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Classroom Learning - The Future?

How will the way students learn change over the next 10 or 20 years as new technology is introduced in schools? Will parents and teachers endorse significant technological innovations challenging existing methodologies of learning? These are just two questions that are confronting key stakeholders involved in making decisions about the future of school education.  

In order to investigate these two questions it is necessary to identify what will be some of the new technological innovations that will become commonplace at some point in the future.  To assist with this process, Professor Neil Selwyn a prominent futurist from from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, recently gave a presentation about the way student learning will change within the next ten years due to technology innovations on the horizon. He identified nine significant and exciting developments, some of them that are already becoming evident in their infancy in primary and high school classrooms.

1)Virtual assimilation 

In the near future learning will incorporate augmented reality and become more immersive as schools copy military-style or commercial pilot training assimilation. Teachers will be able to recreate a 3D version of The Great Pyramid of Giza or the ancient city of Pompeii in a history lesson, or turn the classroom into a real-life theatre for aspiring surgeons. This type of technology has the capability of recreating any famous historical event and allowing participant interaction.

Overlaying the physical environment such as a normal classroom with digital information will also become a new teaching innovation. Teachers will be able take students into ‘digital’ rainforests or polar-regions where they can interact and get information about nature and animals by pointing their tablet at a tree or an ice-body.

2) Smart drugs

There will come a time in the future where it may be common place for students to take a cocktail of cognition drugs in the
 morning as part of their breakfast to enhance their brain, promote short and long term memory, increase creativity and sustain concentration at optimum levels for long periods of time. Furthermore, students at recess or lunch time may take an additional sampling of smart cognition drugs to prepare for a challenging or difficult upcoming lesson.  

“Pharmaceutical technology is advancing which will bring about moral and ethical debates about the use of these so-called smart drugs,” says Professor Selwyn. These debates will run parallel alongside existing debates currently occurring regarding performance enhancing drugs taken by some professional and amateur athletes.

3) A human hard-drive for memory

Advances in biotechnology and neuroscience will create a situation whereby it will be possible at some point in the future to physically connect a human brain to a machine. Taking the concept further in terms of educating students, futurists are talking about the benefits of using a hard drive that you would attach externally on your head to download information into it for enhancing memory capacity. Using such hard drive devices could potentially improving your memory a billionth fold!

4) Haptic technology

Haptic technology is already becoming commonplace for medical students. Trainee doctors and dentists periodically learn on a tactile digital body instead of a real body. This type of tactile technology allows tertiary students to learn by trial and error and train faster to complete complicate surgical procedures. In schools, haptic technology is particularly attractive to enhancing scientific knowledge, for example, students could dissect a digital frog or sheep to learn as part of a biology lesson. 

5) 3D digbooks

3D digibooks will fully replace hardcopy textbooks in the future.  These digibooks will present information to students using 3D imaging and also have audio sound bites and interactive capability.  Imagine the excited a student would have by being able to see a 3D image of Harry Potter and discussing him with how he eventually defeated Lord Voldemort and other villains!

6) Robotic teachers

Teachers and robots will both share the role of teaching students in the future.  Already in Japan the realistic-looking Saya robot is being used in schools to teach students. As robots gain a greater capacity for artificial intelligence and creative thinking processes, the role of the traditional teacher will move from being the primary deliverer of information to a role of managing a team of robots who will assume the role of being the primary deliverer of information and answering questions. 

7) Virtual lessons

Virtual lessons are already becoming more commonplace, particularly for students living in rural or isolated communities.  Schools won’t be 8.30 am – 3.00 pm anymore - students will be able to take lessons at a time of their own choice selecting from an almost limitless range of subjects which will be delivered by presenters from numerous countries. 

8) Modifiable schools

The futuristic, adventurous and flexible MODUPOD school features different modular pods or hubs that can be added on or taken off like blocks of Lego depending on the school’s needs. MODUPOD schools can fit on road, river or road transport. It is configurable and can be set up or moved in a matter of weeks and less expensively than building and designing an entire new school. The concept will be especially useful in isolation communities, mining exploration communities and in cities where various suburbs are expanding rapidly and land becomes more and more precious.

9) Gestural interfaces

More and more, children will use their hands and eyes instead of fingers on the tablet to gesture like you do on the Wii. Handwriting will be replaced by digi pens and keyboards could become redundant too. Current skills such as handwriting and keyboarding will essentially become outdated and no longer taught in schools. 

So are we ready to accept a student learning scenario where primary school-aged Kai or Amelie start the day by taking a cocktail of cognitive drugs with their breakfast cereal, are driven to school in a driverless car, enter a MODUPOD building, attach their human hard-drive onto their heads, attend their first lesson in a virtual assimilation classroom resembling the Sahara desert team taught by two robots that involves them dissecting a camel following instructions in their 3D biology digibook and presenting a 3D image report using gesture technology? 

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