4 EdTech Transformations for the New School Year

Connexeo - 07/06/2018

As school administrators and teachers begin to gear up for the start of the new school year, the technological advances in the education industry continue to expand. With the world dominated by connectivity, so now goes the classroom.

Here are just a few of the trends that are shaping – and will shape – education into the 2020s and beyond:

Artificial Intelligence: Of course, education is dedicated to developing “natural intelligence” in humans, but artificial intelligence can, according to an article in “Getting Smart,” become a guide to educators and students to optimize the work of teaching and learning.

For example, an AI system could help students “show their thinking” while choosing a solution to a problem from a series of options presented by the learning system. At a more basic level, it could ease teacher workload by automatically scoring essays and mathematical expressions, or even recommend resources, classify the complexity of materials, and improve accessibility of materials to students with disabilities.

A 2017 survey by Research and Markets titled “Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector 2017-2021” predicted that the use of AI in U.S. education would grow 47.5% by 2021. Right now, the report summary stated, budgetary concerns are one of the biggest roadblocks to adapting AI resources in the classroom.

The “Getting Smart” article also mentioned AI as a method of sharing data among applications so it is no longer “held hostage” in a particular system.

Virtual Reality: Consumers, primarily gamers, have been the dominant market for virtual reality electronics as the field has gained popularity, but manufacturers are starting to take heed of the education market. In fact, Facebook announced late last year that it would give virtual reality kits to every high school in Arkansas.

The advantages and disadvantages of VR in the classroom have not been fully weighed, but the trends are toward increased use. Google, through its Cardboard and Expeditions products, is marketing virtual field trips, according to an article in EdWeek. Many teachers of topics such as art and theater design are finding positive benefits from use of the technology.

And, vocational educators in Hong Kong are using VR to realistically simulate the workplace environment so the student-trainees know what they’re getting themselves into, an Educational Technology Solutions article reported.

However, VR content in other areas is slow to develop, and some educators are discovering physical and psychological side effects in some students who use VR machines.

So, while AI use will likely continue to grow exponentially in schools, increases in VR technology could be a little more tempered.

Payment Software Advancements: Beyond the classroom, new software can integrate systems to make back-office tasks more efficient and standardize workflows – leaving time for administration and finance staff to better serve the school and allow it to perform its core mission: educating students.

For example, Connexeo’s new ConnexPoint payment system, which allows entities to integrate all payment channels into one central access point. Reconciliation of merchant accounts can take place in 10 minutes, and funding is completed within 48 hours. ConnexPoint can be accessed from food service, transportation, athletics and many other accounts, eliminating the need for multiple payment systems – some that are even manual.

With the trend toward cashless campuses speeding forward, this type of integrated payment system gives school districts and other entities – including municipalities, community organizations and community education programs – a head start toward fully automated payments. Parents will no longer scurry to get their cash and checks in on time, and staffers won’t be rushed to manually input and reconcile multiple accounts – possibly resulting in preventable errors.

Getting started can be accomplished from one account with just a couple of clicks.

The Internet of Things: When everything around you is interconnected so that no point of data goes unturned, you have the Internet of Things (IoT). This is when your smart refrigerator tells you that you’re running out of milk, and sends it to Alexa, which orders from Amazon, etc., etc.

Are we at that stage of interconnectivity yet? No, but we’re getting there. IoT devices such as interactive whiteboards, digital highlighters and pens, attendance tracking systems, connected school buses and the like provide real-time data to convey information efficiently.

IoT tools are not only used to keep track of students and materials. Intelligent lab equipment can check student work – and even read lips better than people do.

And, according to a blog on DigitalList, IoT can help connect classrooms from around the world.

“Even with all the fancy resources and technology at our children’s fingertips, it is still a long and tough road ahead for the IoT to reform education in a path-breaking and everlasting way,” author Geetika Tripathi wrote. “Nevertheless, the seeds are sown well and the harvest appears to be promising.”

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