Technologies that are changing and will change the world

What may sound like far-fetched predictions now could be popular digital learning tools down the road.

Well before the days of Siri, functional educational robots, and touch technology, futurists and technology enthusiasts made predictions that ended up being eerily close to some of today’s most popular technologies (just check out the Knowledge Navigator). Technology is constantly evolving, and ed-tech advocates know that what may sound like far-fetched predictions now could be popular digital learning tools down the road.

During an ISTE 2013 session on future technologies that will impact and shape schools, presenter Howie DiBlasi, an Arizona Vocational Teacher of the Year, educator and CIO, and digital technology supporter, told attendees that some technologies, including a mind-reading shopping cart and a space elevator, are either in the beginning stages of development or are not as far off as some may think.

Does wearing analytical underwear sound appealing? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. A Finnish company called Myontec is marketing underwear embedded with electromyographic sensors, which, according to Wikipedia, “can evaluate and record the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. DiBlasi said the applications are many—medical professionals could collect important data and people could monitor their diets.

(Next page: Eleven more future technologies)For the past six years, researchers at Walt Disney World have been working on a MagicBand—a piece of optional wearable technology that offers an all-in-one connection to places and experiences, intended to make Disney World visitors’ experiences, purchases, and activity preferences easier to execute and manage.

Artificial intelligence is evolving to the point where robots can train other robots, and can interact with each other through advanced artificial intelligence. (According to the eSN staff, robot armies are surely the next logical step in this development.)

Do you know what a zettabyte is? If you’re in the mood to count, it’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. By 2015, scientists predict that 1 zettabye of data will flow over the internet. In tangible terms, 1 zettabyte equals a stack of books from Earth to Pluto 20 times (which, as we all know, lost its planet status a while back—despite what outdated textbooks tell our students)—that’s more than 70 billion miles. According to reports, a planned NASA facility will have the capacity to store 5 zettabytes of data.

While Google Glass is all the rage, further developments in augmented reality eyewear will have huge implications for ed-tech, DiBlasi said. Imagine having data sent straight to augmented reality contact lenses, being able to translate your voice into another language, and instantly sharing everything you see via video or photo.

An industrial designer named Jiang Qian has envisioned a “rolling arcade”—namely, video games attached to subway hand straps that are activated when a subway rider grasps the strap. Players control movement by moving the handles from side to side, and the games alert riders when their stop approaches.

Who doesn’t want a personal shopper, even if it’s only at the grocery store? A mind-reading shopping cart would act like a mind-reading butler, DiBlasi said. The cart’s built-in computer would receive a shopper’s grocery list via text message, scan items and prices as they’re placed in the cart, and would warn a user if he or she placed an item in their cart that violates dietary restrictions or does not appear on the grocery list.

Electric roads may not be far off, as Volvo is working on a device with conductors that lower from a car and travel on an electric road surface. The concept might require electric cars so that they are able to drive once they leave the electric road grid.

Wake Forest University physicists are developing a garment that doubles as a spare electrical outlet, taking electricity from the human body and storing it for later use—generally, with this garment, the human body creates enough energy to power an MP3 player.

Digital cameras might soon come equipped with lenses that resemble insect eyes, and this type of bug’s-eye camera takes inspiration from compound insect eyes to capture images much differently and in high resolution.3D printers already generate a lot of buzz, but now one use is attracting even more attention—Dr. Anthony Atala devised a way to use a 3D printer to generate human organs—a kidney, to be specific.

A space elevator may sound like a radical concept, but we could only be five years away from having the materials—and the ability to overcome gravity challenges—needed to build an elevator to space.

Some of these future technologies have clear implications for education, but others seem more business- or manufacturing-minded. But the link, DiBlasi said, is the need for created and STEM-minded people to imagine and then create these new technologies and products.

“All this technology we have—we have to have people who are able to be innovative to make these devices…we need to train students for the future,” DiBlasi said.

He referenced a Brookings study that argues that STEM-educated students—in particular, those with some post-high school education but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree—is a driving economical force.

Educators and administrators should aim for schools to be “creation engines,” he said, focusing on what they’re doing what is innovative, and making sure that what students learn is relevant in today’s world.

DiBlasi asked one final question: “Will what you’re teaching your students help them be successful in today’s global economy?”

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Laura Ascione

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