Is it just us or does 2021 feel much more like a new millennium than 2001 did? Thinking back to some of the sci-fi films released over the years it’s really interesting to see what the filmmakers got right and what they got wrong. Some things are just never entirely predictable. Education is definitely in a different place than it was a year ago, and few would have predicted that. So what should we expect for 2021? What are the hottest trends in education right now?
Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality
Definitely something that looks different today than people imagined years ago, VR and AR allow immersive experiences that blur the line between the classroom and the world outside. VR headsets place users in virtual worlds complete with interactivity, just imagine exploring Pompeii in person in 79 AD or working as a surgeon on an operating table. While some VR headsets remain expensive, Google Cardboard and other alternatives are affordable options with more content being added each day. AR, on the other hand, overlays sound and video into the physical space around users. It uses a device’s camera and displays the augmentation via its screen. Think seeing a Dodo or a molecule of water in the space in front of you. Students will rush to engage with digital technologies like AR and VR because they will connect them with the wider world beyond their classrooms and their imaginations.
Microlearning and Nanolearning
Microlearning is one idea from just beyond the Y2K days that eLearning thinkers got right. Think of it as 2-5 minute learning activities based on a specific learning objective. Nanolearning is similar but aims to be no longer than two minutes. Both recognize that modern learners are different from years ago, with different needs and abilities. Anyone who taught remote or hybrid over the last nine months saw firsthand that trying to recreate the 20th century classroom wasn’t the best idea and strategies like microlearning and nanolearning try to address that. Think more of snacks, right at the moment of need, rather than gorging on big meals. These e-Learning strategies are certainly applicable and useful in the physical classroom too. They can be incorporated as one of several learning activities in a particular lesson.
Bitcoin anyone? The Distributed Ledger Technology underlying blockchain has plenty of applicability in education, particularly data verification and storage. A blockchain is continually built with every new piece, or block, of data, with limitless potential in theory. At the same time the information is protected and shared across many different computer systems. There is vast potential for making the transacting of data more secure and transparent. The technology is already being employed in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and ePortfolios to verify skills and knowledge. Sooner than later the same technology might change how permanent records, grading, transcripts, the college application process are done — especially with the growing experience and familiarity with remote learning.
Not at all brand new, but Project-Based Learning has proven it’s value and will continue its important role in education in 2021 and the years to come. Project-based learning is a teaching method that empowers students to “learn by doing.” Rather than the top-down teacher-heavy lectures and textbooks of the old days, learners engage in real-life projects with the teacher acting more as a facilitator. Ideally, students begin by investigating authentic problems and issues in their communities or the wider world and then work through their own responses and proposals. It’s an authentic way for students to explore content and hone skills rather than being held to arbitrary standards. More than anything, it accepts that we live in a rapidly changing world and critical-thinking, communication, improvisation, and adaptability are more important than ever.
At the moment, 85% or more of the nation’s schools still remain out of tradition everyday, in-person, classrooms. Though the general hope and expectation is that vaccine distribution will allow for a return to the classroom soon, there is a growing recognition that remote learning may not be going away. This shift may actually be a good thing. All educators know that learning doesn’t stop at the doors to the school and the challenges of the pandemic have given us valuable experience and tools in harnessing the potential of 21st century technology and possibilities. Remote learning will continue to be developed and become an integral part of the education process in the near future. Students will have access to the material, their teachers, and each other without the limitations of the past and traditional homework will give way to more comprehensive and interactive learning activities and pathways.
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