How to stay relevant in the tech landscape when it comes to our kids’ education. Whether distance learning or back in school, the technology keeps changing and schools as well as parents need to stay up-to-date.Technology for Students

How Tech Affects Learning Environments. What Should Parents Do To Keep Up?


Continuing on with trends in technology, this month, let’s take a closer look at a not-so-pleasant trend: Technology turnover and how it affects our learning and work. From forced updates to features being added, modified, or entirely removed, updates happen whether we like them or not. From mandatory over the air updates, to obsoletion by design, one of the sectors that gets hit hardest is education.  


New hardware (tablets, phones, etc) are released fairly consistently on a yearly basis. While to the average consumer, that’s fine, as you’re only shopping for one or a couple at most for a family. As we think about the necessity of going one-to-one with devices at schools, what does that look like? What happens when a new chipset is introduced or the software our educators and students are dependent on isn’t supported with the new operating system? In some cases, some school districts have been known to “evergreen” their devices, meaning they block all updates in order to preserve a stable state of all the content curated over time. That obviously comes with its own risk, as it cuts off access to newer innovations and experimental technologies.  

                                    Google Cardboard courtesy Google 

To paint a better picture, let’s take a look at some recent cases. Tiltbrush, the 3D painting app which was an excellent VR application and truly catapulted the medium, is now open-sourced and no-longer supported by Google developers. It had a decent run at 5 years. Another Google product, the Daydream, offered a low cost VR experience as an upgraded “Cardboard” model.  It has been sunset since 2019 after just 3 years. In several months time, Google Expeditions will have run its course. Expeditions allowed educators to use non-expensive Google Cardboard viewers to take their students on virtual field trips. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our education, timing doesn’t fall too kindly to remove virtual field trips. Some tech initiatives that roll out don’t even last a year.  


So how do we manage? By simply knowing the trends, you can plan for them. Luckily, the fundamentals of teaching and learning aren’t changing. Note, I’m not saying that the practices don’t need to change – they absolutely do. Out-of-school learning environments can also keep more cutting-edge, as they’re often more nimble and not as restricted as a full scale school district. Finally, you can always try your hand at making your own software and hardware.  


TL;DR: We’ve been riding along towards having no choice but to update software or replace hardware and that trend isn’t going away. Unfortunately learning environments are slow to adapt. There are countless hours of content developed by educators that will either work, need to be scrapped entirely, or take even more time to migrate to new systems. To stay relevant, we need to rely on foresight and planning, as well as other smaller entities that can support quick shifts and pivots – all while staying true to core learning experiences and opportunities. 


About the Author:

John Balash was instrumental in Digital Dragon’s launch in 2013 as its first Curriculum Director and is now back in the fold as a consultant on all the latest and greatest in tech education.This is John’s latest contribution to a monthly blog series we’ve launched, Tech News from the Frontier. John is the Director of Educational Engagement at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. John has worked on educationally-focused initiatives with clients ranging from D.A.R.P.A. to Disney. Working from both sides of the desk, you can find John in classrooms and conferences around the world exploring new uses for technologies in learning environments.