4 Star Wars Tech Tools for Teaching

star wars teaching tools
(Image credit: mage by Pexels from Pixabay)

Star Wars Day — otherwise known as May the 4th — is fast approaching and this year I can’t help but think about how some of the technology depicted in the films and TV series has now become commonplace in classrooms and teaching. (Yes, when I’m not thinking about the Roman Empire, I’m often thinking about Star Wars.) 

Tech & Learning has already written a guide to Star Wars teaching tips for May the 4th, but here I’m going to focus on how many of us — myself very much included — are increasingly incorporating Star Wars-style tech into the classroom. In many cases, this technology once would have seemed extraordinary except now seems commonplace. 

Hopefully, this article reminds you of just how cool some of the teaching tools we currently have are. May the tech be with you!

1. These Are The Droids You're Looking For

In the last two years, generative AI has become, for better or worse, a part of every classroom. When I’m not trying to prevent students from submitting AI-generated papers, I often marvel at just how spectacular the technology is. ChatGPT and other similar chatbots might lack the personality and seeming sentience of C-3P0 but at least they can speak in words rather than beeps like R2-D2 and BB-8. 

While there are downsides to this technology, AI also has the potential to really help students learn. In other words, the force is undeniably strong with generative AI, let’s just hope it does not succumb to the dark side.

Oh, and speaking of droids and robots, these devices are now common in classrooms everywhere, providing hands-on STEM learning opportunities and potential SEL support that I could only have dreamt of as a kid.

2. Holograms

Modern hologram technology isn’t quite as advanced as the Princess Leia hologram recording in Star Wars: A New Hope, but it’s getting better and better. Today’s hologram systems are being used by select universities and K12 schools to provide experiences that allow speakers to beam into rooms that they are not in, or prerecord presentations, all with a lifelike presence that goes way beyond Zoom or a standard recording. 

You might not have access to this technology yet, but discussing how it works and its limitations can be a great Star Wars-themed lesson. As a holographic recording of Princess Leia might say, “Help your students [insert your name here], you’re their only hope.”

3. Video Conferencing

This technology went from cool and new-ish to absolutely despised in a few months in the spring and summer of 2020. But as frustrating as Zoom and other video conference meetings can be, the ability to communicate with video over vast distances is nothing at which to scoff. When Emperor Palpatine make his first on-screen appearance The Empire Strikes Back it is via video call. And much like with many of your video calls, the connection is kind of spotty. 

The term “Zoom classes” may still give many teachers PTSD, but don’t forget about this technology. It’s a great way to bring in guest speakers and connect with students who can’t be physically present. And now that we're on the other side of the pandemic, teachers can resurrect this technology to strong and truly futuristic effect — just try and put more thought into this resurrection than the writers of The Rise of Skywalker did to Emperor Palpatine’s in that film. (Like, seriously, how did a major studio, presumably with adult employees allow that?)

4. Phones and Tablets More Powerful Than Lightsabers

The phones and devices most students have these days not only come fully equipped to make the cool lightsaber swoosh and buzzing sound, but are a vital piece of technology that can help guide young jedis in training on their educational journey. If the pen is really mightier than the sword, than the smart phones and other internet devices are mightier than lightsabers!

We often don’t use these devices or try to limit student use, which can be a mistake. Sure, these can be misused or a distraction, but imagine if a teacher from 1977, the year the first Star Wars film came out, was told that students would one day have devices that could instantly provide them with summaries of almost all human knowledge. How would this teacher utilize these devices? They certainly wouldn’t ban them, and would be excited by their educational potential. 

So put these real-life lightsabers to good use. And, yes, I’m fully aware that Star Trek’s tricorders are a better comparison point for smartphones, but how many Star Trek-themed holidays are there? Oh wait, there are multiple Star Trek-themed holidays … 

Anyhow, live long and … er, I mean, May the Force (or 4th) be with you!

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a Tech & Learning contributor. A journalist, author and educator, his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.