Was there a robot or a drone under your Christmas tree this year, or perhaps a smart lightbulb or a connected toothbrush? As tech companies put microchips into everyday objects and connect them to the internet, it feels like our lives are becoming a little more sci-fi every day.
The film Bladerunner was famously set in 2019, but the year ahead doesn’t have to be a tech noir dystopia. Technology has already transformed our lives for the better, and in 2018 we saw some ground-breaking new developments, including graphene sieves that remove salt from seawater, the first 3D printed house, and world-first autonomous farming technology developed by a British university.
This new wave of internet-enabled innovation is being called the fourth industrial revolution. If this sounds overblown, just think how much has changed in the ten years since smartphones and pervasive connectivity became the norm.
It’s now time we thought seriously about how education can make the most of these new technologies, and this week I’m in Westminster giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Education Select Committee about how teaching and learning might be transformed by “Education 4.0”.
2019, the year connectivity gets even smarter
Gartner’s top ten technology trends for 2019 predicts a focus under three main headings:
- Intelligent - how AI is in virtually every existing technology and is creating entirely new categories
- Digital - blending the digital and physical worlds to create an immersive world
- Mesh - exploiting connections between expanding sets of people, businesses, devices, content and services
With these predictions in mind, what’s on the horizon for the education sector this year, and how can we harness technology in a way that works for staff and students alike?
In 2018 we became more aware of our impact on the planet and each other. From reducing our use of plastic and investing in reusable cups and ethical fashion, to cultivating a ‘woke’ culture, 2019 will be the year that edtech catches up.
Technology companies are set to explore the ethical implications of their platforms, from mental wellbeing to isolation and cyber bullying. Where once the focus was all about the tech, this year it will be more about the people who use it.
Last autumn Jisc launched its learning analytics service, which uses data that FE and HE organisations already have to help them best support learners who need a helping hand. We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impacts this service has for both students and teachers this year...
Immersive and engaging edtech
Last year, chatbots really landed in the spotlight. For an example of what’s possible just take a look at Bolton College, where a personalised AI assistant, Ada, is already supporting students and teachers to make learning flexible and accessible. This year, chatbot and digital assistant technology will develop and become commonplace, with ‘Siri-for-students’ services becoming increasingly the norm.
We’ve also seen virtual and augmented reality being used in ways that would have seemed like science fiction until recently, creating immersive and engaging learning environments that students can access wherever and whenever it suits them.
World-class cyber security
Of course, with all these exciting advancements, comes responsibility. Cyber security has never been more important globally, and while the use of data means we can truly enhance the student experience for the better, we need to ensure that privacy, information, and digital footprints are all protected.
When it comes to the Janet Network (the national research and education network run by Jisc), we protect our members’ connections and support colleges and universities to defend their own security capabilities.
Hold on to your headset
So, I hope I’ve set out a few compelling reasons for why 2019 is going to be an exciting year for edtech.
Whether you’re a staff member or a student, institutional leader or policymaker, it’s going to be a year of technological advancements and improvements. We’ll be doing our utmost to help and support our members to make 2019 the very best that it can be!