Classrooms evolve gradually, moving from chalkboards to whiteboards to smartboards, with multiple years passing in between. Today, the field is perched on the precipice of major changes, with a multitude of startups interested in innovating the education space. In 2015, educational technology companies raised more than $1.85 billion to create products that move education to the next level. The end result is that consumers will benefit in the coming years.
As those consumers wonder what the future holds for education, real possibilities are emerging. Here are a few likely possibilities for the future in primary and secondary education.
Perhaps the most intense focus has been on the classroom, where teachers can use technology to better deliver lessons to their students. Virtual reality is one of the top innovations slated for the learning environment, thanks to its ability to take students on simulated field trips. Classes could experience historical events, walk on the moon, or stand in front of the Great Pyramid without leaving their seats. VR headsets could also be used to connect students with teachers or experts located in another country to get an in-depth perspective on a topic.
Experts envision a future in which, among other things, students will be able to post questions, comments, and ideas for the teacher. That information will be accessible via mobile device, giving teachers the opportunity to monitor those comments and address them in real time. Just as college students can attend classes from home, the same opportunity will be available to primary and secondary school students, who can access coursework, communicate with classmates, and watch classes while they're home sick. Instead of waiting for grades, students will be able to see the results of their tests and homework right away, reducing the stress they endure today. The result will be a classroom experience that combines in-person and digital interactions seamlessly.
As children get older, the number of textbooks they're tasked with taking home each evening seems to grow with them. This will soon change, as the push toward digital textbooks continues. With one small device, students could combine every textbook they need in a given year, avoiding the heavy backpacks they currently carry. Teachers already use tools like Google Apps for Education to organize assignments and maintain open communication. In the future, homework will become more social in nature, with students able to interact with each other directly through the portal set up for their classes. The result will be an environment where students look forward to logging into their learning portal, seeing it as a social media experience rather than drudgery.
Mark Zuckerberg has already invested in personalized learning software, joining many experts who see it as the future of learning. Online tutoring already gives students the one-on-one experience envisioned for the classroom. Students can interact directly with a tutor who will work on their schedule, giving them the extra time they need on a problem subject. Some experts believe this setup could eventually translate to the classroom environment, with school districts investing in the service to help students learn at their own pace. The issue will be locating and maintaining high-quality tutors at affordable prices. This has driven startups toward creating software that can customize lessons to a student's individual learning needs.
Workers no longer need to go into the office to do their jobs. This same thinking has the classroom going more remote than ever in future years. Instead of homeschooling being the exception, it could be closer to the norm. Indiana's public school system already offers free online learning for public school students. This can be used by students who can't be present in a traditional classroom, as well as those who need to do extra coursework to ensure they graduate on time. This type of free offering will likely become more prevalent during the upcoming decade or two, freeing up students to attend class from home or simply catch up on missed assignments after being sick for a prolonged period. These online offerings will also give students access to public schoolteachers who can provide students one-on-one assistance.
Tech innovators have targeted education, crafting products and services that can improve teacher efficiencies, letting students learn with minimal extra effort from teachers. As the years progress, technology will only continue to impact the field. Students will find it's easier to obtain the help they need in the subjects that aren't as easy for them to learn as other students and everyone will benefit as a result.