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18 powerful technology tools and trends for 2018

These tools and trends can strengthen teaching and learning in classrooms

Technology changes so rapidly that the newest tablets, phones, and tools are often outdated within a couple years. Pair that fast pace with the education industry, which is notoriously slow to adopt new things, and it doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for innovation.

But educators can take their classrooms to the next level, and they can innovate, if they know which technologies to keep on their radar.

During TCEA, Dr. Maureen Yoder, a professor in Lesley University’s Educational Technology Department, presented 18 education trends that will take top billing in 2018.

Yoder based her list on some of the top digital transformational trends in education, including classroom devices, redesigned learning spaces, artificial intelligence, personalized learning, and gamification. In some cases, a technology claims two or three spots because it has different applications or different functions that can be used separately.

(Next page: 18 technologies for 2018)

1. Virtual reality (VR) is becoming more commonplace in classrooms, but educators still have much to keep in mind, including the size of their devices relative to viewers, the quality of lenses, what platforms their VR system will support, and the cost. VR is increasingly used in simulations and training, in operating rooms, and more.

2. VR in classrooms. Perhaps the most common use is virtual field trips and campus tours. Floreo has raised seed funding to compile evidence that virtual reality therapy can help children with autism prepare for daily activities and new experiences–for instance, a child with autism might attend a birthday party in virtual reality to prepare for the noise, stimulation, and new environment of a classmate’s birthday party.

3. Augmented reality (AR), or the blending of virtual reality and digital information superimposed over the real world, works when users point a device at a “trigger” image. Many have said AR helps students have “ah-ha” moments and increases engagement.

4. AR’s 2D triggers include enhanced books (Amazon carries many, but check to make sure the books are an AR version), flashcards, and pictures. Students simply point their device at a picture they’ve colored, or at an AR-enabled flashcard, and an image pops up and comes to life.

5. 3D AR triggers include the night sky, furniture, and statues. Via Star Walk HD, students use devices to highlight constellations and locate stars in the hemisphere. The Google Translate app can display city and street signs in different languages for users, and Google offers AR expeditions to bring immersive experiences to students.

6. Collections of images, videos, and artifacts offer volumes of content students can use to make their own creations. TED-Ed videos and TED-Ed lessons, the Khan Academy, the Library of Congress’s online teacher materials, and the Smithsonian offer free online content and rich resources.

7. Drones have a plethora of educational benefits, including, but not limited to, talking about logic and reasoning, electronics, science, geography, debate over privacy, and hand-eye coordination. Educators can use drones for speaking and writing exercises, to teach math, to develop children’s motor skills, or in physical education classes. In terms of future employment possibilities, programming drones could be a job field in the next decade, Yoder said. She recommends starting with a small and inexpensive drone kit and going from there.

8. GPS trackers for kids are mostly marketed to parents, but some have phone or messaging capabilities that let parents give kids a bit more freedom while retaining peace of mine.

9. Also in the wearables category are fitness trackers such as LeapFrog’s LeapBand and Garmin’s Vivofit Jr., which can help kids develop healthy habits by providing incentives and reminding children to brush their teeth, drink more water, and to get enough sleep.

10. Using robots has benefits in a number of education settings. Students who can’t physically be in school due to a long-term illness can use a robot such as VGo to “attend” classes and maintain social interaction with classmates.

11. Programming robots can range from simple to very high-level for more advanced students. Wonder Workshop’s Cue is designed for students ages 11 and up, while the Dash robot is suited for students ages 6 and older. Wonder Workshop’s Dot Creativity Kit offers DIY projects and self-guided coding challenges.

12. Building robots can be done with kits aimed at different skill levels. Teachers can start small with inexpensive and simple kids and work up to more intricate models. Robot kids include the 4M Tin Can Robot for $10-$15, KIBO, and the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit.

13. Social robots have the potential to change the way people interact with robots. Olly, billed as “the world’s first robot with personality,” acts as a companion for his humans. My Special Aflac Duck, which won the Best of CES 2018 award, comforts sick children in the hospital and even undergoes some of the same medical treatments.

14. Smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa, have skyrocketed in popularity. Amazon’s Echo might be better suited for classrooms, Yoder said, partially because of the 15,000 skills it possesses. For instance, the Echo Dot can group students for teachers so teachers aren’t wasting teaching time creating groups. Googling “using Alexa in the classroom” yields about 5.1 million search results.

15. Smart speakers like Google Home can pull up quizzes, trivia, math competitions, and more educational resources.

16. Visual enhancements and storytelling, including Snapchat, can be used to create engaging learning experiences through storytelling. The popular Google Arts & Culture app offers thousands of images and videos, as well as manuscripts, from museums, galleries and institutions across the world (and yes, you also can use the app to take a selfie and find your twin in famous works of art).

17. 3D printing, when used for something important and in an impactful way, resonates with students. Yoder recommends using paper, cardstock, or a maker studio before moving to the 3D printer. This helps students envision how to put together a 3D object with paper first. Students used a 3D printer to design a prototype of a prosthetic hand for their science teacher’s son, who was born with a congenital hand anomaly.

18. When teachers let students create and explore, and when teachers are comfortable becoming a facilitator in students’ learning, they will help students become engaged and take ownership of their learning.

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Laura Ascione

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