacher can never be replaced – they may become very effective facilitators as artificial intelligence advances – but their role as an educator is still paramount in enabling learning.

“Robots are there to offer answers not ask questions.”

With this in mind however, I do think that it is still worth exploring the role of robots in schools and possibly in education. Perhaps, it may be possible to use a robot for more administrative tasks where they can be used at reception for visitors as they check in and out of school.  Or, I quite like the idea of a robot floating around school disseminating fact based information to students or quizzing a child for their upcoming tests. However, for now, I think its greatest use are for those children who are too ill to attend class themselves. VGo robots are designed to resolve this issue by helping students to attend class from afar.  Through a lens, students can interact with their teacher and friends, while at the same time continue to learn in school.

 

Online Classrooms

Virtual classrooms, or online learning, are now emerging from the pipelines. The technology and artificial intelligence that goes with it has advanced so rapidly that educators are now looking to provide students with an education that is tailored to fulfil their needs. Virtual classrooms are still a relatively raw concept and have yet to be tried and tested some more but a part of its making is presently being conducted with Century Tech where AI technology is found to personalise each student’s learning pathway.  Of course a blended learning approach is still the most desirable path, however for those students who are not able to receive an education for reasons of their own, virtual classrooms becomes the next best option. The Khan Academy, The University of People (UoP), and Interhigh, just to name a few have started this transformation and for organisations such as UNESCO who are trying to meet their sustainable educational goals for 2030, this may be one option to consider.

The future of edtech certainly looks bright and has great potential for transforming education. How we choose to embed the technology into our classrooms is up to us as educators but instead of turning a blind eye to it, and dismissing its capability from the very start, it is surely worth a shot of trial and error so that one can assess its impact and value in education.

by Dr. Neelam Parmar