Last week we attended the Didacta fair and conference for education and learning in Hannover, Germany. It was interesting to see what teachers, students and other parties in education trying to solve their problems and understanding more about their use of modern technology to solve problems and improve the overall learning efficiency.
There were a lot of traditional companies there, introducing their latest innovation and ideas for schools and training companies as well as independent coaches, but we also saw some unexpected companies having small and large booth space over there in Germany. For example, there were also companies like Google, Intel, and other technology game-makers to show the audience what they have in store for their particular use cases.
So, what were the trends to spot there, next to the traditional goods such as wooden toys and paper books?
Not new in corporate meeting rooms, yet a big trend in the classroom are interactive boards that replace or augment classic chalkboards. Especially when such boards can work on several operating systems, cloud storage and work with different accounts so that the chemistry teacher has all the things he or she needs even if the lecture is happening in another room than expected. Such interactive boards are provided by companies such as Clevertouch, Clear Touch, or long-term heavyweight in the industry, Smart Technologies, maker of the Smart Boards.
The main features of such boards are a large display with touch function and preferably with speakers and internet connectivity. They can host board-sized computers or be connected to an external laptop. The person doing a lecture can draw or write on the board with their fingers or touchscreen-pens, make use of stencils and other smart functions to visualize the learning content and browse web-content to support the learning or to explain external references. When the lecture is over, whatever was done on the board gets shared to the devices of the students via mail or QR code (if the users are on the same network).
Communication and collaboration solutions
Things like Facebook, WhatsApp, and various other apps are native to the generation that is attending school and universities now. Yet, there are good reasons why teachers, schools, and companies are not just jumping on the train here. All the solutions mentioned also try to target parent-teacher communications to enable more comfortable and faster channels in both directions.
To be compliant with privacy policies and data security regulations and parental expectations, there is more demand for communication and collaboration platforms that address this particular industry and niches. Microsoft is pitching their OneNote solution for interactive note-taking and similar to what Protonet has done for companies, schul.cloud provides a messenger with collaboration and filesharing capabilities between students and teachers without the need to provide a cell phone number. As of now schul.cloud seems to be available only in German though.
VR, AR, and mixed realities
Trends that haunt entertainment and eventually enterprise spheres, often hit education sector as well with a slightly different use case. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), could be found in many corners of the Didacta fair, and it makes a lot of sense.
Imagine you can arrange field trips with students to the most distant museums or other exotic locations of this world. Of course, this would be nearly impossible to manage in real but if you make use of VR, this can be much more achievable, and the learning effect is significantly higher than just looking at images in a book next to a wall of text with details and facts.
Printing out objects, not only text on paper, has been around for a while, but the technology is a lot more accurate and more affordable now, compared with how much everything cost a few years back.
3D printing is not only interesting for computer science class, but it can also find application in many classes if the teachers are creative. Even if they use the printers just to support their lecture on something remote, they can create a little object that the students can pass around and touch, which triggers the haptic learning, which some people appreciated to learn better and remember things.
When you look at crafting and education for career starters, 3D printing offers excellent opportunities too. In some instances, you might have students learn about rather handy occupations and learn how they can use this technology to print out parts based on digital blueprints. They can use them in their work, rather than ordering parts on the other end of the world, paying too much for it and waiting for weeks for the items to arrive.
This was the curiosity of the fair this year. So many people have been running around holding a Hokki in their hands. Based on the look, they bought it there and later I also discovered the booth that sold these. And they sure sold a lot of them. For approximately 40 bucks a company named Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken, or simply VS, sold these portable stools that looked quite handy and comfortable.
Others did not appreciate the Hokki stool that much. Translation from the tweet above by Martin Rist: “…one of the most popular products for sale at the #didacta18! Crazy: A whole booth just to sell a stool, nothing else. I don’t get it, I’m sorry.”
Snapshots and conclusion
If you’d like to see some photos we took during our stay there, you can check out our album on Flickr for this event. The photos are all available for use under CC BY 2.0 license too, in case you’re interested in re-use.
A visit to the Didacta fair and conference is recommended to all education professionals and people who have a passion for learning new things or teaching other with what they know.
Photo credit: Deutsche Messe / Christopher Isak (TechAcute)
Source: Author attended fair
Editorial notice: Press ticket and parking were provided by the host organization.