“Technology can become the ‘wings’ that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before—if we will allow it." -Jenny Arledge, Dir. of College & Career Readiness, Sulphur Springs ISD

It’s no secret that technology is transforming the educational landscape. With smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, technology has become a part of everyday life - directly impacting how knowledge is digested and taught in the classrooms.

From early learning to higher education, schools are providing students with better access to digital devices, software and learning platforms to facilitate their learning and inspire innovative teaching methods. As a result, educational technology, or edtech, not only helps to keep students engaged for longer periods of time, but it also makes them excited to learn, allows them to learn at their own pace and prepares them for the future.

Program leaders have an opportunity to leverage educational technology to revolutionize the way students learn outside of the classroom. Through informal, hands-on learning experiences, students can discover new technology and explore various ways to understand difficult concepts. Check out the edtech trends expected to gain momentum in 2017 and how to integrate them into afterschool programs:

Virtual Reality (VR): Virtual reality uses a three dimensional (3D) computer-simulation of a real life environment to immerse users into a game, movie or other subject material. Using VR, students in your program can explore and interact with the world in ways that are difficult or impossible for them to experience in real life, like taking a field trip inside a volcano or experiencing historical events. Read “How Virtual Reality will Educate Students into the Future” for more ideas on VR lessons and activities.

Tools to Try: Google Cardboard, Nearpod, Samsung Gear VR

Augmented Reality (AR): While VR is more immersive, AR is more integrative. AR brings images, events and concepts to life by layering computer-generated components on top of existing reality to stimulate meaningful engagement. For example, students can point their smartphones at an equation which will trigger a video of students solving a math problem. Watch this video to see AR in action.

Apps to Try: Check out 32 augmented reality apps to enrich learning in your program.

3D Printing: Great for STEM-related activities, 3D printing takes ideas and creations from the mind, to the computer screen to physical form through printing. The printers use plastic, rubber, metals and other materials to convert two dimensional (2D) objects into physical objects. Learn how students in Glenview, IL, used 3D printing to build and test prototypes that solved problems for their new planet.

Activities to Try: View this infographic for 10 ways 3D printing can be used in education.

Gamification: Both immersive and interactive, gamification is the use of gaming principles in education in order to get students involved, engaged and excited about learning. It introduces concepts like badges, levels and game points into the learning environment and leverages elements like competition, progression and cooperation. Program leaders can easily gamify their programs by providing online educational games, incorporating board games and including trivia and riddles.

Tools to Try: Youtopia, Nintendo Wii, Classcraft, Breakout EDU

Technology is rapidly changing the way students learn and digest information. Consider these edtech trends and tools to create unique learning experiences for students in your program. Check out “11 EdTech Trends to Watch in 2017” to learn more.