The classroom of 2017 is far more tech-oriented than ever before. While ‘back in the day’ the most high-tech you’d be likely to see was a hulking CRT TV being wheeled out when your teacher had a hangover, nowadays (as you can read from our visit to a school on Page 16) it is not uncommon to see a classroom full of iPads. With the education space evolving in both content and delivery the classroom of the future could look radically different from how it does now.
A big driving factor behind that change is virtual reality. The introduction of VR into the classroom has already started. “We have a headset for a whole class to use,” notes Ruth Gafson, headmaster at Moriah Jewish Day School, a primary school in Pinner, Middlesex. “These are incredibly useful tools to use when teaching children about historical or geographical facts.”
Tech Data director of SMB and Public Sector Cathi Low believes that augmented reality will play just as big a role: “AR and VR have a very big role to play in education. We’ve hardly scratched the surface so far.”
Outside of those pure experiential aspects for pupils, the way that lessons are taught is just as likely to drastically change, believes Low. With the classroom being a ‘more fluid’ concept, lesson structures could see an overhaul. “More of the technology will be designed specifically for educational scenarios and as concepts like online learning, on-to-one remote tuition and flipped classrooms evolve.”
But there are still remnants of the schools of old; legacy elements, if you like. And like those legacy elements of PCs– the floppy disk drive or, more recently, the USB-A port – there is a belief that they will be replaced by smarter technologies. The biggest culprit in schools: paper.
Schools undoubtedly, like offices, could have a hugely positive impact by going paper-free. “From an environmental point of view, a paperless classroom is a win for the environment,” says Drew Dooler, managing director and founder of User Experience Global (UXG).
“Within 5 years I would expect to see the majority of all classrooms to be paper-free.”
Paul Hamilton, Westcoast
While Westcoast client director Paul Hamilton makes the bold claim that ‘within 5 years I would expect to see the majority of all classrooms to be paper-free’, the general consensus is more reserved.
Neil Colquhoun, executive director EMEAR of Professional Displays at Epson Europe thinks that paper-free classroom is less likely: “For many years, people have been talking about the paperless office, which hasn’t transpired. Recent research revealed that 83 per cent of British workers thought the concept was unrealistic, and we think it’s a similar case in the classroom.”
Rather than being a wholesale replacement, smarter solutions will take the place of the more cumbersome practices we have today. “We often talk about the death of the red pen,” says Fujitsu director of Education Ash Merchant. “Whereby instead of marking hundreds of pages of printed coursework, teachers will be marking online using cloud or hybrid IT services.”
And that is ultimately what the classroom’s brave new world boils down to. Not changing things for the sake of it. Not buying a 70-inch flat panel to replace a white board because it looks good in a brochure, but bringing in smarter solutions to bring education institutions into the modern day.
“Classrooms need to change,” states Gafson. “If you look at a Victorian classroom and a modern day one, there’s almost no difference. If you look at a Victorian office and a modern day office, they are totally different.”
The classroom has gone mostly unchanged for over 150 years and tech is thankfully shaking things up. Schools and universities now have to make sure that what those changes are for the betterment of the students, pupils and educators.
Let’s just hope that fidget spinners are a thing of the past by then.
PCR’s Sector Spotlight on Education – in association with Westcoast – is running throughout August 2017 – click here for more articles