Spatial Learning and Technology in Relationship to Education

The daily use of spatial skills is inherent in everyday life. From arranging furniture in the living room to stacking food in the pantry, spatial ability is a necessary skill we practice on a regular basis. It is also how we navigate within the world. Long before there was MapQuest or Siri on your iPhone, the ability to give and receive directions, or even read a map, was an essential skill for navigation. Now in today’s “technological world” it seems we have little need for the ability to read maps to navigate from one place to another. But as technology has increased at an exponential rate spatial ability has continued to become an even bigger part of this change.

Coding through the application of computer graphics, gaming, and direct human interface has a large, necessary spatial component that is a current focus in educational research. We are posed to see the next revolutionary leap in technology related to Virtual Reality (VR) technology within the next few years. Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are “all-in” on VR technology and are spending millions of dollars to position themselves as leaders in the field. How we interface with technology has changed significantly since the introduction of the personal computer. The pace at which we individually receive information (speed, delivery, and rate) from the world is changing exponentially. How we will go about educating our children in the future will be much different than the currently employed methods and, I believe, it will eventually include technology like Virtual Reality (VR).

The quote that has been discussed at several educational conferences I have attended is that sixty percent of the future jobs that current kindergarteners will be applying for in 15 years do not yet exist. Herein lies the real question for educators. How do we go about teaching children to prepare them for jobs that have yet to exist? I believe that spatial learning has a place in this conversation. The future of education is not yet written and I contend cannot yet be imagined.

The one thing that we do know is that education will need to change its models and methods. We cannot continue to use 19th century educational methods in a 21st century world. I contend the difficulty is that education seems to change at a linear “snail’s pace”, while technological change is on an exponential rise. This “rate of change” is leaving teachers at an increasingly larger disadvantage.

This is where I think a strong dedicated program in spatial learning would have an advantage in both science and mathematics. Spatial reasoning skills provides the ability to mentally visualize and manipulate both two- and three- dimensional objects and research has shown spatial ability to be a significant predictor of success in the STEM field. Spatial learning transcends educational disciplines and is found at the overlap with changing technology. As technology inevitably continues to change, what will remain consistent is the application of spatial ability and spatial reasoning across the educational spectrum.

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