5 technologies Seattle-area kids say will rule education

Aug 9, 2012

Fifty years ago a group of Seattle students were asked to make predictions about the “classroom of the future,” as part of the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair. They came back with a mixed bag: phones that fit in your pocket? Check. Flying cars? Still waiting. (None mentioned high-stakes tests, Lunchables or Wikipedia.)

This year as part of the fair’s 50th anniversary, the Seattle Center asked students to make their own predictions about what school will look like 50 years from now.

Their ideas run the gamut, from helmets that squirt knowledge into our brains while we sleep to a videoconferencing screen that offers simultaneous translation. More than 60 kids submitted ideas, but here are a few highlights, grouped into some recurring themes:

Space

Photo: This interactive book shows off Ronen A.’s dream that future study groups will include aliens. Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The space race captivated students back in 1962, and it’s still inspiring students in 2012.

To whit: 10-year-old Maya Santos designed a whole schematic for a lunar academy. The moon school would be part of a larger colony, and would include a pressurized playground and dormitories.

“I was thinking it would be a space colony and this is where the kids would live to test out how the moon would be. … They’d live their everyday life and scientists would study how well they adapt to it.”

A student named Nolen imagines that future learning will take place side-by-side with aliens. Let’s hope they don’t wreck the curve.

Ruby Kresge, age 9, put the aliens to work: They will drive the school busses to orbiting space-station-based schools.

Connections

Many of the students gravitated toward technologies that would connect us more closely.

Photo: Melissa Wang and Catherine Yin show their idea for a videoconferencing device that offers simultaneous translation. Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Melissa Wang and Catherine Yin developed an idea that would let students from different countries communicate and learn together, through a 3D videoconferencing device that offers simultaneous translation.

At age 11, their vision is much broader than just the classroom.

“The countries will be able to stay together in the level of educations, and it will build relationships better because a country will hesitate to attack another country that they’ve worked with in education,” Wang said.

Others suggested ways to connect students and teachers without having to share a physical classroom. Michael Fleming actually did some research on long-range tech trends, and found that anchoring his classroom with a holographic display is not all that far-fetched.

Perhaps most ingenious, 11-year-old Ben Seran imagines holographic technology that would allow a student to stay home while projecting his or her 3D avatar into the classroom (looking fresh-faced and attentive, no doubt).

Headgear

Ah, the holy grail of student futurism: learning without having to do any work.

Photo: Trevor Lampman predicts we’ll be able to learn while we sleep, thanks to our mighty info-helmets. Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Trevor Lampman cooked up the idea for a helmet that, worn while sleeping, would transmit knowledge into our brains. It’s like the Matrix, but with headgear and less peril. A number of students, including Kyle Luo and Aum Upadhyay, predicted that we will interact with our online overlords through special glasses or goggles, learning in what will essentially be a virtual reality classroom. “The glasses charge themselves on electrical, electrochemical and electromagnetic energy,” freeing up a wall outlet for electric car, no doubt.

The Touch

Those who didn’t suggest fastening computers to our faces were instead in agreement with a number of publicly traded companies that tablets are the future.

Photo: “The Touch” Ben Mattern and Owen Scanlon imagine that every desk will have its own built-in touch-screen monitors. Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Several students matter-of-factly predicted that iPads and such will soon wipe out dead-tree books (though Maya Santos, bless her heart, still included a library in her moon school). Ben Mattern and Owen Scanlon, along with others, predicted that desk- and table-tops will soon be giant touch-sensitive screens, allowing collaborative, interactive learning in small groups.

Levitation

Eliot, Benji and Henry have floating desks in their classroom. What’s the point, you may ask? Because hey, floating desks!

Photo: This classroom of the future comes complete with hovering desks. Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Noah Argueta, age 9, predicts we’ll all get to school on hoverboards, Marty McFly-style. And Nikhita Penugonda, while just in kindergarten, made levitation a central theme of her future school. Recess will feature a floating roller coaster and Ferris wheel. And here’s my favorite: The anti-gravity cafeteria. Pointing to a picture of kids and food swirling around in a room, she explains that to have lunch, “they catch it, and they eat it here.”

Photo below: (Honorable mention) Nikhita Penughonda, while still in kindergarten, laid out plans for floating roller coasters on the playground. Get to work, engineers! Photo by Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU