For those of us in our 40s, our position on the cusp of technological advancement has left us floundering in some areas, and proficient in others. But for anyone under 20 the technological age is in full swing, and it is this generation and the one after that who will feel the full benefits of current developments. Key to this process is ‘wearable’ technology – after all, who wants to carry around heavy, cumbersome tech when you can incorporate it into wristbands, watches and even clothing? And just how close are we to the ultimate in wearables – bio-technological implants?
The current state of play
Kids love tech. They love interacting with it, being part of it and even bending it to their will! The classroom is a very different environment in the 21st century, with the emphasis on teaching the next generation how to make the most of technology. Alongside French and German, coding languages are now a common inclusion in school curriculums, and even high-street banks are offering drop-in classes for kids in programming languages. It’s a clear demonstration of just how integrated computer technology has become – but the interesting advancement has been that now we don’t just buy a ‘magic black box’ full of unfathomable technology, but are actively encouraging the next generation to become builders of technology, and not simply consumers.
This could result in an explosion of new ideas in the coming years, as young, fresh minds explore what is possible with technological building blocks such as organic electronics and, in particular, wearable technology.
A different way of learning
Wearable and portable technology is already having an impact on the working environment, so it’s inevitable that it will eventually have an equally important effect on our children’s learning processes too. Rather than textbooks that are out of date practically a day after publication, schools are now starting to use technology to access that constantly updated source of information, the Internet.
Tablets are common in schools not just in the west, but perhaps more importantly in developing regions such as Africa and India. Initiatives such as Tablets For Schools are helping millions of children around the globe benefit from e-learning techniques that could open up a world of possibilities and inspire the next generation of programmers and developers.
But while tablets may have had a huge impact on how children learn now, the future could belong to wearables, making e-learning possible even in the most remote regions. Being able to access resources from a device worn on the wrist, for example, could stimulate a child’s curiosity and encourage them to engage with the world. This constant stimulation could ensure that the next generation interacts even more closely with the world around them than their parents and grandparents ever did.
The importance of flexible electronics
If we want to ensure that the next generation benefits fully from the advancements in technology, then we have to ensure that it is both accessible and affordable. One thing that could make a huge difference is the advancement of flexible electronics and plastic screen technology. Companies like flexible display manufacturer FlexEnable have pioneered these kinds of advancements, producing organic thin film transistors (OTFT) to use in a variety of wearable devices. This will mean that wearables and mobiles (such as tablets) are not only lighter and more robust – particularly important in more remote and under-developed regions – but cheaper too.
That next frontier is firmly aimed at the younger generation, and as flexible electronics becomes an integral part of wearables, so it will in turn become an integral part of our children’s futures.