Current and future students can look forward to greater access to information and more incredible learning tools as technology improves.

When it comes to the rapidly-turning technology wheel rolling its way into the future, it’s easy to focus on things like smart fridges, VR entertainment, mobile phones and autonomous cars, which can dominate the media and excite us with the ways they might change our lives, but not everything is about entertainment and efficiency.

There’s also education! According to the ABS, there were 3,798,226 students in Australia in 2016, and our classrooms are becoming connected, technology-aware spaces our children are benefiting from now, and will benefit further into the future.

So how is technology and improved internet infrastructure being used by modern teachers around the world?

And what is in the pipeline to help future students? We put on some thick-soled Clarkes shoes and went for a figurative excursion – two-by-two, of course.

Emerging technology education tools

3D Printers: One of the biggest technology trends of 2017 may be the arrival of cost-effective 3D printing solutions, and a few schools are already adopting them as an education tool.

The benefits are obvious: imagine subjects like history or anatomy, where you could print out an example of the subject matter that students could hold in their hands, turn around and look at. Something to scale. For example, an ancient Roman bowl or a replica human heart.

Games and Apps: Already widely available, educators are turning to games and apps built specifically to help students learn.

By zeroing in on a particular subject and providing a fun and interactive way to learn, these apps help improve student engagement, which in turn helps to drive better results.

What’s more, students can connect with each other and their educators to share their scores for a more social experience. Here are some great examples of educational apps already available.

Remote Schooling: Australia is a big place and for many rural students, getting access to consistent, high-level education can prove challenging. High speed internet is helping to improve this situation, enabling face-to-face communication between students and their teachers, regardless of distance, through video conferencing and other communication tools. 

Assessments can be conducted and submitted online, too, helping rural Australian children to keep pace with those in urban areas. It’s not restricted to solely academic endeavours, either, with music, art and other experiences able to be taught over the internet.

Internet of Things: As we’re seeing in our homes, places of business and even cars, the internet of things is bringing connectivity to all parts of our world. Why not the classroom? Some places of learning are starting to install whiteboards in classrooms that are connected devices.

They can not only bring up and display images and information from the internet, but can also record and save notations from the teacher, which can be put in the cloud so they’re accessible to students and teachers.

Video as a Tool: High speed internet is assisting Australians to access on demand streaming video, which has seen a number of online tutorials and courses appear for students.

For those approaching the end of High School, services like Lynda.com allow proactive students to supplement their school education with detailed, exercise-driven tutorials. However, we’re also seeing sites appear for much younger students – like e-learning – that provide simple, free, easily-accessible education courses to help complement their learning.

Coming technology education tools

Virtual reality: Unless you’ve had your head in a hole, you will know that 2016 was the year virtual reality came to the masses and, in 2017 and beyond, it is also coming to classrooms.

Virtual reality puts an excursion at the fingertips of any teacher, allowing them to transport students into potentially any location on Earth, which they can not only explore, but interact with.

More excitingly, this can also extend to different times in history, and locations that have either been destroyed or remain inaccessible for a learning experience that is as good as being there. You can read more about how VR is changing the classroom here.

Augmented reality: While VR may be a spectacular new learning tool for travelling to new places, augmented reality can help bring a classroom to life. Imagine putting on a pair of AR glasses, opening up a book about astronomy, and having the planets appear as holograms above the page.

They could orbit each other at the correct distances, and reveal various bits of information. Or what about a human body appearing, showing how the blood circulates around the body right before students’ eyes?

Perhaps you might be in a woodworking class with your headset giving you visual step-by-step instructions, based on what you’re holding or looking at. The possibilities are impressive, to say the least.

More Internet of Things: We spoke about smart whiteboards earlier, but may this just be the start of the internet of things in classrooms. In the more distant future, desks themselves could be touchscreen, internet-connected devices capable of allowing students to interact with learning tools together, in real-time.

Who knows what other simple classroom staples might benefit from access to fast broadband and a few more years of R&D?

The Cloud: While “the cloud” is already a familiar part of most Australians’ lives, we can expect it to become a vital part of the education process in the future. Not only is it a place for lesson notes and results to be saved and accessed by students, but it is also set to become a fundamental part of homework.

Not only can out-of-class activities be completed and submitted directly to teachers, but students will begin collaborating in real-time on larger projects that can run across multiple lessons.

Let’s not forget

As well as all the direct ways in which technology is improving the education experience for our children, there is also an important indirect impact. Technology is now intimately connected with our world, be it at home or in our work environments.

It’s become a key tool in the way we socialise and connect with each other, too.

Whether you champion or lament this reality, it’s important to be aware of it. And by ensuring that children are exposed to and understand technology, we give them a greater chance to hit the ground running outside of the school environment.

Access to fast broadband over the nbn™ network has the potential to help kids all across Australia, like the McIntosh family, who were able to take a virtual tour of the Great Barrier Reef, despite living five hours north of Adelaide.

* End-user experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network, depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises and some factors outside our control like equipment quality, software, broadband plans, signal reception and how the end-user’s service provider designs its network. Access to your work network will depend on factors outside our control like your organisation’s IT policy and infrastructure.

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