Technology is consistently evolving to provide us with more efficient ways to learn and complete our work. It might be hard to believe that not too long ago students were still using slide rulers instead of scientific calculators.
While it’s easy to look at a cool new device and see the promise it offers, not every type of technology that makes its way into the classroom turns out to be as useful or as cheap as predicted.
To give us all a bit more guidance when it comes to education technology, The New Media Consortium (NMC) released its 2013 Higher Education Horizon Project report, which details six of the most promising new technologies that will impact the future of teaching and learning in higher education.
Click through the gallery to learn more about the emerging technologies in education.
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Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Massively Open Online Courses allow people to take classes at some of the most prestigious schools in the country via the Internet. MOOCs give learners from around the world access to classes that are not offered anywhere near where they live. The technology also allows professors and other experts to contribute course material from wherever they may be.
Although MOOCs offer the ability to engage an enormous number of learners, there is a debate about offering college credits for the courses. Students paying thousands of dollars for classes may feel cheated knowing that a MOOC for the same type of credit would be available free of charge.
MOOCs also lack what many feel is the core of education—the teacher-student relationship. The one-on-one time you get with a teacher can make an enormous difference in your learning experience. Moreover, The New York Times reported, “Less than 10 percent of MOOC students finish the courses they sign up for on their own.”
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The versatility and ease of a tablet makes it uniquely appealing to teachers and students alike. Having a computer, smartphone and an endless list of useful applications in the palm of your hand has made transporting and sharing content easier than it’s ever been.
But while tablets do offer the potential for easier learning, they aren’t perfect. Not all programs overlap between computers and tablets, which means information isn’t always transferable. Devices can be expensive, and being up to date with applications isn’t always possible. Plus, there’s nothing to keep students from playing a quick game of Temple Run.
To improve the effectiveness of teaching and better understand how students learn, some schools are beginning to harvest and analyze as much data as they can. Big data and learning analytics attempt to use the results of every assignment, exam, social interaction and class discussion to discover the overlooked factors that contribute to a student’s learning experience.
Most importantly, by accessing data sets and instant analytics, educators can identify areas where students need help, which can then be addressed in personalized learning plans. Instead of wasting time repeating lessons they understand, students can work on improving their skills. Additionally, understanding a student’s learning history may help predict future performance.
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Gamification of learning offers a virtual simulation of real-world experiences that similarly test a learner’s communication and problem-solving skills. Alternate reality games, multiplayer online games, and global social awareness games offer students a chance to achieve their goals in a realm that is measurable and lacks the consequences and costs of real life.
Game-based learning has already been implemented in our classrooms—many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dying from dysentery on the Oregon Trail. In the age of Wii and games where characters are able to mimic the motions of the body, the potential for gaming to accurately depict the real world grows daily.
Photo: SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations/Creative Commons via Flickr
Using a variety of bonding agents and powders, 3D printers print layers in a variety of colors and materials. The printing system gives students the opportunity to build 3D objects to scale from digital content, allowing students to experiment cheaply.
Biology, engineering, and geography could also benefit from in-depth models. The only downside to 3D printing is that it can be quite expensive, depending on the quality and size of models.
Photo: Creative Tools/Creative Commons via Flickr
Having technology in your hands is one thing, but moving it from your grasp to your wrist is the next big step. Google’s Project Glass is mounted with a camera that allows you to record your every waking moment or watch a movie on what others may only see as your glasses. Google is working on a lens that displays information about what you see, potentially identifying your friends or offering information on how to get to the nearest lunch spot.
Nike’s fuel band has already caught on with people looking to have a more active lifestyle. The next big reveal from the Apple product line is rumored to be a wristwatch with smartphone capabilities.
Wearable technology offers us the ability to capture and share the human experience in a whole new way. It may also have a practical application in surgery, where doctors can record their procedures and turn them into lessons.
Photos: Chung Sung-Jun and Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew |@natureofdabeast | TakePart.com