For the last number of years I have consistently followed a fairly large number of educational blogs and websites. I read the content to find support for the specific work I was doing in my school division or to support a desired move in a new direction with respect to learning. In most cases what I was learning, or the ideas I was confirming, were in the areas of educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, educational resources or change management. Even though it makes sense now I rarely thought about what I was reading or viewing in terms of trends. In general I was much too concerned with the now. The last month or so, having been charged with tracking emerging education technology trends for my Future Trends and Directions class, have been enlightening. Not so much because of the trends that truly are emerging from the reading but because of the simpler realization as to how important they are. It seems silly now to be working so hard to support learning [my job] without paying a lot more attention to what is coming. This is especially true in my opinion because the traditional education community seems to be spending a great deal of time mired in what was/is instead of embracing what is needed. Change is so hard in education.
So where are we headed? Here are the most significant trends emerging from the collection of blogs, websites, videos and news items collected by myself and other members of the FTaD class. One important note….I am a little focused on those trends that will likely have a direct impact on the K12 education community.
Robert Hawkins in EduTech sees the smartphone overtaking traditional learning appliances in the classroom. Considering the massive appeal of the iPhone and Android powered phones this is a reasonable prediction. Issues of appropriate use, privacy and security notwithstanding, cells phones are continuing to see significant use in schools. The Horizon Report continues to place mobiles/mobility in the one year adoption range. This is something that was included in the previous two horizon reports so obviously this continues to be an important area of discussion. The popularity of the iPad [as well as some other tablets] has brought a new twist to mobility by allowing users to bridge the gap [screen size in particular] between laptops and smartphones. K12 schools are clamouring to jump on the mobility bandwagon with increased interest in iPad but whether or not it brings an revolutionary element to learning remains to be seen.
Personalized learning is so important to the BC Ministry of Education that they produced an online and interactive discussion guide to support ongoing dialogue in the province. Described as a way to “support a flexible approach to enable learning any time, any place and at any pace, facilitated by increased access to learning technologies” the Alberta Ministry of Education has embraced personal learning as part of their business plan. Although not new personalized learning has re-emerged on the learning front propelled by an increased focus on pedagogy and the availability of powerful learning technologies.
As school divisions struggle to provide learning devices and the infrastructure to support them along comes Google Apps for Education and similar products [Office 365]. Housed completely on the Internet and sometimes made available free of charge [Google Apps], these services provide the opportunity for students to have anytime, anywhere access to what they create and to the content that is provided to them at school. With massive amounts of storage these tools also allow for real time collaboration and the personal publishing of content. Privacy and security have emerged as issues but it is clear from the adoption of these services that they are looked at as a viable alternative to traditional software licensing and management. Cloud computing also provides support for mobile, ubiquitous ad personalized learning by allowing cross device access to online services.
According to the Ubiquitous Learning Institute an increasing trend to mobility and ever expanding wireless Internet availability means teaching and learning needs to be reconsidered. The Institute is particularly interested in the notions of “situated” and “authentic” learning which links classrooms with “real world” problems and contexts. Similar to mobile learning and personalized learning, ubiquitous learning once again highlights the notion of anytime, anywhere learning within a student centered approach.
BYOD [bring your own device]
The future of Ed Tech rests in BYOD. At least according to a recent article in EdReach. Citing the cost-effectiveness of BYOD the article also takes direct aim at policies that currently ban the personally owned devices. It is clear that economic pressures will make this more relevant over time as IT departments and school divisions generally struggle to find the funds to provide appropriate access to technology in schools. Addressing equity issues [those that can raise money or find the money have better access] and providing higher levels of assistive technology means that not providing equipment to those able to bring their own device makes sense. This trend will definitely continue as students demand access to their personal “learning” device at school. Besides…sense when can a publicly funded institution like a school or school division tell a taxpayer [or taxpayers child] that they can’t bring their own tool to the very place that wants them to learn.
If you have increased access to a digital learning appliance then it makes sense that the delivery of digital content would emerge as another significant trend. Digital textbooks, eBooks, eTexts, user generated content, packaged course content, curriculum support websites will all emerge as significant pieces. A New Marketing Trends article from 2010 described this trend for higher education as “the disaggregation of content and the breaking of the traditional textbook model”. Encouraged by a move to mobile and personalized learning this trend will extend into the K12 market and continue to grow in the education sector generally.
The Flipped Classroom
Salman Khan described it best. Probably because his massive repository of flipping content has led the way to this rethinking of the traditional classroom approach. Teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams clearly state in an article written by Bill Tucker for EducationNext that they can now more easily query individual students, probe for misconceptions around scientific concepts, and clear up incorrect notions. They also identify the ability of teachers and students to easily create and share high quality video [another trend] and use it as instructional support is something that frees classroom time to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning. As with most innovations caution is advised and as pointed out by Innovative Educator Lisa Nielsen there are reasons to be concerned. Providing students access to purposeful and high quality digital content will grow and the idea of a “flipped classroom” is simply another way to focus on using the valuable time in school for meaningful exchanges with students.
Student Debt/Opting Out
This is really two separate trends. Massive student load debt in the US is now recognized as a drain on their economy and because of the related costs associated with acquiring a post-secondary education potential students are looking for a quicker means to learn and earn. Questions are invariably being asked about the ultimate value of a university education. Even the CBC Cross Country Checkup posed the question in the Canadian context. Considering the other emerging trends of mobile learning, ubiquitous learning and personalized learning and the options for learning they provide examining the role of a university education and exploring the options to learn will certainly continue to be a growing trend. Even K12 schools are not immune to this trend as an increasing number of disenfranchised teenagers [in particular] choose to forgo school altogether. The Innovative Educator’s Lisa Nielsen suggests both stopping out or opting out of university and high school may be the key to a better future.
What does it mean?
In the end a significant number of these trends speak to refocusing learning on the learner. Surprisingly this is something that has been significantly absent from the traditional education community.
Now…to pick one significant trend to focus on for my final trend report will be difficult.