Education has long been one of the arenas that finds actual, early solutions for new technology. This seems to be holding true of at least two of the current overhyped technologies: AI and VR.
Many years ago, the PC market as a ‘thing’ disappeared and the largest and most profitable trade show in Europe collapsed.
Education was one of the reasons. The Personal Computing World show was all about, well, personal computers. And it was focused on the technology itself (“Hey, our green blinking screen is faster than their green blinking screen”). Then, almost overnight, the show and the focus morphed into ‘PCs in Education’ (and a whole lot of other verticals – graphic design, architecture, you name it).
Now, we are seeing the beginnings of the same phenomenon in other tech areas. We are nearly done with talking about the IoT as a ‘thing’. We will, at some point, stop talking about 5G (and NFV and SDN) in the same manner. This is not because they are not important – it is because they are, basically, sorted.
The focus, then as now, will turn to applications. Decent access, bandwidth, appropriate latency, network efficiencies and the rest are all now givens.
We turn to thinking about AI, VR and AR in the real world. We start to wonder what actual problems they can solve in the next year or two, not what the ultimate dreams or nightmares consist of.
In education, you can clearly see that the ability to personalize a child’s learning path is extraordinarily powerful. Whatever needs the child has – whether he/she is good at sport, music, maths or whether the child struggles, is autistic, blind or deaf – these new technologies can provide solutions.
Now, instead of following the curriculum slavishly, the educator program can recommend paths, reading, videos, tests and where the focus should usefully be to encourage and advance learning on a logical, natural (and personalized) course.
You have to wonder just how many times in a school term (let alone a lifetime) a teacher says the words, “Let me show you what I mean.” With VR, already in use in many training environments, the teacher can do this. He can make history come alive, make Mozart come alive, immerse pupils in Shakespeare in ways that would have been impossible or at least too expensive just a few years ago.
Now that we are getting past our fixation with the technology itself, we will seriously begin to look at applications, without the hype. And we will begin to see the huge potential.
Education will be first – it generally is, when it comes to new technology beyond very specific enterprise applications.
Let us hope that those who set the exams and tests in the next decade can come up with ways of testing and examining that match the potential for this emerging level of personalized education.