The UK Government recently implemented a policy focussed on preparing the British workforce for the digital age, following on from a previous report in 2015. Coding has already been introduced to the national curriculum as a mandatory subject, and there’s been a widespread move from chalkboards to technology including tablets, virtual learning environments and video game apps. We’ve been considering what other educational changes may occur over the next few decades…

The Digital Skills Committee, lead by former OFSTED chair Baroness Sally Morgan has stated that “the Government should develop an ambitious ‘Digital Agenda’ for the UK: at its heart should be the Government’s vision for the UK to keep up with the best leading digital economies across the board in five years’ time.” We investigated some upcoming tech and also turned to futurism experts to see what predictions they have made and how they could affect education.

Biometric eye-scanning technology could be used within education to improve the learning experience

Biometric Eye Tracking

Biometric Eye tracking is already being used by the advertising industry to monitor how people view and react to different advertising campaigns and what captures a viewer’s attention. Eye tracking is also being used to observe student learning processes and cognitive responses to a number of teaching methods. In a classroom environment this technology could be used to monitor each pupil’s cognitive response, determine which pupils may need further help in specific areas and provide insightful data as to how to tailor that support for each child’s individual learning requirements.

Virtual Reality

Only a minority of people are auditory learners, for many it is difficult to absorb information in a classroom where they are required to listen for long periods. For kinesthetic and visual learners, virtual reality can offer a much more interactive experience which stimulates various learning styles. Virtual reality immerses the student into an environment specifically developed to help them absorb as much information as possible. Furthermore, it is a great tool to demonstrate scenarios such as the solar system or an ancient civilisation. With virtual reality, students could take a field trip everyday exploring worlds beyond our own throughout space and time!

Virtual Learning Environments

Education is sometimes disrupted by health issues and for students with long term health problems this can be detrimental. Virtual learning environments could be a solution to this issue. Imagine calling in sick for school whilst interacting with a virtual teacher from your bedside, children who are contagious could benefit from accessing the same information as their peers. For children with long term health problems, they could receive an education from home that is tailored to their schedules and requirements.

Video Games

EA have already begun working with GlassLab Games to develop games specially tailored for education. The games can be used to teach children a number of different skills in a fun and engaging way. The games offer pupils an environment to practice until they get it right without the need for a teacher present. Many games have also been developed to assess and examine student performance; the accuracy of examinations and tests have been debated for a number of years, many arguing that under the pressure of exam conditions some pupils do not perform to their best ability skewing the end results. GlassLab Games have incorporated observational elements to the learning games. This means teachers will be able to monitor a child’s performance without adding the pressure of an exam environment, generating much more accurate and fair results.

Human Augmentation

Futurist and author Ray Kurzweil has predicted that within the next 30 years man and machine must merge. Kurzweil believes this is necessary to ensure that technology continues to serve humanity rather than surpass it. Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX and Tesla Inc) and Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) have said machines are not only catching up with human capacity but are also replacing the workforce. Musk believes the need for neural lace is imminent. Neural lace is a science-fiction device that develops with your brain and optimises cognitive ability by interacting with computer technology directly.

Sounds like a crazy idea? Well, in many ways the merge has already begun… We see it often in medicine with devices such as cochlear implants which interact with the brain to enable hearing for the profoundly deaf. How could these technological and biological advances be used in the future to augment our skills? In April of last year Sony was awarded a patent on a contact lense device that could revolutionise humanity. The contact lense has the capacity to record at the blink of an eye and could one day have the ability to magnify and much more.

Braintree founder, Bryan Johnson, recently invested $100 million into the development of neuroprosthetics and hopes to create a device that can be programmed. The idea is to enable information to be directly transmitted from computer to brain.

In the past few decades technology has developed at such a rapid pace and continues to snowball. It is somewhat impossible to imagine what advances we could make in another 30 years from now and how this could realistically shape education. Children could be driven to school in driverless flying cars, learn from virtual reality games and have virtual teachers. It may even be the case that one day in a distant, dystopian future there is no need for learning tools or teachers – neural lace technology could be used in education to directly transfer information onto each child’s brain enabling them to access the internet and endless information directly.

However the world may change, may the innocence of children never!