Futures of education

I love that so many different technologies are finally being considered for use in education.

First, let us look at Thin Clients and Blade PCs. If you go to any school today, they more than likely will have computers on a network. Thin clients make up a different kind of network: the computers don’t need extra software or hardware and don’t require lots of energy or maintenance because they connect to a server that has everything they need to run. Given the low costs, schools shouldn’t have a problem implementing this technology. Instead of having to purchase new hardware and/or software for every single computer every few years, schools would primarily replace the server. I think we will see this happening very soon.

Thin client. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org Thin client. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Next, we have virtualization. From what I understood, it simply means to keep your main operating system intact and then run everything else on a separate virtual or physical compartment. For example, you can have your Windows OS in one partition, and then have all your downloads and documents in a separate partition, or keep your data on a different computer altogether that you can access virtually, similar to cloud computing. You can even run different operating systems on the same computer. I believe this would only be beneficial for certain disciplines. For example, Macs are the industry standard for graphic design, but design students may also need to use Microsoft’s Office suite for work: virtualization could be the answer.

To be honest, I don’t think these IT innovations will impact my classroom directly. They will certainly make it easier for students to use computers for learning, but they are not necessary. College students usually use their own devices, set them up the way they want to, and know to back up their data in multiple ways.

Let us move on to innovations that affect education more directly. First, we have gesture-based learning. This is computing based on physical gestures such as tapping, swiping, touching or simply moving. This is much more intuitive than using a mouse or typing. The article from ZDNet explains that gesture-based learning can be used to “promote activities that improve social skills, involves team work, and allows users to solve problems through collaboration” (Osborne, 2012). For example, the Kinect software can be used to make learning more interactive by having student avatars go on a virtual field trip or do math calculations on the fly, as explained by Johnny Kissco in this video. I doubt K-12 schools would implement this anytime soon, but perhaps more specialized professions might (for example, medical students could practice surgical procedures).

Student using Kinect software on a computer for skeleton tracking. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org Student using Kinect software on a computer for skeleton tracking. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Finally, we have learning analytics. Students are not adequately evaluated just by tests; we need to take into account their backgrounds, personalities, and learning styles. Learning analytics can theoretically double student achievement because we can collect and use all that data to give frequent formative assessments, identify problem areas and in general tailor our instruction to the students’ needs. The University of Phoenix has used learning analytics, and one of the biggest problems they encountered was figuring out what data was actually usable and what time frames to use. The process can become easier by putting all the data online to facilitate sorting and retrieval so that instructors can review the most pertinent information. I really like learning analytics in theory, but revamping the curriculum to allow for individualized instruction would be a herculean labor. It also feels somewhat intrusive; I’m not sure I want to know everything about every single one of my students. As long as analytics are restricted to academics, they’re a technology I can get behind.

Reference:

Osborne, C. (2012, March 10). Gesture-based tech: A future in education?. ZDNet, Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/gesture-based-tech-a-future-in-education/15514

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