The Final Frontier?
When we look at such an overwhelming topic as “Emerging Technologies” it’s easy to imagine a cornucopia of sci-fi electronic wonders and other cutting edge gizmos and devices to help our world become a better place. It pulls many of us into memories of our past when we used to pretend to talk into our watches like we had access to the latest go-go gadget spy tools. More importantly, the word “Emerging Technologies” cause us to look into the future and wonder what the next big thing will be. Emerging Technologies open up a vast horizon for us humans to cast our ever growing curiosities into what feels like an untaped and wildly exciting frontier.
What makes it so exciting?
The unknown always holds an element of excitement, and where Emerging Technologies are concerned there is a mysterious feel to these developments. I remember a teacher of mine in high school talking about a day when every student would have a computer in front of them in class, and I never thought that was possible. Today schools embrace the concept of 1 to 1 laptop programs, or bring your own devices (BYOD) in ever-increasing numbers. Perhaps it is the rapid pace of technological growth, or the ever newly discovered applications of this technological growth that is most exciting. Regardless, our society is hungrily clamoring for newer, faster, smaller, and wireless. Conversely, how we communicate, learn, work, shop, play, and recreate are all being impacted. What makes emerging technologies most exciting is the adaptions we need to make as a society to properly, safely, and effectively integrate them into our lives.
What are emerging technologies?
Emerging technologies are advances or innovations in a wide variety of fields with a multitude of uses. Their impact ranges across many industries and their effects are still being measured and discovered. Many of these technologies were originally developed for one purpose or aspect and then later repurposed to fit an entirely different niche. What was once a social media website, might provide an inspiration or platform for professionals to share ideas. Bringing people together of common interests and putting people into contact with those who might have answers to problems. As this body of collective knowledge grows it helps us become more efficient, connected, and empowered. In education, some of these new technologies are causing many to consider the benefits and challenges our digital world presents.
Spoon fed or hunger led?
With the emergence of technology in the education world we see a shift in the approach many of us need to take. The traditional formate of teacher being the “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side” is evident in many classrooms. Technology allows students to transition to student-centered learning as they have the ability to research, analyze, solve and create at a level never seen before. As the world of work is being impacted by technology, so to do we need to prepare students to achieve success in this digital world. Challenge-based learning, is one way that we see the opportunity to develop a level of complex problem solving needed by 21st Century workers. This and other “soft skills” can be developed as students collaborate on projects in real-time with their peers on Google Docs, Moodle discussion boards, and blogs. Blended learning institutions are rapidly becoming popular as students develop these technology skills along with face to face collaboration and team building activities.
Who said challenges?
There are of course some growing pains associated with emerging technologies. The first being what exactly do we need students to “know” and/or what do we expect our students to be able to “find out”. Students have powerful personal hand-held devices in their possession almost around the clock. The educator has to be prepared to answer the question “why do we have to know this?”. When students can have access to virtually unlimited information in a matter of seconds, it does cause one to pause and consider what information should be retained for the sake of retention and what information isn’t necessary. The second concern deals with policies and procedures that do not always align with reality of technology. We educators have to find a way to safely and securely provide learning opportunities for students to take advantage of the technology world and also provide for them some safety nets and protections. We need to secure their personal information, and we also need to secure them from cyber bullies and other threats out there. Probably the best way to do this is through early education on best practices, cyber citizenship, modeling of acceptable behaviors. If a framework is not established early about how to responsibly use technology in an educational environment, then schools will always be backpedaling in an attempt to put out fires. And of course we won’t be preparing students to be effective digital citizens in the workforce either. The final challenge of emerging technology is how brick and mortar schools can compete with so many online learning environments and what the future of education will look like. Like many of the challenges posed by emerging technologies, we may not know exactly what this will look like. Schools are wise to move to blended learning environments, flipped classrooms, and open educational resources (OER). Brick and mortar schools are not going away any time soon for the simple reason that parents want their kids supervised, nurtured, and socialized while they are away at work.
Does it end?
Emerging technologies have shaped and will continue to change many facets of our lives. Schools are striving to keep up with an ever-evolving industry and forever trying to employ the best practices when it comes to education. Preparing our students for careers that may not even currently exist using technologies that are not even invented sounds like an impossible task. Schools who invest in the professional development of their teachers to embrace these changes and create policies friendly to technology integration are on the right path. These schools are placing students in a position to achieve 21st Century skills which will provide students with the ability to meet whatever challenges the future holds.
Key Trends Accelerating Educational Technology Adoption in Schools. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition, 2014, 50-50. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org
6 Emerging Technologies in Education. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2015, from http://www.learndash.com/6-emerging-technologies-in-education/
A definition of emerging technologies for education | George Veletsianos. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2015, from http://www.veletsianos.com/2008/11/18/a-definition-of-emerging-technologies-for-education/