Why Isn’t School More Fun?

Natasha McNulty Senior Content Strategist Published 19 Dec 2022

It was crisp and frosty cold at the bus stop this morning. The kids were bundled up in snow pants, hats and mitts. The parents were making our usual waddle-sway motions to stay warm. While we waited, one of the older kids was on a mission to convince his mom to let him stay home. His house was warm, she had homemade donuts cooling on the counter and he was concerned about the very real possibility that his dad would eat them all before he came home.

It’s a scene that could have played out 30 years earlier. The outerwear is perhaps more advanced now, but the stuffy bus, school announcements and pizza lunches are the same. (My boy even brought home the same Garfield cartoon book I had borrowed from the library at his age.) Sure, we watched Old Yeller on a TV rolled out in the gym; kids today watch Big Hero 6 on a smartboard. But my kids are still going on the same field trips to the same museum I went to at their age. And the bus stop was just as frigid back then.

Yet I can’t help but think that with the exciting technological advancements we have now, things shouldn’t be so similar. Students today have smartboards and Google Education. They can do even more, like virtual reality and gamification. The education technology is available. So why isn’t school more fun?

Find out how Humble Independent School District set their students up for success

EdTech Helps Student Outcomes

The reasons to adopt new EdTech is clear. Experts like Jitender Kumar of eLearning Industry say that EdTech boosts student engagement tenfold. And various studies are proving that digital tools are the answer to learning loss and varied learning styles.

According to Eli Zimmerman of EdTech Magazine, using augmented reality and virtual reality in K-12 schools is the best way to help students with assistive learning. Immersive learning tools help them focus, practice soft skills and enable them to explore and experience things they otherwise wouldn’t have. Students today can literally get on the Magic School Bus and walk through a Jurassic world with their classmates without leaving the school. It’s all available with details like interaction, augmented reality, and AI-enabled adaptive learning that enhance a child’s ability to grasp the lessons.

Here’s a quick look at the latest tech available to sweeten the curriculum:

Virtual Reality (VR) 

VR recreates real or imagined scenarios and environments within a 3D digital simulation. By wearing a VR headset, the student can immerse into the simulation to experience this interactive digital environment.

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR adds digital elements or information to a real-world view. Think of Pokémon Go or the first down line in a football broadcast.

AI-enabled Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning uses data analytics and artificial intelligence to customize educational activities to the unique needs and levels of the student.

Immersive Learning

Immersive learning combines all these technologies with mobile devices and gamification to immerse the student in a highly interactive digital environment. It brings abstract scenarios to life, enabling the user to apply all learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile) to grasp and understand subject matter.

So, if this is what today’s schools are capable of, why aren’t they teeming with hands-on holographic sims and excursions into the metaverse? Why isn’t school more like a game than a chore?

Not Everyone Can Get Connected

The answer is also the solution: connectivity.

At the end of the day, while technology treats like immersive learning are developing at promising speeds, the ability for schools to afford them has remained stagnant.

The clear reason is access to connectivity, according to Forbes. A school or student’s ability to access the metaverse can make or break the ability to adopt this new technology. Ultimately, if you can’t afford the bandwidth, you can’t adopt the tech.

Close the digital divide in schools with Extreme + E-Rate

The pandemic made the digital divide even more apparent. Of the students sent home with loaner Chromebooks, 25% (12 million students) could not use them to connect to the school network because they didn’t have Wi-Fi at home.

Student poverty remains a steadily rising problem, with more than 50% of the US public school population coming from low-income families. This is more than 38% more poverty than in 2001. With poverty comes significantly less access to technology, which automatically comes with lower performance and grades.

Closing the Gap

So what’s the answer? There are some solutions that do have promise. Here are a few ideas to start closing the digital divide, inspired by Close the Gap Foundation:

Wi-Fi-enabled Libraries (and other hotspots)

Many public libraries in communities around the globe are teaming up with cell phone providers to lend out Wi-Fi hotspots. These enable students to borrow a device that provides portable Wi-Fi connections. Companies like Safe Fleet have developed solutions that enable school buses to do the same. Their solution provides internet access to students within 300 feet of the bus. And the FCC just announced May 11, 2022, that E-Rate funding can be used for it.

Learn and Share, Look for Opportunities

Learning what you can about new technologies and how other districts and schools, even classrooms, have adopted the technology in frugal ways will always spark change. Next time you’re at a conference or event, bring up immersive learning and see what discussions emerge. You might be going home with a new perspective on an old problem.

Partner Up

Everyone from the FCC to the library are collaborating with schools or each other to develop ways to bring connectivity and advanced tech to today’s schools. Look for ways to partner with other organizations like education publishers or education-based virtual reality developers.

Vendors like Extreme are partnered with E-Rate to help school networks get connected within budget

Making School Fun Starts Now

While there still isn’t a way to recreate a fresh-donuts-from-mom experience, modern education can be so much more than what it is. What it takes is the right network setup, a positive perspective, and vision. These go a long way to upgrade learning tools and boost learning outcomes for every child. The technology is there. Maybe it won’t make kids look forward to getting on that bus, but it’s only a matter of time before our students are exploring things we never dreamed possible. The time is now.

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