Emerging Technologies

27 The Future of the Classroom

Blaise Patterson

Blaise Patterson (blaise_patterson@hotmail.com)
University of Ontario, Institute of Technology

Abstract

Rapid technological advancement has resulted in an influx of emerging technologies becoming available to today’s educators. This grants many opportunities for educators to deliver their lesson plans in a multitude of formats. Newly developed software like SeeSaw and ExplainEverything, aim to make lesson delivery more effective. Whereas, from a hardware perspective, virtual reality is allowing classrooms to experience virtual spaces like never before. Toys-to-life products like Nintendo’s Labo and Lego’s Boost are a combination of both software and hardware; adding digital components to non-digital models to support the learning of basic coding. While experimenting with these new technologies can prove to be beneficial for the learning environment, critical reflection is more necessary than ever. We must constantly reflect on emerging technologies we hope to integrate, and evaluate their validity as productive tools.

Keywords: Emerging technologies, software, critical reflection.

Introduction

The modification of the classroom is an ongoing process; we, as educators, are always integrating new means of teaching into the learning environment. Technology has provided even more opportunities for learning; digital tools have the potential to be open-ended, giving users a plethora of materials, which would otherwise be unattainable.

Typically, the tools we use are already familiar to us. The discovery of new tools for learning requires one to actively search. Although we may try our best, we are not always provided the chance to search for new tools to use. This chapter hopes to illuminate some emerging technologies. As well as technological tools, which you may have missed.

Due to the rapid expansion of available tools, it is difficult to discuss all of them. However, the tools included in this chapter have shown promise in the classroom through personal experience. Thus, it seems necessary to explore them a little further, to consider for the future. The three main areas of exploration are: communication software, virtual reality, and toys-to-life products.

Explanation of Emerging Technologies

It is difficult to provide an exact definition for emerging technologies, because it varies depending on the context. The Business Dictionary (2018) defines emerging technologies as, “new technologies that are currently developing or will be developed over the next five to ten years, and which will substantially alter the business and social environment”. Alternatively, Rotolo et al. (2015) conducted a meta-analysis of literature, and defines emerging technologies as containing the following qualities: radically novel, rapidly growing, coherent, prominently impactful, and ambiguous. This chapter will discuss and suggest emerging technologies that exemplify  these characteristics, in an attempt to benefit how the classroom functions.

Background Information

It is important to note that students today are utilizing technology and apply understanding of the curriculum through digital devices daily, both online and offline (Ministry of Education, 2017). It is important that we consider what tools are familiar to today’s learners. If we are truly going to engage with youth today, we need to access and learn about the influenced spaces they explore. The trajectory of a learner’s success can rise when they feel that their educator is interested in who they are (Fullan, 2013).

The idea is that future schools’ teaching and learning will be influenced by technologies like virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. With the driving force of it all, being computer science (Ministry of Education, 2017). These technologies provide alternative ways of teaching in the classroom; instead of discussing Ancient Greece, students can take a virtual tour as a class. Tools like virtual reality create a sense of immersion, allowing users to experience environments in first-person.

A crucial component to integrating emerging technologies, is the understanding of how these technologies function. The Ontario government, as well as other provincial governments are vowing millions of dollars (pp.1) to support technological changes in provincial schools over a three-year period, in which professional development for teachers is a priority (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017., British Columbia Education Ministry, 2016). To effectively facilitate new technologies in the classroom, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to do so.

The Province of Ontario is continuing to recognize that a need exists to develop new pedagogical skillets, related to computer science education in the classroom, if they are truly going to prepare youth for the future (Ministry of Education, 2017). Difficulty in understanding how authentic learning experiences can be fostered in diverse classrooms, and also challenges surrounding the teacher role are present amongst educators (Ananiadou & Claro, 2013). With new technologies emerging frequently, we are rapidly expected to develop new ways to teach accordingly. Through experimentation, we can continue to explore new devices and tools to support the learning of today’s youth.

Rooted in Theory

The addition of new technologies in the classroom can seem daunting; one may find it difficult to know if an emerging technology is fit for their classroom, if they are unfamiliar with it. Thus, it is important to relate to existing theories when considering what will be a positive addition to the classroom. The following theories were used as a foundation, when considering what emerging technologies to discuss.

Game-Based Learning. As the increase to access in the classroom has evolved, game-based learning is a viable option for educators to grow understanding of math concepts, language, history, and social sciences (Jenson & Hebert, 2017., Dickey, 2013). According to the Entertainment Software Association (2016), sixty-five percent of American households own a gaming console. If more than half of a population partake in gaming as an activity, it seems necessary to explore the impact the activity has. By incorporating devices that are familiar to youth today, we can work towards seamless transitions between school and home.

21st Century Learning. By adjusting how we teach, we can aim to develop new practices that support a desire to learn. Fostering positive emotions, internal motivation and favorable perceptions of work itself are the secrets to better change (Fullan, 2013). We should always consider ways to modify our teaching practice to support these qualities. As we progress as a society, expectations may differ. Requiring different skill sets from the developing generations. It is important that we prepare today’s youth as best as possible for what will be expected of them in the future.

Constructivism. Real learning occurs when it is learner-centered; through mistakes and self-inquiry, learners make meaning by connecting new content to existing knowledge (Aldoobie, 2015). Advances in technology have provided tools that support students, as they explore and inquire. To support a student-led education, the role of the educator needs to be reimagined; instead of recording information, learners interpret new knowledge by relating it to existing concepts (UNESCO, 2018). As educators, we should always make an effort to examine the individual needs of our students. Learners have an approximate amount of knowledge beyond their own, which can be directed and supported by an educator (Aldoobie, 2015).

Gamification. Meaningful gamification is the use of gameful and playful layers to help a user find personal connections that motivate engagement with a specific context for long-term change (Nicholson, 2014). Gamification can be utilized for other technologies, or for non-technological activities.  While reward-based gamification can be useful for short-term goals and situations where the participants have no personal connections or intrinsic motivation to engage in a context, rewards can reduce intrinsic motivation and the long-term desire to engage with the real world context. If the goal is long-term change, then rewards should be avoided and other game-based elements used to create a system based on concepts of meaningful gamification (Nicholson, 2014).

Applications

What is both beneficial, yet challenging about emerging technologies, is their variety of uses; although it is encouraging to see the amount of new technologies being developed, it can be difficult to decipher which ones are beneficial. Application-wise, they can be utilized for knowledge-acquisition, communication, organization, and more. It is necessary to consider however, that just because a technology is new, does not make it more effective than an existing. Which, is why we must reflect when experimenting with new tools.

There are new programs being developed to improve the quality of life for educators, parents, and students. However, most of these programs look similar, for example, learning management systems (LMS). There are several different LMS (Google Classroom, D2L, Moodle, etc…), and many of them feature similar qualities. It is important to compare these softwares, to see which will best support you. Realistically, there are a limited amount of tasks, which these softwares can improve. Thus, the majority of their efforts are spent optimizing efficiency, and minimizing errors.

Developing new tools to support knowledge acquisition is where innovation occurs; the near infinite amount of resources that technology provides grants us the opportunity to explore new methods of teaching. Tools like virtual reality look to create an immersive environment; it provides a visual representation of content, which may only have been observable through a computer screen.

Alternatively, toys-to-life products add digital components to a real-life device. Similar to augmented reality, these products use digital components to enhance an existing experience. Which, highlights how technology can be used to innovate and benefit existing aspects of our life. Nintendo’s LABO, for example, would only be cardboard models if it were not for the software being able to provide realistic functions. What is otherwise a cardboard piano without the software, becomes an actual piano, capable of performing music.

Below, you will find a list of emerging technologies for your consideration. Please consider that due to their limited use in the classroom, it is difficult to gauge their benefits to the learning environment. We advise that all recommended tools are used mindfully, and with constant critical reflection. Our responsibility first and foremost, is to ensure the well-being and learning of the youth in our classrooms.

The included technologies are only a sample of newly developing technologies to use in the learning environment. This portfolio of tools is constantly expanding, and requires constant effort to monitor new useful technologies.

Communication Software

Teaching can sometimes be a busy occupation, which is why there are constant efforts to alleviate unnecessary stressors. Whether it is communicating with coworkers, students, and parents, or effectively delivering lesson plans, the following softwares seem to be changing the classroom for the better.

Seesaw

Seesaw is a digital portfolio that features a variety of different tools to support communication in the classroom. Some of its features include: digital portfolios for each individual student to document their work, wireless transferring of  documents with educators and parents, instant messaging between parents and educators, the ability for educators to track the progress of each student, and the ability for educators to distribute announcements to all parents. If we are truly going to engage with youth today, we need to access and learn about the influenced spaces they explore.

ExplainEverything

ExplainEverything is an open-ended whiteboard tool, which provides educators with interactive tools, cloud capabilities, and the availability of live collaboration. Not only does this allow students to collaborate on projects within the classroom, but with students around the globe. It is important for teachers to promote collaboration and presentations using classroom learning technologies, it empowers students, creates confidence, and develops leadership (Tobias et al., 2013).

Virtual Reality

Computers give us the availability to construct virtual spaces to explore, with an infinite amount of resources to explore these spaces. Virtual reality takes it a step further, by immersing its user in these virtual spaces. What was once exploring through a computer screen, is now being virtually transported to the location. This will hopefully support classroom engagement, by allowing learners to experience first-hand what they discuss in class.

Google Cardboard

There are many VR products, however Google Cardboard is the most affordable, making it ideal for educators on a budget. Using Google Cardboard and apps such as Google Expeditions, students can explore famous buildings, natural phenomena and locations that are across the world. Available apps provide a variety of functionality, including: exploration apps, skill-developing apps, and entertainment apps. If we hope to prepare today’s learners for the changing world, we must incorporate meaningful learning opportunities. Digital manipulatives and technological learning tools will help prepare students for digital career opportunities (Kopcha et al., 2016).

Toys-to-Life

Toys-to-life products are the result of combining two popular products that capture engagement: toys and digital gaming. Not all toys-to-life are ideal for the classroom; products like Nintendo’s Amiibos, Activision’s Skylanders, and Disney’s Infinity are items which unlock in-game content. The figures themselves offer no interactive experience themselves. Whereas the products mentioned below were formulated to use technology to enhance the experience of the product.

Nintendo LABO

Nintendo’s LABO Variety Kit has users craft various cardboard models, and provides technological functionality. An important requirement is that it requires Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. It also features a “Toy-Con Garage” mode, which teaches basic coding/programming by providing a multitude of functions to experiment with. This grants the opportunity to challenge students with do-it-yourself projects, fostering problem-based learning. Problem-based learning is done through collaboration and requires ongoing dialogue to really unfold what is being discussed and how a solution can be formed (Hmelo-Silver et al., 2007).

Lego Boost

Lego’s Boost is a blend of the typical Lego building experience, and an incorporation of coding. The app, which is available for tablets, provides step-by-step assembly guides, and follows with a coding program. Allowing the user to provide functionality to their creation, supporting the development of coding skills.

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

The included technologies are only a sample of newly developing technologies to use in the learning environment. This portfolio of tools is constantly expanding, and requires constant effort to monitor new useful technologies. Teachers need to remain cautious of requiring students to become ‘gamified’ or develop game products, if the learner does not see the value; it can have detrimental effects (Randbeeck, W., 2016). Today’s educators need to be responsible for more than just knowledge delivery, but also safe and effective use of emerging technologies.

Despite the new opportunities that current and emerging technologies provide, they also require new considerations when integrating them. It is important that we are constantly reflecting on what is being taught in the classroom to ensure our lessons are meaningful (Brown, 2014). Critical reflection is important for both educators and students alike; educators should always look to improve their practice. Whereas, learners can use it to develop deeper learning outcomes (2014).

Today is not so much about teaching the technology as it applies to a single lesson or unit, but more about promoting critical thinking and provoking questions by the learners about the spaces they already explore (Becker et al., 2017, pp. 10). The internet provides many opportunities for today’s learners to learn on their own. Thus, perhaps the focus of educators should be discovering how to best teach, rather than what they teach.

References

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Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., and Yuhnke, B. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.  https://iktsenteret.no/sites/iktsenteret.no/files/attachments/2017-nmc-technology-outlook-nordic-schools-en.pdf

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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2018 by Blaise Patterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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