In the past years, teachers are moving from being teachers to being facilitators of discussions in the classroom. From a traditional teacher standing in front of rows of students, we see classrooms transitioned into the high-tech environment, collaborating and working in small teams, sharing ideas and debating with each other, searching for information online, and coming up with presentations that represent their collective understanding/view/work. Schools and classrooms have changed in the past five years more than they have in the 200 years before.
Educators who believe that this change is more than enough, that there’s nothing more to be changed, that this tectonic shift that we’ve seen in the past years has reached its peak, and we can sit and rest from now on and just perfect our teaching methods are up to a big surprise. The ever-accelerating pace of technological advancements is here not to stay. They are set to transform every corner of teaching and learning, and then in no-time, transform it again and again and again.
Here are few upcoming changes we clearly see going to transform the education world very soon.
1. Mixed reality
Unlike virtual reality which blocks the viewer from the world, or augmented reality which just adds some virtual items (menus, Pokemon) on your screen/headset, the mixed reality is the holy grail of this new medium. Mixed reality allows the computer to be aware of the environment, and it’s depth, and attach digital objects to physical ones. In this way, our senses are tricked to think there’s a real object in front of us, although it’s digital.
Remember the operations center in the movie Avatar? Everyone is looking at the Tree of Life, from different angles, and they share their thoughts as if the tree is a physical object in the room, although it is a digital rendering of that. This is possible today with tools like Microsoft HoloLens that allow creating a mixed reality environment where everyone shares the same experience. Now imagine this powerful tech in your classroom, imagine you could bring to life concepts in the middle of the classrooms, and let everyone experience them, right in front of their eyes. Allow them to interact with that and allow them to make predictions and test, all while working in between real and digital.
"Robots are just the beginning, new technologies like mixed-reality, are mature enough, and opening doors to even more learning opportunities. Our kids use snapchat’s mixed reality already!
We owe that to our kids.
Every day when they go to school, they trust us to teach them based on recent discoveries, and not based on dogmas from a century ago. [...] without visualizing it for the students, without opening the curiosity-door using a robot, without seeing a real-world use for the math, they would have never listened... ]
Bridging this gap is my life-mission and commitment, to the kids, and to the teachers"
Watch the full TEDx Talk below:
Teachers, need some new lesson plan ideas to meet the requirements of the new Common Core Standards? Well, BetterLesson.Com and your own Union, the National Education Association's Master Teacher Project heard your cry for the help that you weren't getting from your administrators and came up with a plan of their own: they searched out lesson plans from 95 or more of the best teachers in the country and paid them $15,000 each to put their plans online with BetterLesson.com. All these plans and related materials that they paid for are now online free for your perusal. Besides affording teachers fresh ideas, Instructional philosophies and implementation tips will also be provided with the lesson plans.
Nor is the NEA alone in assisting teachers in working within the new paradigm. In 2012 the American Federation of Teachers worked out a similiar lesson-sharing plan with ShareMyLesson.Com. Unlike the NEA, the AFT has teachers post their own plans. Like the NEA, the AFT shares the plans for free. This plan too, appears successful as it has 250,000 registered members and has had almost two-and-half million lesson downloads during the 2012-2013 school year.
In many quarters, Common Core has not been met with positive reviews. The transition has not been smooth. The complaint that teachers were given insufficient training is common. While there is no substitute for that training, both of these websites, BetterLesson.Com and ShareMyLesson.Com might help teachers get by until they get the training they deserve.
RobotsLAB is also in the business of assisting teachers with meeting the requirements of the new Common Core standards. Our engaging robotic teaching aids and their included curricula have been designed with the standards in mind and will provide your classrooms with effective alternatives to boring texts.
Math teacher Dan Meyer is at it again! No longer content to just insist that teaching math has got to become entertaining if today’s kids are going to compete with kids from around the world, he’s now on record saying math teaching should get out of the textbook and go multimedia, audio, video -- the whole deal.
He’s got a point: kids live in a multimedia environment, maybe they should be learning in one as well. And as he points out, the multimedia learning environment needn't set the school or the teachers budget back by that much: “...this is an amazing time to be a math teacher right now ...because we have the tools to create this high-quality curriculum.... It's ubiquitous and fairly cheap, and the tools to distribute it freely under open licenses has also never been cheaper or more ubiquitous.”
As everyone in the field is well aware, women and ethnic minorities are not sufficiently represented in STEM careers and in learning programs nationwide. Increasing their participation in a field that is fast becoming an important job provider in this country was the subject of a recent “Creating a Sustainable Commitment to STEM” session at U.S. News & World Report's STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, D.C.
Librarians in Suffolk County, NY believe it is part of their mandate as civilization’s repository of wisdom to allow users access to newer technologies like 3D printers. With a traveling exhibit including a Makerbot 3D digitizer and Makerbot 3D printer, they are out to show us that libraries are not, as one library director, Robert Lusak of the Smithtown Special Library District says, "... just about books and movies. Whatever the latest is in technology, we as the library want to be able to offer that kind of tool to our community." No question about it, 3D printers are the latest in technology, with one soon on its way to the International Space Station so astronauts can produce their own spare parts -- Scotty the chief engineer on the Enterprise would certainly have loved to have one!
Educators, do you find yourself sceptical about the claims made for 3D printers as valuable teaching tools? I know I have been and I was educated when manual typewriters were the highest tech you were apt to see in high schools. As a freshman, I thought I wanted to go into engineering, but when I took a course in mechanical drawing and found myself pathologically incapable of drawing a straight line I left the engineering route forever. After reading about the experiences students had with 3D printers at Brooklyn Technical High School I lost my scepticism regarding these printers and began to wonder... if they’d had these printers when I was a boy would I have stayed in engineering?
Instead of simply leaving it to guesswork, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation decided to come right out and ask the question “What do teachers want?” The foundation asked the question because “in our work with schools over the last few years, we have heard a common theme: Teachers are trying hard to challenge and engage their students, but they don’t have sufficient choices for effective digital instructional tools that truly meet their needs.”
Hey! Here is some good news: the Japanese government thinks it has to play catch-up to the United States in at least one area of manufacturing technology, 3D printers. After a lifetime of hearing about the supposed superiority of Japan in all things manufacturing--I’m driving a Subaru; how about you?--it’s great at last to find something about American manufacturing worth emulating.
Even more important, it’s great to realize that we Americans are doing something right in our schools--intending to furnish every single one of them with 3D printers. The determinative word in that last phrase is “intending;” we still have a long way to go before we can claim victory.
This wonderful new technology, as President Obama said in his 2013 State of the Union speech, “... has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.” Of course the Japanese would prefer that the revolution start there!