Jan 13 2014

Can CES Predict the Future of Education?

The popular consumer electronics and technology tradeshow in Las Vegas has electronic, gaming and technology enthusiasts alike dreaming of new gadgets and how they can be used to foster learning.

How will emerging technology trends impact higher education?

Curved television monitors, head-mounted displays (such as the Oculus Rift) and interactive entertainment platforms are poised to have a bigger impact on education than many might think.

When we think about these technologies, we typically think about immersive experiences as a form of entertainment — such as television, movies and video games — enhanced by 3D, ultrahigh definition and virtual reality. However, educators with software programming skills (and funding) will be able to use these technologies to create immersive experiences for the classroom.

For example: Virtual reality experienced through a head-mounted display could make it possible to study the very small (microbiology), the very large (astronomy) and the very distant (ancient ruins). Imagine a virtual observatory in the classroom that could give students the opportunity to explore the galaxy. Imagine a university able to provide a virtual tour of its campus to students who live abroad or are unable to visit. Geography, world history, art history and archaeology students could virtually visit long-gone cultures and lands.

All of these environments can be created in a computer-simulated world, displayed through a head-mounted display or curved television monitor. These technologies will allow students to have a greater interactive learning experience than their traditional classroom currently provides, bringing the content to the student in a realistic visual medium.

With these technologies, future students will be able to practice the application of their skills without risk and at less cost. In a virtual operating room, for example, medical students will be able to practice surgeries without the expense of using cadavers. Instead of hiring actors, medical schools will be able to use computers to create fictional patients for students to diagnose. Engineers will be able to model their designs in 3D spaces and give virtual tours of their portfolios. Chemists will be able to view chemical reactions without the risk of explosions or toxic fumes.

In short, these emerging technologies will shape the way we think about and design hands-on learning. It’s not too soon to explore their implications for future educational practices.

<p>Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/Thinkstocl</p>

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