This piece was originally published on hundred.org by Josephine Lister, editor at HunDred.org. We appreciate the opportunity to share this post with our readers.
We often worry about the effects of future technologies on the next generation, such as shortening attention spans and decreasing literacy skills, but could the technologies of tomorrow actually be bringing about a better kind of learning?
Augmented reality presents loads of exciting opportunities to take traditional teaching to a new level – complementing the old and new together. Octagon 4D makes multidimensional flashcards that are easy to use in the classroom. All students need to do is download an app which enables them to use their phones or tablets as a means of augmenting the 2D cards into 3D images!
Octagon 4D’s whole approach is about simplifying the experience of integrating new technologies into education and doing it inexpensively, something that overworked teachers will be glad to hear! Too often new technologies create more work for little pay-off, but at the centre of Octagon 4D’s augmented reality products is a desire to make it easy to bring new technologies into education and enhance the learning experience for kids.
Augmented reality means that the subjects kids are studying in class, such as space or animals, can really come to life – well, almost – creating a much more dynamic learning environment and capturing children’s imaginations. This is particularly beneficial for students who may not suit traditional educational methods or who have learning difficulties and would therefore benefit from a more visual and experiential approach to learning.
However, it would be wrong to assume that technology is the answer to motivational issues in the classroom. Simply dropping some technology into education isn’t going to do anything, as Will Richardson, co-founder of ModernLearners, explains, ‘I think that any learning environment that engages kids is one that allows them to pursue what they have a passion and an interest in. I don’t think technology solves the engagement problem. Just by giving kids technology, that doesn’t make them more engaged in the long term.’
The most productive learning environments are ones where students get to work on projects that are genuinely interesting to them, projects that spark their curiosity and desire to learn. Richardson goes on to say, ‘If you start with that and then you add technology to it, then it becomes really interesting, because technology amplifies our ability to learn, to create, to connect and communicate, but it’s not required. It’s the classroom culture first and foremost that puts the emphasis on learning and then, once that’s established, the technology becomes very interesting.
Sophie Deen, creator of Detective Dot, agrees, ‘I think technology can engage kids in a really cool way, making them feel empowered in what they’re doing and getting them involved in learning. But, even if you didn’t have that stuff, it’s not really the most important thing. The most important thing is what’s going on in that environment.’
Even though the world continues to persevere in its technological advancements, it doesn’t erase our human nature – and sparking students imaginations is still the key to providing a better education. Technologies shouldn’t be seen as a band-aid to try and fix gaping motivational problems, rather they should be viewed as a way to invigorate education once the classroom culture has been developed. By making the most of the technologies currently available we can make classrooms an inspirational place and align children’s experiences with technology in school with their experiences outside of school.
If creating an active-learning environment is all about tapping into human’s needs and creating an environment that captures students’ minds and encourages learning, then the technology used in education should follow suit too. Johan Brand, co-founder of Kahoot!, explains, ‘Very good digital products are very human. They play to the things that we amplify, to our human side.’
Technologies shouldn’t be seen as a band-aid to try and fix gaping motivational problems, rather they should be viewed as a way to invigorate education once the classroom culture has been developed.
One such human element that technology can complement is human connection. Although some uses of technology can cause isolation, the better sides of it encourage collaboration, creativity and human connection. For instance, Lyfta – a virtual reality storytelling device – brings stories of all different kinds of people into the classroom, helping children to build empathy skills.
Storytelling has long been one of the most emotive ways to teach as it puts the feeling back into a problem or particular subject. Brand explains, ‘The beautiful thing about theatre, games, or cinema – all these storytelling devices – is that you’re creating a world in between the sets, imagining things. The classroom can do the same thing. It can be a place where a problem is connected to a feeling.’
Lyfta connects problems with feelings through their virtual reality stories, documentaries and 360 interactive images. Pupils explore the personal homes and workplaces of fascinating people from around the world which helps to get to the people behind the misguided stereotypes or biased assumptions. New technologies therefore present an emotive opportunity to connect us in powerful ways.
ThingLink also uses 360 images to make education a rich experience and is another example of new technologies taking and improving concepts already used in education. The humble textbook has been in place since mass education began, but interactive technologies can provide a more interesting way to learn. By using ThingLink students can create images which have interactive areas to make learning a more dynamic experience.
The interactive images can be created by teachers as a way of making education rich for younger students and improve their recall, or older students can create their own images – building storytelling and research skills as well as making learning a more hands-on experience. Three million teachers and students are already using ThingLink across the world.
Providing students with interactive storytelling skills prepares them for a future world where this kind of storytelling could become the norm. As Bryan Alexander, educator and researcher, explains, ‘increasingly talking about a separation of the digital and physical is becoming artificial, because the two continue to become more and more intertwined.’ We are heading towards a world where the two collaborate together and interactive technologies such as ThingLink prepare students for a future where the two seamlessly interlink and overlap with each other, giving kids the skills and experiences they need to thrive.
Looking into the future the technological advances can seem daunting, but if we focus our attention on the positive sides of technology we will notice that the future looks pretty fun! Of course technology isn’t the answer to the myriad problems in education, but it can enhance the learning experience, engage learners who are more visually or experientially focused and make the classroom an exciting environment that is up-to-date with children’s home lives. So why not check out the latest innovations that simplify the integration of new technologies into the classroom and create a dynamic learning environment today!