Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

4 Seriously Cool Tech Updates That Are Changing the Way Students Learn

4 Seriously Cool Tech Updates That Are Changing the Way Students Learn

By Troy Lambert

You use the latest apps and technology to keep students engaged. If you’re lucky, you’re in a 1-to-1 school or classroom with iPads or Chromebooks to facilitate 21st century learning. While you may be feeling like, “Wow, this has really changed my classroom!” these programs and tools are mere steps in the evolution of education, and a small indicator of the role technology is playing in that evolution.

In 2016, things have been moving at a rapid pace, with more tools and ideas being developed every day—or so it seems. Here are four new updates to know about as you go into the new school year.

More: 10 Classroom Rules for Using Technology

Digital Textbooks

Recently Amazon landed a $30 million dollar deal to sell e-books to the New York City School District. What does that mean for students? They can say hello to digital textbooks, and goodbye to that new book smell.

What does it mean to the school districts and teachers? Students will be able to access textbooks across a number of devices, especially in schools that are adopting a BYOD policy. The money savings are likely to be immediate, with no worries about wear and tear or loss of books, and updated versions will be easier to replace, and cheaper too. Storage will be less of an issue.

If the three year contract is a success, it will turn into a five year contract, netting Amazon a tidy sum, and establishing a model for a more nationwide program.

Digital Guidance

Arizona State University, a leader in innovation in college education, wants kids to show up for their freshman year more prepared, so they’ve piloted a program called me3. The program administers a test using a series of images to determine a student’s areas of interest and offers them several majors that might fits their interests. It then helps them plan their high school education and even concurrent enrollment.

ASU has partnered with Cerego to offer classes through their Global Freshman Academy, launched eAdvisor to guide college students, and partnered with Starbucks to pay tuition costs for thousands of their employees. However, their outreach to K-12 students, and university President Michael Crow’s vision for changing education fundamentally makes them stand out from the crowd.

The me3 app can be accessed here, and a quick test drive reveals both its simplicity and accuracy. Coupled with personal feedback from a guidance counselor, the app could prove invaluable for students on the fence about college education and choosing a major.

More: 9 iPad Apps That Assess Student Learning

Self Directed Goal Setting and Project Based Learning

At ASU’s GSV summit in San Diego, four educators presented information about their schools on a panel. All of the new models utilize a combination of project-based learning coupled with self-directed goal-setting and skill building.

Design Tech School, San Mateo: Teaches students using the theory behind design thinking. For now, it is only offered to tenth graders, but plans to expand.

Incubator School, L.A.: Teaches students the principles of entrepreneurship including how to design and create technology, pitching to investors, and data gathering and analysis.

Big Picture Learning: This school’s expansion was largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and emphasizes the three R’s: Relationship, Relevance, and Rigor. It combines internships with heavy amounts of advisory, and frequent student led reports of their progress.

Kahn Lab School: This school has no grade levels, and students are divided into groups based on how much interaction they need with staff to succeed. Students set their own goals and engage in fluid self-assessments.

All of these schools combine a heavy use of technology with a departure from a traditional classroom model.

Microsoft Hololens

I’ve written before about Virtual Reality in the classroom and Microsoft Hololens takes things a step further. Its application in classes like anatomy has been demonstrated in a video created by Case Western University. However, the implication is certainly that any course heavy in visual concepts such as history or geology could benefit as well.

While in its infancy in its entry to education, the Hololens and other products like it that are sure to follow will enhance any class where interactive visual learning is an advantage.

These are certainly not all of the technological advances in education at the moment, but they are a few of the most impacting. As both thinking and technology accelerate, and the imperative of innovation is felt nationwide, the impact on education will be even greater.

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