Rebecca Torchia is a web editor for EdTech: Focus on K–12. Previously, she has produced podcasts and written for several publications in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and her hometown of Pittsburgh.
Teaching emerging technologies to K–12 students today not only sets them up for success as future citizens in the workplace, but also furthers diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Sean Wybrant, a CTE teacher in Colorado Springs District 11, shared what this looks like in his classroom in a recent episode of Focus on EDU.
Wybrant, who previously worked as an English teacher, found his way into teaching tech thanks to a misconception.
“When the job opened up to transfer from teaching kids about English literature to teaching kids about computer science and video game design, I thought, ‘I’m never going to have to grade an essay again,’” Wybrant recalled in the episode. Then, when he started working in the new role, he quickly realized “it’s really hard to make something that doesn’t already exist.”
Augmented Reality Tools Help Students Apply Skills and Knowledge
One of the technologies Wybrant uses with his students is the Microsoft Hololens 2. Within that augmented reality space, students can see virtual objects that are spatially aware and interact with their real environment.
“You can put a virtual hologram on top of a table, and it will stay there. And if you knock it off the table, it will knock off just as it would have if it were a real object,” he explained.
In one lesson, using virtual lasers and lenses, it wasn’t long before students were using calculus to determine the angles at which the beams of light needed to be redirected. In another, they used real rulers to measure a life-sized Mars rover replica that only those with the Hololens smart glasses could see.
“The longer we put off giving them access and opportunities to learn those skills, the longer it takes them to get into the field,” Wybrant said. “By the time they get into the field and realize this is what they want to do, some of the stuff will have already been done … It may have been done by the people who have always historically done things. But software only gets made by the people who know how to make software. ”
Another benefit of working with advanced technologies is that it eliminates barriers that may have existed in the past. Wybrant shared how, while giving a presentation in New Jersey, one of his students in Colorado was able to participate because the technology connected the presenters in real time.
Breaking down these barriers will allow people who may not have had the opportunity in the past to work with others around the world to solve problems and share experiences.
“It’s going to have a dramatic impact on our lives,” he said. “The earlier we get kids to understand what stuff like that looks like and how it works, the more likely it is they see themselves in those spaces in their future.”