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15 trends that hinder, accelerate, and enable K-12 innovation

For innovation to unfold, educators have to overcome stubborn obstacles

While new trends such as extended reality and mobile devices are enabling expansive changes in K-12 education, innovation is often impeded by obstacles such as clunky professional development and digital equity, according to new research.

These new insights on what hinders and what support K-12 innovation come from CoSN’s Driving K-12 Innovation series, which highlights new trends supporting the use of emerging technology in K-12 education.

As part of the initiative, CoSN convenes a global advisory board of K-12 leaders, practitioners, and changemakers to discuss major themes driving, hindering, and enabling teaching and learning innovation in schools.

After the advisory board meets, responses from a survey are tabulated and put organized into the top five topics in each area.

Hurdles, or obstacles that make participants slow down, evaluate, practice, and then make the leap to better support teaching and learning, include:

1. Ongoing Professional Development: Teachers aren’t always privy to or encouraged to pursue continued formal/informal training to upskill.

2. Technology and the Future of Work: Developments in artificial intelligence and robotics are driving changes in the workforce, and schools have a responsibility to understand how emerging technology impacts the skills students need to be successful in their continuing education and careers–and adjust learning experiences accordingly.

3. Pedagogy vs. Technology Gap: When new technologies are introduced and mandated, teachers do not always have sufficient training or professional development to understand how they can integrate into their curriculum and effective practices.

4. Digital Equity: Not every student has sufficient internet connectivity or access to tools/technologies; not all schools can afford the latest equipment.

5. Scaling & Sustaining Innovation: Whether it be effective teaching practices or technology usage, schools are challenged to adapt what is working well at a small scale and persistently apply it at a school, district, or state level.

Accelerators are megatrends that drive change–sometimes suddenly over time so gradually the implications aren’t readily apparent. These include:

1. Building the Human Capacity of Leaders: When leaders take actions to strengthen the professional community of their schools, providing and incentivizing opportunities for teachers to learn and master new skills, it opens the door to the innovative practices and approaches that can further student engagement.

2. Design Thinking: Design thinking is a strategy for creatively exploring and ultimately formulating solutions to challenges.

3. Personalization: As the consumer sector has exploded with new ways to customize user experiences and products, schools are finding ways to provide learning support at the individual level.

4. Data-Driven Practices: With more engagement, performance, and other kinds of data being collected, schools are leveraging that data to make decisions about curriculum, hiring, technology investments, and more.

5. Learners as Creators: The idea that students don’t have to wait to graduate to change the world is motivating schools to embrace real-world learning experiences that promote student-generated ideas and solutions.

Tech enablers support smoother leaps over the hurdles and expansive changes in global K-12 education.

1. Mobile Devices: Handheld or wearable tools that are internet-connected and enable knowledge consumption/ creation, e.g. smartphones and quantified self-devices

2. Blended Learning: The provision of learning experiences via a mix of face-to-face and online interaction, enabled by a collection of digital tools and technologies

3. Cloud Infrastructure: A virtual infrastructure that is delivered or accessed via a network or the internet, enabling IT services to move away from physically being present in a school

4. Extended Reality: Encompasses augmented, virtual, and mixed reality–a collection of technologies that enhance the physical world with interactive digital imagery and graphics

5. Analytics and Adaptive Technologies: Technologies that measure learning and enable personalization

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Laura Ascione

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