VR, Robotics and Wearables

Report: Wearable Devices Expected to Become Mainstream in Education in Next 4-5 Years

Virtual reality and robotics will become widely adopted in education in the next two to three years, while wearable devices are expected to become mainstream in the education space over the next four to five years, according to a recent report published by the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.

The “NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K–12 Edition” examined emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning and creative inquiry in schools. The report, released at the end of 2016, looked at tech trends in the short term (one year or less), mid-term (two to three years) and long term (four to five years.

The VR market in general is certainly heating up. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that virtual and augmented reality entertainment revenue will reach $3.2 billion by 2025, while the education sector will attract 15 million users, the report said.

Plus, equipment revenues were projected to reach $895 million by the end of 2016, with 77 percent of that value coming from newly launched premium devices from Oculus, HTC and Sony

“In the K–12 sector, VR is well-positioned as an educational tool, generating immersive environments for field trips, with simulation and research activities serving as a prime enabler of student-centered, experiential and collaborative learning,” the report stated.

As for robotics, the robot population is expected to double to 4 million globally by 2020, with a projected market value of $135 billion in 2019. Potential uses in K–12 education include hands-on learning, particularly in STEM disciplines and classes, outreach programs and programming to promote critical and computational thinking, as well as problem solving. Emerging studies also show that interaction with humanoid robots can help learners with spectrum disorders develop better communication and social skills.

Robotics is also increasing access to education for students who are homebound, have special needs or live in rural communities, the study said.

The report also examined wearable technology, which refers to smart devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory like jewelry or eyewear. Leaders in the field are also predicting that the future of wearables will move toward implantables, or devices directly imbedded into human bodies.

Research firm CSS Insight anticipates that by 2020, the global wearable technology market will grow to $34 billion, with 411 million devices sold, the study said. Analysts predict a continued surge in the education sector: For the next five years, Research and Markets has forecast a 46 growth rate per year in United States schools’ wearables adoption.

Wearables already have some practical applications, such as tracking heartbeats, sleeping patterns and other biological data. Players in two United Kingdom football clubs wear sensors during training that collect data on movement and collisions; as a result, the teams have experienced fewer injuries since the adoption of this technology.

Potential teaching and learning applications include project-based lessons, the ability to conduct presentations from anywhere in a classroom and manipulate data from students’ seats, and providing teachers the ability to move between student groups and facilitate participatory experiences.

Some observers have recognized that wearable technologies and the maker movement provide a gateway to increase girls’ interest in STEM disciplines, the study said.

The report provides a number of examples of wearable technology in practice in K–12 settings, as well as links to further resources.

To view the full report, visit the NMC website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].