As wearable technology, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) become more mainstream and more available to educators, many innovators are looking at how combining such technologies can impact classrooms in the future.

What if a piece of wearable technology could sense a student’s stress and offer access to mentors and coaches with just a click of a button? Or imagine a group of students curious and eager to learn more about another culture. What if they could use AR to interact with groups of students from different countries to work on a shared project without ever having to leave the classroom?

A new publication from KnowledgeWorks, Leveraging Digital Depth for Responsive Learning Environments, explores the potential future impacts of using wearables, AR, and VR in the classroom and other learning environments. The report also encourages educators to develop a critical filter to sift through the hype and determine the value and use of these new technologies.

“Often educators are given market-driven approaches to implementing technology in the classroom that end up being ineffective,” says Katherine Prince, senior director of strategic foresight for KnowledgeWorks. “It is our hope that educators can use this research to think critically about how they can use emerging technologies to benefit their students’ unique needs.”

Prince and co-author Jason Swanson, director of strategic foresight for KnowledgeWorks, presented the report during CoSN’s 2018 conference in March.

The report explores how technologies such as wearables, AR, and VR could potentially support current learning environments and create new opportunities to engage students, personalize learning, and build learners’ social-emotional skills through a deeper understanding of themselves and others’ experiences.

To help educators and education technology leaders explore these technologies, the paper features in-depth research on the potential future impacts, along with insights and implications for education stakeholders to consider when evaluating potential uses of wearables, AR, and VR.

Educators might be able to use these technologies inside and outside the classroom to add a layer of “digital depth”—the layering and integration of data, computing, and connectivity atop physical reality—to create more responsive learning environments. Three kinds of spaces emerge from the growth of digital depth:

  • Enhanced physical spaces are grounded in physical reality but have a thin layer of digital information capture, sharing, and feedback. They have relatively low digital depth. Wearables are effective in creating enhanced physical space.
  • Hybrid spaces use multiple digital layers and more extensive computer-generated content, connectivity, and experiences to enable experiences that have a higher degree of digital immersion but which are still anchored in physical space. Hybrid spaces have moderate digital depth. Augmented reality creates hybrid spaces with new capabilities for collaboration, visualization, and creation.
  • Fully digital spaces provide full immersion in digitally created environments with little reference to physical space. Because of their high levels of digital depth, they can allow for novel world building and for shifts in identity and perspective through embodiment, or taking on the identity and context of another person or character. Virtual reality supports the creation of fully digital spaces.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura