Monday, September 09, 2013

Five Technology Trends That Will Transform Teaching & Learning

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse an annual technology event called, "TECH in 20" is held which gives faculty and staff "quick hits" on a wide variety of relevant topics. These sessions are limited to 20 minutes to basically whet the audiences' appetites on technology topics that help faculty and staff in their classrooms, offices, and in their lives.

One session, "Five Technology Trends That Will Transform Teaching and Learning" highlighted a number of innovative technologies that have moved from the lab to the mainstream.  These trends include: Multiple and Flexible Displays, 4-K Resolution, 3-D Printing, Flipping the Classroom, and Mobile Learning and Living.

Multiple and Flexible Displays

As the display panel industry continues to innovate, we are seeing a steady stream of thinner, larger, and high resolution flat panel displays hit the market.  In the academic world, these new products are beginning to replace the traditional smartboard products with higher resolutions and wider surface areas.  The new generation of panels allow for multiple user interactions and more sophisticated applications.
In addition these panels can be connected to form entire walls of displays, large tabletops, and even floors.  As prices continue to evolve, these new panels could replace analog white boards in a variety of room types. The ability of multiple users to interact on the display can provide a much more collaborative and interactive experience.

In addition to multiple displays is the introduction of flexible displays. This development opens up entirely new opportunities to include image display in a wide variety of environments in our work and lives. Untethered by the traditional limitations of a hard device, flexible displays could be treated literally like paper. These same devices could even be seen as wearable jewelry or clothing. As millions of people worldwide carry their iPhones, it is intriguing that Apple has recently announced a number of patents for a potential flexible iPhone.  The trend for flexible displays and appliances will likely accelerate as innovations are introduced and consumers adopt them in their work and play.

Corning created several insightful videos entitled, "A Day Made of Glass." The most recent version 2 speculates on how displays will change our lives through a number of innovative uses. This YouTube video has been viewed by nearly 4 million people.  The program not only illustrates what is currently available in market place, but creatively and accurately speculates how displays will likely be utilized in academics, corporate, medical, and in our social lives.

4-K Resolution

With the advent of HD TV, the world was introduced to an entirely new world of sharper images with unprecedented resolution.  Today, there is migration toward even higher resolution which is referred to UltraHD which boasts twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of 1080p, and 4 times the overall pixels. our current HD standard.  At a resolution of 4096x2160, UltraHD is impressive even when viewing video projection on a 25 foot screen. At INFOComm 2013, spectacular images could be seen both on projection and flat panel displays.

The quality of these images have applications in the consumer market, but also in medicine, corporate, and eventually academics.

3-D Printing

The world of 3-D printing has ushered a new era of taking complex 3-dimensional concepts, and making them "come to life" so that we can interact with them.  In this world of printing, if you can conceive of a shape, you can create it.  From artwork, shoes, musical instruments, and robotic devices, we now have the capability to create items without the need of traditional molding processes. Today, 3-D technology is allowing companies to create replacement jawbones, or even a transparent 3-D model of a human body.

The process of 3-D printing is made possible through an "additive process" whereby successive layers of different types of material is laid down.  As the Wall Street Journal notes, "A 3-D printer bears little resemblance to a document printer in an office. It has two major parts: a "build box" that contains a smooth, thin bed of finely ground material such as pulverized stainless steel or powdered plastic; and a printing head. Depending on the type of printer, the head contains either a heat source, such as a laser or an electron beam, that melts the powdered material or jets that spray binder over the powder in a precise pattern. The binder functions as a glue for the material as an object is built."  To see an example of the power of 3-D printing, here is a video from Shapeways:

Flipping the Classroom

Much has been written about flipping the classroom, but for many, the exact definition can appear elusive. Generally a flipped classroom occurs when the learning takes more of an on-line component with students being able to learn on-line augmented with videos, homework, assignments, and assessments. In doing this, it provides the student with more instructor time, provides more of a self-paced learning environment, promotes more engagement, and assessments are more enhanced.  There are times where the instructor teaches, and others when students join in to teach as well. Each of these components deal with pedagogical issues.  However, flipping the classroom is also tied to the actual design of the face-to-fact environment.

A Flipped Classroom can become much a more engaging environment, when the design of the room promotes active learning. Carefully designing the learning environment to promote an active learning space accentuates the notion of flipping the experience.  MIT, the University of North Carolina, and Penn State are just some the many examples of creating active learning spaces which do not define the front of the classroom as one area.   Multiple projection and displays, distributed and clustered AC power, and innovative furniture all work in unison to create an truly Flipped Classroom experience.

Mobile Learning and Living

As mobile devices get smaller and become more powerful, and display technology advances it becomes increasingly easy to see a blurring of lines between what is work and what is part of our daily lives. Technology miniaturization and revolutionary industrial processes and led to an rise of electronic devices that can allow us to check our e-mail, surf the net, but also track our personal status. A new generation of "wrist band" computers are entering the marketplace. Two prominent manufacturers are FitBit and Jawbone's UP.
These devices can track our activity levels, our sleep patterns, moods, and allow us to add nutritional intake and other data to monitor ourselves. As one company states, "Know Yourself and Live Better."
A video on the design and manufacturing of the UP product provides insights into the notion of a mobile learning and learning device and whole technology has evolved to allow us to know more about each of us.


Each of these 5 Technology Trends are interrelated, and taken as a whole will likely enhance and transform how we learn, work, and live.  Certainly these trends will be modified, tweaked or changed completely.  Still it is important to understand the potential each of these elements have, and to carefully research and pilot each concept to carefully plot our course in academics and in corporate. Stay tuned.