4 emerging technologies with educational potential

Classrooms, students can benefit from emerging and developing technologies

emerging-techTechnology seems to change as quickly as it is purchased and implemented in classrooms. And while this constant change is at times a source of frustration to technology directors and IT staff, emerging technologies have big implications for learning inside–and outside–of the classroom.

Wearable technology

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.

Called Power Felt, the technology is made up of “tiny carbon nanotubes locked up in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric, Power Felt uses temperature differences – room temperature versus body temperature, for instance – to create a charge.”

(Next page: Three more emerging technologies)If the product advances enough to charge more powerful mobile devices and if the price is right, students could take advantage of this emerging technology to increase their opportunities for anytime, anywhere learning, whether or not they can locate an outlet to charge a device.

Gaming company TN Games is working on a wearable vest that lets players feel sensations and actions that occur in the games, and this could translate over to the emerging educational gaming industry.

3D printing

Students are already using 3D printing in varied and unique ways, and the technology’s potential is still emerging. In addition to creating objects ranging from simple shapes to working speakers, 3D printers have another benefit: more and more students are interested and engaged in engineering studies, educators have noted.

And another use is emerging, attracting even more attention: Dr. Anthony Atala devised a way to use a 3D printer to generate human organs—a kidney, to be specific.

The technology has become much more affordable, as well. While prices once ranged in the tens of thousands, some 3D printers, including the MakerBot, fall in the $1,000-$3,000 range.

Flexible displays

In 2008, HP and Arizona State University introduced a flexible paper-like computer display made almost entirely of plastic. Using this technology, which consumes less power than computer displays, displays become more portable and open doors for increased applications, such as electronic paper and signage. Industry experts note that because flexible displays use fewer materials than traditional displays, using flexible displays in the production of smart phones, laptops, and other mobile devices could lower production costs. At CES 2013, Samsung demonstrated the Youm device, whose screen uses organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) in its display technology:

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Augmented reality

This technology has come a long way–once an emerging technology, it has moved from isolated beta pilots to more mainstream use. Augmented reality uses technology to blend the real world with interactive and enhanced content. When a student uses an augmented reality application while looking through a mobile device such as a tablet, the student will experience an overlay of interactive elements that enhance the “normal” scene. Companies such as Aurasma and DAQRI have developed augmented reality apps that teachers use to enhance classroom lessons and boost student engagement.

Google Glass is a well-known augmented reality application, and education technology stakeholders have proposed using Google Glass to boost student engagement and give them a fresh perspective during classroom lessons through enhanced overlays, interactive maps, and more.

Some wonder if more developments are on the horizon, such as having data sent straight to augmented reality contact lenses.

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Laura Ascione

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