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How Will Technology Shape the School of Tomorrow?

Cast your mind back to when you were at school. What do you see? Blackboards? Wooden desks? Textbooks, perhaps? These items have typified our country’s classrooms for generations – but that is all set to change.

According to education experts at London Design and Engineering (LDU), by 2050, the traditional classroom is more likely to be part of an ancient history syllabus. In this vision of the future, technology will rule classrooms, with 3D printers, virtual reality headsets and interactive desks among the main features. Coding will become a core ingredient for mandatory curriculums, while “remote learning” will allow students the freedom to access “cloud-based classrooms” at any time, say experts.

Taking inspiration from the Crystal’s Future of Cities exhibition, we explore how new technology could transform the schools of tomorrow.

3D printing projects

Students of 2050 will scoff at the traditional tools once used in the schools of yesteryear. Instead of super glue and scissors, art classes will comprise rows of 3D printers, each of which will be used to design and print objects (via CAD) in a matter of minutes.

Education centres such as Imperial College London have already started using 3D printing for learning purposes. Their “Sculplexity” project uses mathematical models to print objects which can test how forest fires ignite.

Mark Watson, Director of Technical Curriculum at London Design and Engineering UTC, believes that 3D visualisation and instant productivity will transform how children learn in the future. In fact, he’s already seeing first-hand the impact that this can have in the classroom:

“From the first week of the London Design and Engineering School opening, the year 12 engineers had the opportunity to build and manage and maintain their own 3D printers,” said Mark.

“This rapidly led to their understanding of the process and their ability to incorporate it into their designing manufacturing.”

We can expect 3D printers to be more affordable, too. While different models currently retail upwards of £600, they will likely cost a fraction of this price in the future. This is largely thanks to their imminent wide-scale use. Experts predict that for subjects such as engineering, science and art, 3D printers will be an essential mainstream teaching tool.

Interactive classrooms

Multi-touch desks, such as those developed by SynergyNet, will allow students to personalise and manage their learning with just a swipe of a finger. For group exercises, desks will be networked to the main interactive board at the head of the class. All this data can then be stored on USB; creating a clutter-free classroom.

Furnaz Ahmend, Built Environment Lead at LDU, explains how the classrooms at their University Technical Colleges (UTC) are already adapting to new technologies:

“We have an entire class full of projectors that project a range of images onto the class walls – kind of like an IMAX cinema. This means that, instead of simply reading about WW2, students are fully immersed in history, with audio and visualisations giving learning a ‘real life’ experience”.

Coding in the curriculum

For as long as schools have existed, mathematics, science and English have comprised the core of most curriculums. However, many experts argue that computer science and coding will be just as important in the future. These subjects will dictate large proportions of classroom time, and will continue to grow as computer programs become the genetic language of the modern world.

Through coding, students will develop their logical thinking and problem-solving skills. They will be taught how to write their own algorithms, design programs and troubleshoot errors. What this means is the children of tomorrow will not just be consuming the digital content they’re surrounded by, they will be the ones creating it.

Codecademy is an example of a company already paving the way for in-school coding lessons. They currently teach programming languages such as Python, PHP, JavaScript and Ruby online. Each follows a syllabus comprised of freeform projects, quizzes, and interactive lessons.

Sarwar Ahmed, Teacher of Computer Science at LDU, explains how coding will change career prospects for future generations:

“Everyone should be exposed to coding. Not just to understand how programming is embedded into real-world applications but also teaches them to be problem solvers and creative thinkers, which are great applicable skills in any future role.”

Class in the Cloud

In the future, students won’t know the pain of having to lug heavy books between lessons. All they will know is the Cloud.

It’s likely that every school will have a robust networking system in place, whereby wireless hardware, such as Miracast or WiDi, will connect students to their teachers. Work is then submitted, graded and returned via the Cloud. Each student will have an autonomous profile, which will automatically pull from the system’s database.

This wireless system will not only introduce greater efficiency in the classroom, it will also take teachers away from the grading process, giving them more time to mentor students.

Virtual reality school trips

School trips are likely to be even more frequent in the year 2050. That’s because students won’t need to travel any further than their classroom to enjoy the sites and sounds of school trips.

Through virtual reality headsets, students will be able to travel from the Hadron Collider to Niagra Falls, to the North Pole. And while companies such as Oculus and Samsung are already making waves with their immersive headsets, Google’s ‘Expeditions’ prototype is one of the first to feature in mainstream schools.

James Culley, Director of Virtual Learning at LDU, explains that while virtual reality will open up doors for teachers, it shouldn’t be used at the expense of real-life learning:

“Virtual Reality is a magical immersive tool, enabling those that can’t, to go where others can.

However, while its applications are huge, it should never be used to replace the real experience. VR should take students on trips to Mars because we can’t go there yet, but students should always experience the cold of the snow themselves, because we can”.

How will your education centre cope with the advancements of tomorrow? For more information about what your staff should prepare for, visit the Crystal’s Future of Cities exhibition.

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