CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis

Instead of reviewing The Year in EdTech, instead of giving you the Best 100 Education Apps, let’s do something different: let’s look forward. We all have some idea of what’s out there. Here are my predictions for the next few years in edtech. What will the classroom of the future look like? What’s the Next Big Thing in education? Have a look at what classrooms currently look like, where technology currently stands, and you’ll get a better idea of what could easily be adapted to help make such a class of the future a reality.

Chipping In

First, let’s look at how we’ll track our most valuable resources. Students and their equipment will soon be tracked with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). According to AT&T, schools are already doing it. One obstacle: reducing costs. As soon as we can find a way to easily replace stolen or lost RFID’s with our students, I can see it being used on a daily basis to help track students from their attendance in school to their multiple trips out of the classroom or across the open classroom. Knowing when and where our students are at any given time will help to minimize lost instructional time.

Many will say they don’t want their child’s every move tracked at any given moment, but safety has to be something we all support. I cannot tell you how many fire drills I have participated in in the past where a student in my class potentially was not in the class and I honestly would have no idea where he or she would actually be during that drill. In modern, 1,000-plus-student schools, locating one missing student during a crisis could become something very scary. An RFID indicating their last check-in point would be something very useful. Embedded in costly equipment, it could also keep tabs on what goes where, and if it leaves school grounds, it could even sound an alarm.

Interactive Groups

Once the child was in the classroom for the day, I could see them still sitting in groups. The trend in education today is collaborative, group learning. But in this group learning model, we don’t work in isolation; this mirrors conditions in today’s workplace. Why, then, are we talking about giving every student a PC, or 1:1 learning environments? What if the desk they sat together at was itself a PC? Imagine if that group, working together, could work on a multi-touch desktop that really was a computer. Couldn’t they collaborate better? Wouldn’t they all interact better, surf together, participate and collaborate together on a multi-touch surface? Samsung’s SUR40 for Microsoft Surface2.0 already exists. It may be costly now—but Moore’s law will eventually kick in.

Also, later in 2012, the EXOdesk is slated to change that as well. Couple this technology with that of SmartEd Services and their TAP-it multi-touch technology and you have one very powerful collaboration tool. Throw in a Student Response System and now you have students collaborating and giving individual input. Integrate that into the interactive desk, and well…

Mobile Kids

Now if you want to give every student some tech to go, nothing beats the iPad. Cost and size have been formidable barriers, but watch for the release of the smaller, 7.85-inch iPad. Imagine an e-reader with tablet power at lower cost—in student hands. It’s coming.

White Boards

A major problem on the horizon: retrofitting older school buildings. But there is hope. Our district already started seeing how interactive whiteboard equipment, student response systems, document cameras and tablet technology can all be integrated together and fit into any existing building space by making any flat surface an interactive surface. Mimio has come out with a whole suite of technology that, price-wise, is very friendly—and so is the business model. They’ll soon take by storm those schools that haven’t been able to afford to jump on the interactive whiteboard bandwagon.

Professional Development

Teachers, however, will need training and support to ensure that this new technology can be integrated properly. They’ll need on-demand, anywhere, everywhere personalized, customized training. Websites such as Technology Integration in Education will start to offer free classes that can be quickly and easily created and available. Thanks to eLearninginnovation and Educrates courses can quickly and easily be created and uploaded for consumption by educators.

Soon, you’ll see sites offering courses to meet teacher needs daily offered free of charge thanks to collaboration by edtech companies willing to offset the cost of these courses through advertisement in the course promoting training in the use of their software or hardware.  Stay tuned for this because hopefully there will be more to come from me in regards to this one.

Final Thoughts

For now, I’m eager about the future. I wonder just what else we can do with all of this newly-available technology—and just how much of it we’re willing to invest in to make sure we produce the best possible education for our students.

——-

Greg Limperis, now Supervisor of Instructional Technology for his district, was recently the Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., and founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills. Visit: http://www.technologyintegrationineducation.com