For the past 12 years that I was a teacher, every time a child used technology, it would break my heart. Imagine, a child on an iPad or tablet with their heads bent and so consumed by the screen that they forget about what is happening around them. The real world becomes so far from reality and the child starts becoming a passive learner.
Sorry to paint this sad picture, but, isn’t it the reality? And Covid-19 has brought this reality even closer. Kids are now on video calls all day, disengaged, demotivated, and quite frankly not really excited about learning.
This is where Augmented reality can play a crucial role. AR is at the cusp of being mainstream in games, fitness, and even in fashion. Why should education be left far behind? In fact, it is one of the mediums that can combine the love of discovery in a child along with engagement with the real world.
As an ed-tech founder and an educator, my focus has always been on how we can make children curious and passionate about something. At Equally, we combine intellectual autonomy where kids can go ahead and choose what they love to learn about with constructivism so that they can build on what they are learning.
In our earlier tests at our Silicon Valley, venture-backed company, Equally, we witnessed first-hand how every child is unique and has specific interests. With the conventional model of one size fits all, these kids will not only remain disengaged and bored but also become unprepared for the future of work. Using augmented reality, we saw how every kid was free to discover things that they are most excited about and how keen they were to share it with their friends. Technology became a tool, the teacher became a facilitator and children were at the center of impact.
While working in Finland, where our early impact VCs are, we saw how Finnish teachers evaluated Equally’s platform. What they said after using this platform in class was, how much this platform can be used to make kids active and have them learn from their peers. The project-based learning was happening seamlessly.
As Anshul says, we are living in the most amazing times when technology is reaching a point where our reality can be tastefully changed to help us learn and discover new things. In a few years from now, we will all be wearing AR glasses that can augment our world with information that is relevant at that place and at that time. We no longer would have to look at our phones to see where we need to go while finding new directions, the AR glasses will overlay the direction we need to go in itself, and that sounds astounding.
Snapchat's Spectacles and Google Glass will give you a glimpse into this future. This means that we can finally make progress in changing how we learn. Kids can be left to play in the open and learn what they are curious about. The AR glasses will give them the ability to go deeper and find information about anything they see in their worlds, fueling their natural curiosity. In terms of the development of this technology, we have to achieve the ability to run computer vision on it, to give the glasses the ability to see. Traveling would bring a whole new meaning as kids can learn about the place they are visiting in their own unique way versus a vanilla way to see new places. It’s quite possible they want to learn more about the dresses that people wear in the new place. AR glasses would most likely be able to track the hands of the learner and use that as the pointer and input, just like Tom Cruise did in Minority Report.
We are at the very early stages of seeing this wake of new technology. Having been working in education for 16 years, creating multiple prototypes and testing them is crucial especially since we are talking about the lives and future of our kids.
I remember when we became a semifinalist for the Global Learning XPrize, which was a $15M prize sponsored by Elon Musk, we ran a test in the remotest villages of India and Tanzania. A teacher in Tanzania asked us if we could personalize the curriculum to be just right for the kids in that village. Now imagine the human limitation of this. We will never reach a stage where we will be able to create the best possible education for every kid in every location. However, we can create the technology that can give life to the surrounding of every kid, thus eliminating the need to personalize. The teacher becomes this guide who will continue to help the children figure out their unique interests and pursue their unique line of work.
This may sound like a eutopia to you, but for both Anshul and me, this is a vision we are working on and the world that we are aiming to build.