Headsets, AI tools and remote learning: a glimpse of the classroom of 2030

Some in education argue that we need to ban use of some new technologies. This is a futile exercise

Group of students sitting in a computer lab at school and using virtual reality goggles. Classroom Photograph: iStock

In classrooms at the end of this decade, students will wear a piece of neurotechnology that will be integrated into a headset or another device and that will use brain waves to indicate their levels of attention or understanding of the subject being taught. This can alert the teacher as to whether their class is fully engaged or if they need to try a different way to engage or to give the students a break.

The teacher will have asked the students to have put on a headset to take them into the metaverse where together they can be transported back to Easter 1916 for a visual representation of the Rising or to explore the inside of a human cell or virtually visit the National Gallery and examine the works of great artists in detail. Simulated situations in augmented or virtual reality will enhance decision-making capacities of learners. This more immersive learning experience is quickly embraced by students but requires constant upskilling for teachers. School enterprise projects see students pitch to their teachers about how to improve their avatars in the metaverse.

Of course, the teacher will have used a large language model (LLM) such as ChatGPT to prepare her class notes and assignments and to help with grading papers. This will be in line with the course syllabi which themselves were co-written by humans and LLMs. In many cases, a digital instructor will help the teacher in the classroom through providing specific supports to certain students.

The gathering of the data through various devices will both improve our understanding of how students learn but also the most effective ways of teaching. As every person learns differently, technology will adapt to individual learning methods. Collaborative learning where students can work together, not just in their own class but across the country and even beyond, can be facilitated by new devices and platforms.


There will be discussion around the need for physical schools: more learning can be done in a home environment, but we will still need to ensure an opportunity for students to socialise and get to know each other. Social media companies will move much more into the Edtech marketplace; teaching staff will have training in how and when to use social media with students.

AI will be of most benefit to educated countries like IrelandOpens in new window ]

Education fora debate on how to balance these gains in knowledge and productivity alongside very legitimate concerns around privacy and the purposes for which the data may be used. (How the EU’s AI Act, the union’s most significant piece of legislation this decade, is implemented will be critical here). The teaching union conferences are dominated by motions on how technology is changing the profession: some union members grumble about the Tiktokification of education.

Senator Malcolm Byrne is Fianna Fáil spokesperson on further and higher education, research, innovation and science. Photograph: Alan Betson

Government announces the further expansion of the free technological devices scheme that has replaced the now redundant free books scheme. This forms part of a key strategy to avoid digital divides in society. There is a determination that Ireland will continue to be at the fore of the Early Adapters globally.

The ethics of technology along with digital and media literacy are now compulsory subjects across the education system to enable learners to, inter alia, understand how algorithms work as well as how to distinguish truth and facts from misinformation and disinformation.

The students in Leaving Cert in 2030 learning in this way will mostly be completing their primary education in the summer of 2024. They are likely to be working into the 2070s and most will live into the 2090s with a fair proportion seeing the 22nd century.

These predictions may not all come to pass. But what is certain is that society and the workplace will be different as a result of the incredible advances we are experiencing. In consequence, the education system today needs to focus on the reality of these transformations. We need to prepare educators for the rapid pace of change so that they can prepare learners for the tech revolution that they are experiencing and make best use of new gadgets and learning systems.

There is a Programme for Government commitment to a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of education. Any such assembly needs to prioritise our engagement with advances in technology; both how to use the technology itself but also the ethics and implications of its use.

Some in education and elsewhere have argued that we need to pause or even ban the use of certain new technologies in the learning environment. This is a futile exercise. Students will utilise any device or platform that will make their lives easier. It is critical therefore that they understand where and when it is appropriate to use such technology.

This discussion should now be dominating debates about teaching and learning in Ireland.

Senator Malcolm Byrne is Fianna Fáil spokesperson on further and higher education, research, innovation and science