From 2010 to 2014, CB Insights found that the edtech industry saw 503 percent growth in total investment dollars. By 2020, it;s estimated to be a $192 billion industry. With the current high school dropout rate at 1.2 million across the country, educators are grasping for tools to engage students better and enhance their education.
As technology continues to infiltrate the education system, institutions and private enterprises are hoping to create more engaging content to achieve better learning outcomes. Technology not only provides educational content but also improves the educational experience in a holistic way. Here are five ways academia is leveraging technology to improve learning environments:
Gamification of Education
Gamification is predicted to be a $5.5 billion dollar industry with 80 percent of learners saying that engaging in this context makes them more productive. The gamification of educational tasks and homework encourages students to learn through the structure of game design and mechanics that enhance traditionally non-game functions.
“Teachers and parents are increasingly using games that translate learning material into an engaging activity,” said Scott McQuigg, CEO and cofounder of GoNoodle, a video platform designed to get kids moving in school and at home. “Schools and educators are constantly looking for ways to eek out any extra performance, and we’ve found gamification of learning coupled with purposeful movement to be extremely useful.”
Schools have tried to battle against complacency in its many forms for decades. Academic complacency is certainly one, but so is physical complacency. Kids who sit all day, which they do in class, at home playing, video games, and really almost anywhere they are, are more likely to be distracted easily and struggle with their studies.
“By leveraging technologies like interactive dance videos, teachers are able to turn learning and movement into games to help relieve stress children may experience throughout the day,” said McQuigg. “Especially when there is an emphasis on physical fitness, students stay healthy and active while improving focus.”
Recent studies from UCLA demonstrate that sustained physical activity increases growth factors and stimulates plasticity in the brain. Keeping kids moving improves their capacity for learning.
Around 90 percent of what we see and do is retained. All students, especially “visual learners,” will have the advantage of learning from engaging content, as opposed to simple textbook copy. Similar to gamification, VR creates a learning environment that is fun and engaging for all learners.
“You could probably go all the way back to the first books,” said Mark Zuckerberg in a statement about the future of VR in learning. “I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you can deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right? Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.”
We will continue to see a litany of companies jumping into the virtual reality space through education. Alchemy VR is one company dedicated to virtual reality storytelling. With experiences covering the Great Barrier Reef, to the Egyptian Pyramids, to the inside of the human body, students will be able to explore their learning material in fully immersive environments.
Biometrics is the feedback of biological responses, including sweat gland stimulation, heart rate, eye position and other data. Similar to the Silicon Valley trend of bio-hacking, biometrics uses the body’s biological feedback to improve outcomes.
Biometrics will soon be integrated into classrooms to better understand students’ response to learning materials. This real-time feedback will allow educators to alter, expand, or repeat lesson plans based on biological feedback.
The idea of robots in the classroom may conjure images of a dehumanized, disconnected learning environment, but many say it’s quite the opposite. For example, IBM’s Watson has revolutionized how higher education research is conducted through their Watson Discovery Advisor, which tailors Watson's ability to aid researchers struggling to vet mountains of data.
“In the future, we’ll see a rise in robotic toys that serve counselors and playmates to children with various learning disabilities like Autism. Studies have shown that AI toys are extremely effective in getting withdrawn ASD kids in engaging in personal, playful interactions,” said Constance Smith, an analyst at the tech design and strategy firm Frog. “Special Education departments will soon have whole classrooms of intelligent toys to play with.”
Ultimately, learning does not take place unless the student comprehends the material. With advanced learning tools that engulf the user in an experience allows for curiosity, excitement and exploration.