Technological advancements have shaped each and every aspect of our lifestyles: from how we communicate to how we work to how we entertain ourselves. Education is no exception in this matter. The way we teach and the way we learn have come a long way as new innovations are introduced and adapted to the classroom .

Let’s take a look at how technology in the classroom has evolved in the past and where it is headed in the future.


The past and the present:

  • AbacusThe abacus and its predecessor, the counting board, are instruments used to perform arithmetic calculations. While the exact origins of the abacus are still unknown, the abacus remains popular today, both as a toy for toddlers and as a calculation tool for older students.
  • Magic LanternMagic Lanterns were the primitive version of the modern projectors. A photo or painted picture was placed on a sheet of glass and then illuminated by a bright source of light to project it on a flat surface in a dark room. It was developed in the 17th century but did not become widely used as an educational tool until the 19th century.
  • CalculatorsElectronic hand-held calculators allow students to perform simple to complex computations with ease. Since it’s introduction in the classroom in the 1970s, calculators has sparked controversy as many feared it would hamper the natural ability of children to perform mental calculations. Despite this, the use of calculators have continued to grow in popularity over the past few decades.
  • ComputersThe first portable computer, weighing 24 pounds, was introduced to the consumer world in 1981. The personal computer, opened endless opportunities not only for teachers and students but for the education industry. In just a few years, there were educational games, quizzes, e-books, and tutorials for use in and out of the classroom.
  • TabletsSince the early 21st century, we have seen an increasing adoption of tablets in schools. With it’s easy-to-use touch screen and its expansive collection of education specific apps, teachers and students now have handheld mobile solutions to accessing their digital education content.


The Future: Mixed Reality Technologies

Recently, more and more of the education community is becoming aware of mixed reality (MR) technologies and discovering ways it can be used for educational purposes . Mixed reality technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), are giving educators and students access to experiences and information that were previously unavailable to them.

For example, with our globalizing world, importance is being placed on experiential learning to increase empathy, particularly for those in communities we are unfamilar with. VR experiences are being used to completely immerse audiences in these new communities and environments, allowing them to perceive it as if they were actually there, making way for a greater understanding of another life. Nonprofits like the Global Nomads Group are using this method in schools to foster international understanding among students regardless of physical location — creating a virtual pen pal experience. 

Augmented reality, unlike VR, does not block out your natural surrounds, but rather, overlays it with digital projections. This enables users to have direct access to (and interaction with) supplementary digital information within their real environment. This bridging of  physical and digital experiences opens up limitless opportunities as students and teachers are no longer confined to the information available on paper or a screen — a whole world of digital information can be made available alongside it. Pearson is partnering with Microsoft HoloLens to solve challenges faced in training and coaching with the use of mixed reality. They are currently piloting HoloLens for nursing education by simulating real-life clinical experiences for trainees, providing them with virtual, yet still hands-on, experience in patient care and diagnosis.

And while headsets, like HoloLens, are not yet available at a price point for every day 1:1 use, AR/VR experiences can easily be experimented with and incorporated in your classroom. Google Cardboard viewers can be purchased at a low cost, and allows for a simulated VR experience with your smartphone. And there are numerous AR apps and platforms available on mobile devices that are provided at no cost to the education community. Apps like the AR coloring app Quiver and the 3D model visualization platform Augment allow students and teachers an easy way to get a jump start on this emerging technology. 
Welcome to the new age of learning — go try it out!

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Sources: Tools of the Trade: The Abacus, NPRHistory of the Magic Lantern; A Brief History of Calculators in the Classroom, Audrey Watters