EdTech Trends of 2016: Virtual Reality and Big Data in the Classroom

As new technology continuously shapes the world around us and how we interact with it, we discover new ways of doing things we have always done. In educational spaces, technology is becoming more and more ingrained into modern learning.

There are still many people who are afraid that technology will replace traditional learning skills and disrupt classrooms. But, gamification of subject material engages and motivates students to solve complex problems in a fun environment. And technological learning could help students gain real life skills, even before they reach higher education. Technology has become a major component in the workplace, and gathering experience interacting with it gives students a leg up in entering the professional world.

With that in mind, here are some of the noticeable trends observed in 2016 thus far.

Digital Educational Materials

The Software and Information Industry Association has estimated that schools in the United States spend more than $8.3 billion on educational software and digital content a year. Perhaps that’s why Amazon is now breaking into a market predicted to be the the next big industry in education.

Amazon announced its new open education resources (OER) platform late last month. Starting out as a database of free resources for teachers, Amazon Inspire is set to become a one-stop shop for educational materials. Teachers can download and share educational materials, creating a sort of crowdsourcing platform for educational resources.

Virtual Reality

One of the (if not the) technological innovations of 2016, virtual reality is expected to play a role in educational spaces as it is more actively adopted. Google Cardboard has made VR cheap and easily accessible, meaning schools can easily start exploring its usage in the classroom. Google Expeditions Pioneer Program launched in 2015 has already allowed over one million students from 11 countries to explore virtual worlds using Google Cardboard.

Augmented Reality

Like VR, augmented reality is becoming further popularized in its blending of the virtual world and the real one. (And it’s proven to be a huge hit with Pokemon GO!) Companies like AugThat! are dedicated to bringing AR into the classroom by offering free licenses to teachers and students. zSpace’s STEM apps are another example of how AR can enhance the classroom, allowing students to explore 4D anatomical models on their devices.

Bring Your Own Device

While certainly becoming increasingly tolerated in colleges, allowing students to bring their device into the classroom rather than banning them is becoming more encouraged. Alongside the incorporation of beacons on school campuses, devices can become less of a distraction and more of a tool for enhancing education. Considering the device-heavy, connected workplace of today, it could be another useful way to introduce students to the challenges of the professional world.

Big Data and Analytics

Big data is all around us as analytics become more deeply ingrained in every aspect of our technological lives. Now schools are looking at data analytics to pinpoint best practices, measure learning success, and encourage technology and funding with collected statistics. Data could reveal patterns, trends, and opportunities for student and teacher growth and inform the future of curriculum and teaching methods.

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