2021 top ed-tech trends parents should know
2021 is bringing new tech and immersive learning experiences. Here’s what parents need to know.
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As an educational technology (ed tech) professional, I can imagine a future where our information will move from textbooks to immersive experiences. Following an extremely unusual year, many are looking to 2021 to bring a fresh learning opportunity. Despite the pandemic slowdowns, technology has continued to move forward, and it’s going to be a great year of interactions, access and innovation. So what are we expecting to see this year, and what does it mean for parents?
Ed tech offers more ways to virtually connect.
After professionals and classrooms across the country were required to change to remote work and learning, one trend that exploded is virtual connections. In the past, virtual meetings and field trips were seen as extra activities, but their value has certainly changed.
Although many classrooms across the country continue to meet virtually, the lack of support for meeting the needs of all students calls for a stronger commitment to finding ways to best serve our children. I predict we will see the majority of students transitioning back into school buildings this fall, although I don’t think we will ever go back to the traditional ways of teaching. Whether or not we meet in person in the near future, the pandemic restrictions have brought an awareness that virtual meetings are possible and that they extend new opportunities.
Untethered virtual reality headsets
The VR trend was projected to hit the mainstream and overwhelm the market with games, entertainment and virtual connections. Although it didn’t rise as quickly as expected, it’s made a considerable comeback in the form of a stand-alone VR headset. Easy and affordable access has shown great promise in the VR industry. The enthusiasm for this technology has created a demand that’s hard for companies to keep up with. The VR headsets traditionally targeted gamers, but now appeal to the general population.
Augmented reality (AR) glasses
Wearables may seem like a blast from the past, but augmented reality glasses are coming back stronger than ever. It’s been long rumored that the release of these glasses would happen in 2020, but the pandemic pushed the efforts out to 2021. The use of ARKit and ARCore on mobile devices has paved the way for mobile developers to create content for such glasses. ARKit and ARCore allow developers to create seamless augmented reality experiences using mobile devices. Most notably when opting in, the technology can track the location of the devices and accurately places the AR experience in the space. When the glasses finally hit the market, many applications should be available to be explored.
The trend: 3D scanning with lidar technology
Our current mobile devices provide many immersive experiences through augmented and virtual applications. Lidar technology uses the camera to define 3D mapping by using a laser and sensor to determine how close or far away objects are. The data then translates into 3D objects and scenery, so a 3D scanner is available for our mobile devices. Lidar provides relevant information to enhance such activities as lip reading and body language.
More immersive experiences without apps
A low-profile technology that’s integrated into many browsers is WebXR. Beginning as WebVR, the technology made VR accessible through the browser without the requirement of downloading an application. Fast forward to now: The technology has advanced to augmented and virtual reality, making WebXR an appealing option for developers. The benefit of this technology is creating simplified access to immersive experiences within the browser. The technology may not be as robust as downloading applications, but allowing almost anyone to join in an immersive activity by merely clicking a link is appealing for the developer and the consumer. WebXR is growing in potential and is anticipated to become more of the norm.
More help with digital parenting
A recent study found that millennial parents want more help from media and tech companies when it comes to digital parenting. When schools closed, video conference apps helped provide virtual learning portals. For example, The New York Times and Verizon teamed up to give teachers and students a free subscription to the digital magazine.
Many of these new ed-tech trends and resources are low cost or on our mobile devices today. It’s important that we proactively provide the opportunities for our children to explore the technology of their future. The foundational skills to explore, understand and create using these technologies could be vital for careers that are just beginning to develop today. And use of these tools should be practiced at school and home to foster an enthusiasm and passion in emerging technologies. In 2021, educational technology will continue to spark creativity, innovation and connections for a brighter future, which can’t come soon enough!
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