First, there was sneakernet. Then came the information superhighway. Next up? The Cloud. And now we’re hearing the latest catchphrase for the next great Internet thing—5G. What could this mean for edtech? If the price is right and various regulations and standards fall into place, it could mean a faster, more reliable platform to access online learning opportunities. We don’t suggest holding your breath for it any time soon, however.
Roberto Saracco writes in IEEE Future Directions: “In the education sector the possibility of personalising and contextualising the education, connecting it to everyday experience, reinforces learning and often increases students’ motivation since it shows its practical application side.” Saracco and other visionaries point to augmented and virtual reality technologies as two areas where 5G can make a real difference. Imagine learning biology by taking a virtual tour of the human body or taking a field trip to Rome without leaving your classroom.
Sounds great, right? You’ve also probably heard it before. The promise of 5G is similar to many promises made through the years for technology in schools. Even the most optimistic projections don’t see any real solution in fewer than five years. Nevertheless, major carriers like Verizon have begun to invest in research and development. As part of a $400 million initiative to fund STEM education, the company has announced plans to double the number of in-school programs it supports—from 100 middle schools in September 2018 to 200 middle schools by the end of 2020. Verizon Innovative Learning Schools will have access to 5G and continue to offer programs in urban and rural communities that expose students to skill building in augmented reality, machine learning, coding, 3D printing, and more. The program will reach an additional five million students by 2023.