Cutting-Edge Schools Show How Education Is Everyone’s Business

If you don’t have young children in your lives, why should you care about what are the cutting edge tools in schools today? The answer is simple. It’s all about you.

If you’re an employer, you need to stay on top of what kind of education your employees had before you hired them. If you are planning to have kids, you need to know just how different schools look like from when you were a child.  I assure you that much has changed and not all of it for the better. Additionally, if you are a parent now, you need to read about what is cutting edge in schools today to get a feel of where your child’s school fits into the grand scheme of things. Are they far behind? Are they on par? Are they doing something completely different that is just as good?


What Cutting Edge Looks Like In Schools In 2017

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In short, education is everyone’s business. Moreover, as technology becomes better established in the infrastructure of schools, education has become terribly interesting.  Here are my top finds for what is cutting edge in education today.

When Virtual Or Augmented Reality Is Better Than Reality

As an employer, training and continuing education should be on your mind. Consider that there are some children who are using both virtual and augmented reality as tools for learning. How will it impact the future workforce? Will it require companies to start upgrading their training own modalities?

Merge VR

This is a completely different way to experience augmented and virtual reality because it provides users with a handheld cube essentially allowing the child to hold a hologram in her hand. Not only can she hold it, via game play, she can learn social skills, strengthen her handwriting skills, and even view 3D models of dinosaur fossils and human skeletons. The possibilities are endless.

Merge VR

This is how you can hold a Merge Cube hologram in your hand and it’s the one time it’s okay to play with fire. There is even augmented reality smoke!

Happy Atoms

While hands-on learning with science is considered highly desirable, getting to be hands-on when learning about molecules has been rather difficult. In fact, except for lab work, chemistry has often looked like a math class until now. Thanks to Happy Atoms, a collaboration between video game designer Schell Games and toymaker Thames and Kosmos, students can try connecting model atoms together with built-in magnets. They can further their learning by using iPads to create virtual reality representations of their hands-on experiments.  It’s the best of both worlds!

Jenn Choi is the founder and editor at Toys As Tools – a site dedicated to uncovering the best educational toys and tools for children today.

Nearpod VR

Is visiting Peru while wearing a pair of virtual reality goggles better than the real thing? The answer is YES because schools can afford to send a lot more kids on a virtual field trip than a physical one.  While Nearpod is a marketplace for many types of curricula, it is also an excellent provider of ready-made lessons that use virtual reality products that work to augment traditional learning experiences. Forward thinking teachers who want to be among the first teachers in the country to bring this tech to their students can thank Nearpod for not only bringing the tech but also the lesson plans that go along with it.

Promoting Self-Management 

I’m frustrated by report cards that do not measure a child’s progress in understanding how he/she learns best. Before a child enters university, wouldn’t it be good to know if the child works best under pressure or needs to pace himself? Maybe flashcards for one child works wonders while for another it’s pointless. Thus, I find the most cutting edge schools are schools that recognize the value in encouraging a child to learn about himself and to proactively help himself to do better. It’s no different from us setting a reminder in our calendars to send a pop-up 10 minutes before a department meeting. We should teach children to be wary of their needs and to prepare themselves accordingly.


An example of a great self-regulation tool: “At our school, we use the Huggle Pod’s features in swinging, cushioning, and enclosing to help kids “reboot” their systems so they can go back to class recharged and refreshed,” said Kim Busi, President, Quad Preparatory School.

LearnFit by Ergotron

The absolute best part of these desks is that the children can adjust the height of their desks by themselves as well as move their desks anywhere they want. I have seen adjustable desks in schools and offices but this is by far my favorite because it gives students many freedoms. That said, a school that gives kids unlimited freedom is not the mark of a good school, rather, students must choose schools that give students freedom with support and structure. This requires a school to be very competent in teaching students how to learn how they are most productive.


Wouldn’t it be great if you had an invisible friend come up to you every once in a while and gently remind you to stay on task? Some of us are born drifters and that can mean that we are rather creative. That said, most gifts do come with a price tag and staying on task is definitely a challenge for creatives. For kids with a learning and attention issue which is estimated to be 1 in 5 children, this wearable can help level the playing field. By using silent vibration reminders, young wearers are reminded to stay on task.

Jenn Choi

At the Games for Change Festival ’16, it was standing-room-only at Classcraft’s workshop. That day, approximately 200 educators huddled closely to practice gamifying education to make an impact at school.


In the office, we play games to get to know one another and foster community spirit. However, employers should knows that schools are now taking games to a whole new level by using technology to do what games do best: grow a child’s executive functioning and interpersonal skills. Classcraft uses tactics often found in role playing board and video games to encourage children to make positive decisions by specifically labeling desired behaviors and tactics and assigning point values to them. Just as you would have in a game, a player’s status is always available and this makes for planning future strategies on your own and with classmates more easy and more fun. I highly recommend Classcraft.

The Future Is Maker

What is the answer to save a society of children whose digital nativity makes them less socially adept and increasingly dependent on technology? The answer is making. By learning how to make everything and anything, kids can increase their opportunities to learn problem-solving and self-sufficiency. Moreover, if it involves group work as making often does, then children can also learn to communicate and collaborate better. students create things using technology to try to solve real life problems. The organization also has a very committed focus on closing the diversity gap in STEM training by working with many under served communities across the country. I had the opportunity to observe students as they were trying to design a wallet that would allow users with limited motor skills to access the contents of their wallets without zippers or tight slots. At the end of the school year, they presented their projects to hundreds of peers and teachers. You don’t have to be an expert educator to understand just how much a child can learn from doing a project like this. Students are not just learning tech but their are learning to work with purpose. Programs like belong in every school.

Jenn Choi

The Mouse Design League is a group of students from various high schools in NYC who meet to design tools to help others. These students pictured here built the “Electra Wallet” which assisted users with a disability who could not easily access the contents of their wallet.


MakerState believes that STEM and Maker education is the best way to develop the 4Cs in children today. What are the 4Cs? The Partnership of 21st Century Learning which includes voices from industry, government, and education collaborated to create a framework for educating children to prepare them for the future. The framework is centered on the 4Cs: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity. No matter which class a child takes in a MakerState afterschool or even a MakerState class during school, you can bet that via activities such as Minecraft coding, Robotics, or Arduino programming, students are building those critical skills. Disclosure: This writer was contracted by MakerState to create a guide to help parents start STEM and Maker programs in their schools. The How-To-guide can be accessed here.

New Matter

Is design thinking something new or is it something to which non-designers are now paying attention? Either way, it’s trending and that is a good thing. Design thinking is not so much about grooming the next Frank Lloyd Wright or Vera Wang. Rather, it’s about learning how to solve a problem, crafting your prototype and then making that prototype better and better.  When it comes to 3D printing, design thinking is almost a built-in concept so it’s easily adopted by schools, especially when you use reliable low-cost 3D printers like the MOD-t.

Trail Blazers Camps

STEM educators should always include the living environment. In Brooklyn, NY at the Under One Sky Day Camp operated by Trail Blazers Camps, the 130-year-old veteran sleepaway camp organization, children learn everything from outdoor survival skills to urban farming. Most importantly, they play in and with the natural world. Pictured: campers planting lettuce and flowers in the garden at P.S. 375.

Making Tech Truly Transform The Way We Teach

As parents and employers, we must prepare for a generation who are so used to being tech consumers to the point that the tech should really to be reassessed. We need to wonder if this generation and their educational leaders are using technology efficiently. Are they thinking outside the box with it? Are they making it more affordable for everyone to access education? Are they uncovering new problems brought about by the tech and are they collaborating with industry to get those solved as soon as possible?

Touch-type, Read, And Spell (TTRS)

As the internet has transformed the way we communicate, we need educational technology to transform the way students learn and teachers teach. One of the best examples of this type of transformation taking place is with the use of technology to teach students with disabilities. TTRS (Touch-type Read and Spell) is doing just that as their method uses typing letters (instead of handwriting them) to learn how to not only read and spell but also learn to touch-type. Their method relies on teaching correct finger position, repetition, along with audio and visual instruction. I predict that children without disabilities will also find this program useful as typing is introduced in increasingly younger grades.


While you wouldn’t want your supervisor to see the screens of everyone in your group, we must all admit that the thought of possibly being watched can be a little helpful. It’s similar to having a police car parked at the corner. However, the technology of sharing is ever increasing in the workplace and now students and teachers are able to use ClassHub to use their screens to be break down walls and be closer together as partners in learning. With ClassHub, pushing content to students, seeing student content, and sharing student’s work can be done faster without anyone ever having to leave their desks. The possibilities ClassHub present in reducing student anxiety, keeping students on track, and saving time are tremendously exciting.


It’s pretty cool that two kids can draw on a television screen but what’s even cooler is the Go Touch allows a parent or teacher to use their own computers or smartphones to view the student’s artwork being made in real time.

Go Touch

This device turns any screen or screen projection surface into an electronic whiteboard in which the writing can be shared with the other screens in the classroom or with screens with students who may even be home. While this may be achieved with other more elaborate tools, few come with such a powerfully small pricetag.  It’s just $99 and it fits into your pocket.

Jenn Choi is the founder and editor at Toys As Tools – a site dedicated to uncovering the best educational toys and tools for children today.