The future
of education

Author: Paul Gillin

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of school children out of the classroom and into the home, and the field of education technology (EdTech) is changing.

The last few months have created opportunities for educators and developers of education technology to innovate. Students are learning to use digital tools to create things that would otherwise be done by hand, exploring the world virtually through maps and videos, and even inventing ways to stage group musical performances from a dozen tiny stages.

These forced experiments in educational technology will give birth to innovations that can be incorporated into mainstream curricula as schools reopen.

Catalyzing forces

Two trends, in particular, will accelerate change—the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. The number of active IoT devices is expected to more than triple to 24 billion in 2030, according to Transforma Insights, while GrandView Research expects the market for 5G services to expand at an astonishing 44% annual rate over the next seven years (in terms of US dollars). As 5G networks become ubiquitous, educators will increasingly weave together classroom and field experiences. 5G, with its lower latency, will facilitate high-quality video to be created and consumed nearly everywhere, while making static experiences dynamic.

The combination of these two platforms are expected to unleash new applications of education technology in the future. And as devices become smarter and smaller, new uses will be discovered with an emphasis on video and collaboration.

Take drones, for example. No longer simply the realm of hobbyists and the military, drones are becoming mainstream in business. Global shipments of drones for commercial and educational use are expected to grow more than 66% annually to 2.4 million units in 2023, according to Business Insider. They will allow students to survey city landscapes from the sky, investigate the structure of tall bridges and zoom in for close-up views of an Egyptian sphinx's face.

Another technology with breakthrough potential is wearable cameras—shipments of which are expected to reach 23.1 million units in 2022, according to Statista, up nearly 20% from this year. Wearable devices connected to 5G networks will empower students to scale the world's highest peaks with experienced mountaineers, hitch a ride with cyclists competing in the Tour de France and explore caves with avid spelunkers. These experiences will be delivered with the kind of vivid imagery and sound that's not feasible at scale with today's networks.

A new reality for EdTech

Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) can enhance these innovations in-field learning. Students using AR can interact with a digital overlay atop their everyday life to learn with a more hands-on approach. 5G wireless in the classroom will let multiple students interact with the same video and images while enjoying personalized experiences and sharing discoveries.

Meanwhile, VR will enhance student experiences in both real and imagined spaces: Kids will hop aboard a small-engine aircraft for an immersive view from above that's just like being in the cockpit, take a simulated tour inside the body and navigate to Mars on a high-speed virtual spacecraft.

High-speed wireless networks will permit devices that are now tethered to hardwired data lines to move about freely, unleashing a flood of new educational applications for robotics. Students can pilot their robots through caves and explore underwater worlds with remote-controlled submersible vehicles.

Robotics and other technological advances will also mean breakthroughs for students with disabilities. For those who are unable to participate in classroom activities, remote-controlled robotic avatars can be their eyes and ears, allowing them to experience the classroom, ask questions and interact with others as if they were there in person. Robots can also help students with disabilities perform manual tasks, such as conducting science experiments in a laboratory and even participating in athletics. Surround video and sound delivered through stereoscopic headsets will help them to transcend physical limitations and take their place with classroom peers.

Advances will also create the need for new precautions. Technology in elementary school needs to be tightly monitored to prevent breaches that could steal students' information or subject them to inappropriate content. Mobile device management will need to accommodate a growing variety of endpoints while giving administrators a comprehensive view of their networks. Fortunately, 5G networks have the functionality to implement a more comprehensive set of controls and auditing measures than are now possible, keeping children safe while enhancing the quality of their education.

Learn more about how Verizon is helping spur the advancement of K-12 technology.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.