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Technology in the Classroom: Google, Cyborgs, and the Future of Education

Joe Federer,

Google Glass, Cyborgs, and the Future of Education

Beyond the information revolution: How will technology in the classrom change it?

It’s been an interesting week in science and technology – from the mind-controlled bionic hand that can sense what it’s holding to the human ear created using a 3D printer and live cells to the announcement that Google Glass, Google’s augmented reality glasses, will hit shelves sometime in 2013.

At first glance at a product like Google Glass, many teachers may ask themselves - Well how do we keep kids from cheating if all of the information in the world is available in the periphery of their glasses? But that question has built into it an assumption about education which may not be true for long. 

The way we interact with technology in the classrooom is constantly changing. If we consider even an anecdotal example like the use of cell phones over the past 20 years, it's easy to see how dramatically different a role technology plays in our lives now than then. And with technologies like memory chip brain implants (these ones being in rats, not people... yet) and mind-controlled limbs popping up, one may rationally predict that the future of tech interfaces will only get closer to working directly with our brains. Now at what point do we start to call ourselves "cyborgs?" 

Google Glass, Cyborgs and the Future of Education

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When we think about memory chips being implanted into living brains (doesn't that blow your mind?!) that can help a rat recall information faster (or even forget information altogether), it doesn't seem like too far a leap to think that eventually we may be able to access the internet (or whatever it may be at that point!) directly through our brains. Sure, it sounds like science fiction, but the technology may not be as far away as we think.

So what role does education play in a world where every piece of information a person could possibly want is immediately accessible within their brain? Well what factors do we take into account when we think about someone's intelligence? Certainly the ability to retain facts and figures is a starting point, but equally important (or perhaps moreso) is a person's ability to synthesize the information they have. That is, to understand why some pieces of information are more important or relevant than others in a given context.

If current technology in the classroom trends can, in fact, help us predict the future of technology, what might happen in a classroom where memorization is a thing of the past? Perhaps the classrooms of the (somewhat distant) future will, based on the presumption that facts are readily available to those who know how to find them, focus their efforts solely on developing thought processes - that is, how students find information, make connections between different pieces of information and synthesize the information accessible. As we're already seeing in classrooms today, the students with "21st century skills" - who are able to sort through the vast knowledge pool we call the internet to find the most valuable bits of information - are the students who excel. 

Without having to reach far into our Science Fiction arsenals, can we not imagine a class in which students don't so much crunch Physics equations but rather are led through thought process exercises to "discover" the equations themselves? Or instead of memorizing a list of World War II battles are prompted to predict the course of the war based on a certain point in the history of the conflict? 

It's no coincidence that the NASA scientists who developed the most recent Mars mission named the Curiosity's landing site "Bradbury Landing" after Ray Bradbury, author of myriad science fiction literature including The Martian Chronicles. Even NASA recognizes the integral part Science Fiction plays in the grand scheme of scientific progress. 

So perhaps it isn't such a futile effort to dream about tomorrow's technologies. What kind of futuristic classroom technology can you imagine?

What do you think your classroom will look like in 2030?

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