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As retailers begin to replace patio furniture and pool toys with paper and lunch boxes, it’s clear that summer is drawing to a close. In a few weeks, students around the globe will be heading back to school. In the U.S. alone, nearly 80 million children will be enrolled in nursery school through college this fall – contributing to a back-to-school retail season that’s second only to Christmas – with spending on clothing, shoes, electronics, and other school supplies projected to reach close to $10 billion.
While backpacks and paper notebooks are among the top-selling items this season, such educational mainstays may become obsolete in just a few short years as more students and schools go digital. Children who started learning their ABCs online and through apps on their parents’ smart phones are now entering classrooms in droves. Smart boards, laptops, and tablets stocked with thousands of educational apps and digitized textbooks, meanwhile, are steadily replacing chalkboards, binders, and bulky printed books. As more educators embrace technology as a way to keep plugged-in, tech-native students engaged, classrooms are becoming more collaborative environments where teachers partner with tech to facilitate learning and curiosity. For students of the not-too-distant future, learning will be just a click, tap, or swipe away.