Education Technology Trends

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.

Mobile Learning/Mobility
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
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.

Cloud Computing
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.

Ubiquitous Learning
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.

Digital Content
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.

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Re-Centering Education

It seems to me that most of the trends in education are pointing at a serious reorganization……centered very much on the learner.  If you look at the article “10 Global Trends in ICT and Education” [thanks for that posting Chris] the 1o trends identified in one way or another speak to personalized, anytime, anywhere, connected, well designed, user-defined, informed and supported learning.  I think this is fantastic!  Imagine….user controlled learning…supported by a user defined learning ecosystem….what a novel concept.

The last trend [teachers as managers/mentors] seems particularly important..at least to me.  If the changing role of teachers is not recognized, encouraged and supported then the gap between learners and “teachers” will widen and students will continue to look to alternatives outside of “traditional” learning.

Learning….just in time, just enough, just for me.

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Emerging Trends – for me anyway

For me the following trends are emerging from the postings made by others in the Future Trends and Directions class and my own items posted [and not] to the UMtrends11 Diigo group:

  • Online/Blended Learning
  • Personalized/Adaptive Learning
  • Mobile Learning/Mobility
  • Apps Ecosystems
  • Cloud Computing
  • Collaboration/Crowdsourcing
  • Inquiry
  • BYOD [bring your own device] Who are we to stop it?
  • Demographics – EAL [English as an Additional Language]
  • Flipping Education
  • Gaming in Education
  • Innovation [or the decline of innovation]
  • Growth of Social Learning
  • Digital Content [eBooks, digital textbooks, etc.]
  • Augmented Reality/Learning
  • Data Mining/Analytics
  • Convergence
  • Dissatisfaction

Some of these have obvious crossover [perhaps all] that will have to be explored.  Some might be new to people…flipping [Salman Khan at Ted] for example and require more examination and a detailed description.  Most are not new but continue to be impacted by changes in technology, the economy, educational policy, pedagogy and andragogy.

Anyway…a lot of fodder for the initial trend report and one or two are calling me to dig a little deeper. The last one on the list is perhaps more an observation than a trend.  There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction with the way things currently are in education and many items posted are about solutions/reactions to or fixes for the described problems. Maybe this is a huge example of crowdsourcing?

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Looking to the Future

So I have started my next class in CIS:ETL. This one has been a little difficult for me to get up and running. Why? Very busy at work, renovating an entire house, helping my oldest son finish a basement, new puppy [a Puggle – wow!], other things. Nothing new to many of you. But…this one is important to me. The education sector in particular needs to capture and understand the trends that will ultimately impact what we do. Not just educational trends but those from other/many sectors – business, finance, immigration, medicine…you name it. Seems like everything has something to do with education.

So…time to get to work and see if I can sort some of this out.

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Topics in Mobile Learning [some new to me]

How about some links to get you started on some specific topics within Mobile Learning.

•    Coordinated learning with the global positioning system
⁃    great resource to get teachers started with using GP is education  http://www.burlesonisd.net/learntech/?p=41
⁃    linking games and location based learning using mobile technology  http://holambra.wordpress.com/education/learning-with-mobile-location-based-games/
⁃    inquiry learning and gps  http://educononline.com/2008/12/22/using-gps-for-inquiry-based-learning/

•    Scan learning with camera phones and augmentation codes
⁃    nice blog about qr codes in general with a specific discussion about qr codes in education  http://www.qrcode.es/?p=350&language=en
⁃    complete information about qr cdes  http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit/51894
⁃    social qr-codes messages https://instructionaldesignfusions.wordpress.com/tag/qr-codes-and-education/

•    Secure proximity transactions (near field communication)
⁃    wikipedia definition of near field communication  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_field_communication
⁃    NFC and Smart Universities  http://www.inderscience.com/www/info/ijwi/art/tjew3101.pdf
⁃    instructional strategies related to NFC https://instructionaldesignfusions.wordpress.com/tag/near-field-communication/

•    Mobile sensor and accelerometer technology in behavioral learning
⁃    Authentic Learning using mobile sensor technology – a research project [New Zealand] http://goo.gl/fike3
⁃    Large-scale study of human behaviour patterns using mobile phones http://www.idiap.ch/scientific-research/projects/large-scale-human-context-discovery-from-mobile-phones
⁃    Behavioral research related to autism and the use of sensor technology http://autism.cc.gatech.edu/projects.htm

•    User generated, real time content creation
⁃    Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Socail Web http://www.scribd.com/doc/23804641/Real-time-Search-and-Discovery-of-the-Social-Web
⁃    assessing the quality of user generated content as learning resources http://goo.gl/JfWxu
⁃    creation and distribution of real-time content http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/593/
⁃    The Future Internet  http://goo.gl/vzanA

•    Simulations for learning on mobile devices
⁃    Educause look at Learning Through Situated Simulations http://www.educause.edu/Resources/LearningthroughSituatedSimulat/221754
⁃    Excellent literature review of Mobile Technologies in Learning which includes a discussion of simulations and mobile devices  http://goo.gl/vfJNq

•    Anywhere (context sensitive), anytime (ubiquitous) learning
⁃    EDUCAUSE look at anytime, anywhere learning http://www.educause.edu/ELI/LearningTechnologies/MLearningandMobility/12397
⁃    6 characteristics of ubiquitous learning  http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Ubiquitous_learning
⁃    research paper from Athabasca university on ubiquitous learning and intense connectivity http://goo.gl/0Tvqt

•    Augmented simulations on mobile devices
⁃    augmented reality language learning http://www.avatarlanguages.com/blog/arll/
⁃    great introduction to augmented reality and mobile technology http://themobilelearner.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/augmented-reality-in-plain-english/
⁃    great article on the move from elearnng to mlearning using augmented reality  http://sloanconsortium.org/conferences/2011/et4online/e-learning-m-learning-use-augmented-reality-online-courses

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Class Mobile Learning Survey

As part of a class on Mobile Learning we [those enrolled in the class]were asked to collaboratively create, administer and compile the results of a survey related specifically to mobile learning and mobile devices that can support mobile learning. Questions about the future of mobile learning were also a key element of the survey.   The survey was to be made available through our networks or the organization that we work for and was to provide responses from a cross-section of learning environments.  In particular the target audience was K-12 and postsecondary teachers, instructors and trainers or other formal training personnel.   The target audience however did not eliminate the possibility that others outside these roles could respond to the survey. The assignment required that a minimum of 200 people respond to the survey over about a 10 day period.  In the end 153 people responded.  This limited response was possibly due to the time of year.  June is a busy time for K-12 teachers and of course most university and colleges have reduced activity for the spring and summer.  The survey tool used was SurveyMonkey as one of the students enrolled in the Mobile Learning course had access to the service and coordinated the effort and compiled the results.  The capability of the SurveyMonkey service is more than adequate for the task and the ability to summarize and analyze the results is exceptional.

Survey Validity
While the number of respondents was relatively small the vast majority [79%]of respondents were educational administrators, instructors, teachers or faculty trainers who have direct responsibility for delivering educational programs. The results are provided by those that will ultimately be responsible for incorporating mobile learning technologies in their teaching and learning environments.  These are exactly the voices we wish to hear.  One notable missing component or voice is that of students.  While this particular survey was primarily aimed at educators it would be important to receive feedback from students as well using another survey designed for them.

Survey Results – Key Findings
It is clear from the results of the survey that mobile learning and mobile learning devices have a place in both post-secondary and k-12 education.  Fully 90 percent of respondents [106 individuals] felt that mobile devices would play an important role in K-12 and higher education.  Given the balance of respondents from K-12 [49%] and post-secondary [32%] the survey suggests that we need to consider what role that will be and what supports are required.

It is also clear that mobile devices are already being used in the formal educational setting.   Almost 56% of those that responded to the survey indicated they currently use mobile devices in their institutional setting.  The predominant devices used in these settings are the smartphone, the ipad [tablet] and notebooks.  While a slightly higher percentage [35%] said their predominant device was the smartphone the tablet computer occupies a close second at almost 30%.  Given the short history of the tablet device as compared to the smartphone it is obvious that they will play an important role in mobile learning.  Instructors, etchers, trainers and educational institutions generally need to consider how these specific devices can enhance learning opportunities.

It is especially important to have a clear picture of what it is people are doing and expect to be doing with mobile devices in educational settings.  When asked about the content being accessed using mobile devices the clear winner [86%] is publicly available resources like wikipedia, YouTube, etc. The internet provides the bulk of content and when Open Educational Resources [OER] are added to the mix [47% of respondents] it is clear that non-proprietary, free and publicly available resources are extremely important to mobile learning.  Institutionally prepared content was also clearly important [50% of respondents] so it would seem important that ease of access across a number of device types is required.  The planning for and creation of content to be accessed by mobile devices of all types needs to have a higher level of priority.

Communication is also a key element of mobile device use in educational settings.  Eighty seven percent of respondents stated they use mobile devices to connect to others or expect them to be used for this purpose.  Texting, social networks, IM and email all play a role but it is clear that social networking tools and resources are the primary means of connecting.  Along with social networking tools it is also clear storage and transfer services like Dropbox, Google Apps, and others like Box.net will be important to mobile learning.  When asked if cloud services would be important to the use of mobile devices most respondents indicated they would be  and Google Apps, DropBox, YouTube and Box.net were mentioned by almost all.  Google Apps was the number one service mentioned.

The single largest issue {67% of respondents] selected was that mobile devices introduced a significant distraction in the classroom setting.  It would be interesting to define this response further and look at the connection between those educators who actively incorporate mobile devices in their learning environment and those that don’t.  Does the perception that the devices are distraction change when they are actively being used for learning.

This survey has peaked my interest enough that I will be exploring other research data concerning mobile learning.

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Challenges to Implementing Mobile Learning

In many respects issues or challenges related to the implementation or incorporation of mobile learning in any organization are similar to those for eLearning.  To what degree you can implement any significant change like this I believe depends on the following three items:  organizational culture, professional development and support and the availability of the resource…in this case mobile devices in general.

I work for a large urban K-12 school division and in many respects the division has put in place the fundamental pieces that pave the way for mobile and eLearning.  The infrastructure has been updated to provide more than adequate bandwidth, all teachers have been provided with a laptop to support professional learning and technology integration and all schools have complete and robust wireless access.  Schools are provided laptops for student use based on a formula that addresses the number of students and programs in the school and no direct policies in the division prevent the use of web-based software or services.  The only guideline with respect to the provision of hardware or the provision of software states that schools can not purchase computers or printers of any type but does allow for the purchase of mobile devices like iPads and iPods.  So…it would seem on the surface that the adoption and implementation of mLearning would be a next logical step.

Culture
eLearning and mLearning require a new way of thinking on the part of teachers.  Pedagogy has to change, assessment has to change, roles have to change.  Education has and still does resist the changes that would be required to make mLearning real for students. It is the very culture of schools and of teaching that resists change.  Cultural change, those things that impact on how we view students, their potential to learn, how they might learn and how teachers create learning opportunities is a much more difficult change to make and is what ultimately leads to significant school improvement (Leithwood, et al, 2006). mLearning could speak to how teachers create learning opportunities and help make learning relevant for students.

The digital age has created a new relationship between teachers and learners. Research conducted by the London School of Economics found that children are typically the Internet experts in the family, and described this situation as a “lasting reversal of the generation gap” (Smithers 2003, p. 1). This reflects the challenges facing education and training providers who are steeped in traditional delivery styles when confronted with digitally literate students, where, rather than simply receiving and memorizing the wisdom of their elders, which has been the tradition for millennia, students are now demanding training that meets their specific information needs.  (Ally, 2011)

Professional Development and Support
Over the past few years, and as part of school reform movements generally, there has been a narrowing of focus to key areas of learning…usually described as Literacy and Numeracy.  Available professional development time, money for key resources and the hiring of additional personnel has been focused on these areas. This has left a void in the other areas.  For those teachers that have not fully embraced technology mLearning would require a high level of professional development and specific technological and pedagogical support to make it real.  A fundamental shift to personal learning networks and personal learning environments would help but this requires cultural shifts as well. Teachers need to see the value, need to see the technology, in this case mobile devices in particular, in use in a real way before they will commit to the changes they must make to incorporate mLearning.

Availability of Resource
Mobile learning requires a learning appliance.  School divisions still look generally to providing a set number of devices [usually desktops or laptops] for student access at school.  While this serves the IT purpose of simplifying allocations, management and renewal it does little to serve the need for ubiquity and the ubiquitous availability of any resource is key (Boss, Krauss 2007). mLearnign will require the “provision” of an assortment of devices that students have access to at all times and that allows them to pick the most appropriate device for the task. Allowing for personal device use in schools, looking differently at how additional devices can be made available and providing for 24/7 access to learning content and services is required…particularly to address issues of equity.  In many cases direct policies that prevent personal devices and close off learning resources [networks, subscription content, etc.] place constraints on mLearning from the start.

None of these issues is insurmountable.  But just like the cultural change that teachers are expected to make,  policy makers, legislatures and administrators need to “think differently” as well in order to finally realize the potential of technology in learning.

Ally, M.  Dr. (2009). Mobile Learning. Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, AU Press, Issues in Distance Education Series.

Boss, S., Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing Project Based Leearning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects int he Digital World, Washington, D.C., ISTE

Leithwood, K., McAdie, P., Bascia, N., & Rodrigue, R. (2006). Teaching for deep understanding: What every educator should know. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

 

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