We hear this question every now and then, especially when we revisit and enjoy any of the movies in the venerable Back to the Future trilogy. However, with the 30th anniversary of the first movie coming up this year, I’ve been hearing it a lot more over the past few months. It’s as if hoverboards, or the lack thereof, are the sole indicators of futuristic progress in this fast-paced technical age of ours.
Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to discover that the reality of hoverboards — of the future arriving for our personal and professional use — is indeed much closer than we think. With the arrival of a 3D printer in my classroom, the promise of the 21st century has indeed arrived in dramatic fashion.
In less than a month after its arrival, students and staff from grades 7 to 12 have taken to the potential of this device in a way that I’ve rarely seen in 24 years of technology education. Is it possible for a science student to design and print a new tray for holding microscope slides? Can a technical theatre student design and print hand-held props for the spring production? Would a music ministry student be able to design and print a guitar pick with the school’s logo on it? The answer, of course, is yes! And there are far more possibilities emerging as we look to the months ahead.
Of course, when we start talking about the future, it often has a way of arriving sooner than we expect. I’d barely finished penning these observations when the Internet proclaimed that inventor Greg Henderson had developed the world’s first prototype hoverboard — the Hendo — which floats on any copper or aluminum surface. Soon after, Tony Hawk himself was trying it out for the world to see. While there’s no hoverboarding to school just yet, with technology and the future, we just need to give it a little time!
What’s the moral of the story? Look around and see the many wonders of our age, then think of ways to use them in your teaching. Whether it’s empowering your students to use the voice memo function on their devices to help bring their voices into a PowerPoint presentation, or using a 3D printer to generate unique math manipulatives, improved tool designs or habitat domes that will support a colony on Mars, you’ll see that the future is indeed here — in an incredible variety of ways.
Harness them, use them, inspire your students with them and your lessons will never be quite the same again! ❚
Ray Suchow teaches computers, religious studies and information processing at Christ the King School in Leduc.