The Education of Everything

Oct 16, 2014
Tech

From early childhood through higher education and beyond, there is little debate that the iPad – still less than five years old – is transforming how we learn.

Image credit: Peshkova (iStock/Getty Images)

From early childhood through higher education and beyond, there is little debate that the iPad – still less than five years old – is transforming how we learn.

Yet the flipped classrooms, personalized learning programs and real-time student assessment tools that the iPad and similar devices enable are really just appetizers for what we should expect over the next half decade. Technological advancements involving connected objects and wearables (the so-called Internet of Things), along with hyper-personalization and an exponential increase in the volume and sophistication of digital content will transform all walks of life.

For education in particular, expect to see digital innovations that range from shoes that teach toddlers how to tie knots, to holograms of world class surgeons who explain state-of-the-art procedures to medical students.

For better and worse, connectivity is extending beyond the screen. Here are three ways that the Education of Everything will impact us in the months and years ahead.

Smart Toys and Early Childhood Learning

We’ve come a long way since the days of Teddy Ruxpin and the Speak and Spell. Today’s connected toys weave technology like sensors, accelerometers and transmitters within building blocks. While smart toys like Stanford University-created Dr. Wagon are often cited as devices that teach kids elementary concepts behind computer programming, there is also a set of toys accessible to babies and toddlers that serve as physical extensions to iPads, iPhones and other touch screen devices.

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Boulder, Colorado-based Seamless Toy Company has a series of toys in development called ATOMS that (among other things) latch onto and manipulate the movement of Legos. So with ATOMS, kids cannot only build a toy car with these components, but also steer it around the house with an iPhone-turned remote control. Investors in Seamless Toy Company include Bono and a number of former Apple executives.

Marketed to children as young as 18 months old, Tiggly Shapes are colorful blocks that can stick to an iPad screen. The toy not only offers a series of basic math and geometry games, but also teaches kids how to balance touch screen gestures with physical objects.

Contextual Common Core Training for K-12

One of the hallmarks of the Common Core State Standards calls for students to understand the context of the math and language problems they are asked to solve. While there is no shortage of textbooks, apps and videos created to teach students particular standards, many Common Core problems are not easily explained through just words and images on a page or a screen.

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For Math Standards in particular, the emergence and increased availability of 3D Printers in the classroom will enable students learning about patterning and proportional relationships to literally mold and construct objects based on their vision and mathematical design. English students trying to master complex texts and learn skills to better retain what they read, see and hear will benefit from the recording and replay ability offered by tools like Google Glass.

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Many of the skills tested by the Common Core Standards are foundational and will hopefully contribute to a student’s ability to understand and eventually master emerging learning technologies like 3D Printing and Google Glass. It’s all connected.

Spotify-zation of College Majors and Higher Education Curricula

Touchscreen technology is already giving teachers the ability to personalize lessons to individual students and assess retention immediately and over time. As these technologies become even more sophisticated and track student learning patterns, a logical next step is to provide personalized recommendations based on academic strengths and interests.

Most of us are already familiar with the algorithms used by companies like Spotify, Netflix and Amazon to recommend songs, movies or products based on previous use and the preferences we provide. This recommendation ability also applies to choosing electives, and eventually academic majors and potential graduate studies.

And if you don’t like a given choice provided, you can always swype through to the next option.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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