The needs of our global economy shift as new technologies arise and influence how we prepare our future generations. Therefore, the future of the workforce influences the future of the classroom—it will always follow in that order. Inaugurating a new decade brings with it a forward-looking perspective on the state of technology in these arenas, both workplaces and classrooms. How will emerging technologies in their nascent phases affect the way we prepare our youth for their lives and work ahead? The answers are uncertain, but the implications are tremendously interesting and inspiring. 

The Promise of 5G Connectivity

This particular emerging technology informs literally everything else on this list because of its widespread implications. The sheer magnitude of increased network connectivity and speed that 5G promises is enough to make any tech geek’s mouth water, but also has a distinct effect on how we look at the workforce and education environments. The outsized factors that 5G will transform—speed, data transmission capability, and connection quality—will bring the strength of our wireless networks to a whole new era of capabilities.

  • Speed: 5G connection has the potential to reach over 10 gigabytes per second (Gbps). This is 100 and 1000 times faster than our best 4G capability. To put it in perspective, this speed will allow you to download an entire four-hour documentary in under 10 seconds.

  • Data Transmission Capability: 5G also promises an otherworldly capability for data transmission at 10 terabytes per second (tbps) and a density of one million nodes per km². This speaks to how 5G will not only increase the speed of the network and the speed between devices, but also allow for high network density (retaining high quality data transmission when there is a high concentration of devices in one area). 

  • Connection Quality: The expectations of 5G are that connection latency shrinks from 50 milliseconds to just one millisecond. Imagine a world in which a YouTube video or a video game on your mobile device is never pixelated or laggy.

Simply put: 5G technology will allow us to communicate on multiple levels faster, more effectively, and simultaneously. It will also allow us to download, upload, and transfer files between ourselves at an unprecedented rate. The effect of this type of connectivity undoubtedly brings about a world of opportunity in the learning, communication, and workforce worlds. Whether it be virtual learning, mentoring, mobile video-based content creation, or enterprise applications in a district setting, the implications are far-reaching and exciting to think about. 

Further Advancements in Artificial Intelligence Capability

Artificial intelligence is a vast topic and encapsulates a lot of different use cases. However, the umbrella term of “A.I.” refers to a field of science and technology encapsulating tools and capabilities like machine learning, robotics, and natural language processing, each of which will have direct and distinct implications on learning, development, and the future of work.

Machine learning occurs when large sets of data are used to build and train a program or algorithm that builds upon itself, identifying patterns and making decisions automatically without human intervention. In its current state, machine learning has provided large benefits to tools in the areas of language learning, predictive analytics, and automation. However, the implications of machine learning expand beyond just big data analysis and application. 

The power of machine learning will expand to different contexts like school facilities (think: HVAC, LED displays, cafeteria food ordering), school operations (like attendance tracking/prediction and classroom movement), and even further in actual learning (like grammar improvement and adaptive assessments). Artificial intelligence as it relates to machine learning is what will launch a new phase of data analysis and data management in school operations, as well as in classroom learning. This aspect of big data will allow technology developers to better personalize physical spaces and user experiences for students, teachers, and administrators. 

As more technology is used, the more data is available for developers to make informed decisions and, thus, the iteration cycles in technology will occur more frequently. Artificial intelligence and machine learning in the next phase of their existence, expanding to different parts of a district and school setting, will facilitate these cycles even further.

The Next Phase of AR/VR

The most lucrative, untapped platforms to date are augmented and virtual reality, especially in the field of learning and development. We are only beginning to see the investment in AR/VR products emerge, but we have not yet seen the true capabilities of these platforms because of certain adoption and technology barriers. Some adoption barriers have to do with latency in relation to physical movement and the corresponding dizziness of the experience. Other adoption barriers relate to the actual availability of educational and learning content on these platforms—much of it is still for entertainment and recreational purposes, so schools have not fully committed to the medium.

With the increased connectivity, speed, and storage mentioned with regards to 5G that better networks will soon have, we will see an additional layer of AR and VR unlocked to open doors for better content creation and consumption, for learners and teachers alike. The use cases for AR/VR in education are widespread and varied. Social-emotional learning, cultural exposure, physical therapy, accessibility, experiential learning, and others are all within the set of avenues that could be completely changed because of AR/VR capabilities.

The Shift to Better Data Storage and Security

Cloud-based infrastructure will become the norm in schools, rather than storing/downloading locally. In 2020, the majority of school districts and large schools will have made significant progress toward migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure. The local infrastructure model that has been characteristic of these institutions is no longer able to provide the accessibility, user friendliness, and customization that are now required in technology-forward environments. For example, administrators, teachers, and students should have the ability to create and access information and content remotely, whether from the classroom, school grounds, back of the car, or in bed at home. At the current state of affairs, many school districts are handicapped by their technology architecture.

The continued shift toward a cloud-based infrastructure will bring school districts and large schools into a new paradigm of operation in 2020. We will begin to see our education environments get more effective in virtual learning, data integrity and security, and remote/distance learning—among other capabilities—as a result of a better cloud-based infrastructure.

These emerging technologies will usher in a new year and new decade for educators everywhere. We will be writing more about the details of how each will impact the education setting in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.