Ed tech policymakers and experts weigh in on the year ahead

predictions-techLast year, in addition to the tremendous attention on Common Core’s ups and downs, educators also found time to weigh the merits of greater access to broadband in (and out of) the classroom, as well as gaming and learning, the use of Google tools, and the power of data to make decisions. The changes—both political and technological—had a great impact on educators everywhere.

Likewise, this year, with the recent expansion of the federal E-rate program and impending switch to online testing, we can certainly expect more of the same. But where else will educators turn their gaze in the coming months?

To get a pulse on the current—and future—state of affairs, eSchool News recently asked five education technology influencers about their thoughts and predictions for the year ahead, from digital learning broadband and mobile to innovating in every classroom. Here’s what they had to say.

(Next page: smarter data, more funding, and other predictions for 2015)

1. Laying the groundwork for learning
Keith Kruger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking

This will be the year of building the capacity for digital learning. That means we need a renewed focus on infrastructure. With the big new E-rate investment in broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi for every classroom, it is time for education technology leaders to focus on designing smart, robust, and scalable education networks. Our focus increasingly must be on ensuring that we have the bandwidth and the network reliability for mission-critical instruction and operations.  And it means that mobility will be driving new possibilities. Going forward, we will not be talking just about one-to-one computing, but rather about creating “always on” learning environments where each learner has multiple devices.

Finally—and most importantly—we also know that infrastructure alone will not transform learning. The most critical factor is building the human capacity and creating the culture to leverage these digital opportunities. This will not happen overnight, nor will it happen by simply flipping a switch. But it will happen when leaders set expectations and create a climate for innovation. Let’s make 2015 the time to move beyond rhetoric and make digital learning a reality.

2. Data getting smarter
Kristen DiCerbo, Principal Research Scientist for Pearson’s Center for Digital Data, Analytics, and Adaptive Learning

While digital innovation has dominated K-12 education throughout the past decade, as we enter 2015 I predict we will start to see a shift in focus to how people and technology can best combine to positively impact learner outcomes. One area where we are already beginning to see a shift is in regard to the concept of digital learning and personalization. We will see a significant change as personalization will transition from the focus on data and machine choices, toward technology as a decision support for teachers, students and parents. The technology will recommend, and teachers can digest the suggestions and adjust their instructional models accordingly.

3. More opportunities realized
Cheryl Scott Williams, Executive Director, Learning First Alliance

In 2015, schools will continue to focus on tools and content that they can use to support both teacher growth and student achievement to the new higher standards (aka Common Core). To the extent handheld devices continue to come down in price, more districts will move into one-to-one computing to capture and keep student attention on learning exploration and to take advantage of the publishing industry’s new focus on creation of digital content. More publicly available free content, including primary sources via the Library of Congress, the Archives, the National Park Service, NASA, and other government sources will become central to wise implementation of one-to-one initiatives. And, finally, with the increase in E-Rate funding, more schools will be connected to broadband so all this can actually take place.

(Next page: Prepare for new rules and some collaborative dialogue in the year ahead)

4. New rules, new growth
John Harrington, CEO, Funds for Learning

The year ahead promises to be an exciting one for schools and libraries who receive E-rate funding support. New rules—and more funding—will help bring faster internet speeds to almost every classroom and library in America. Because of the many changes to the E-rate program, applicants will be faced with new forms, new calculations, and a host of new reporting requirements—but these changes are designed to deliver an E-rate program that is better tuned to the needs of students and library patrons. We expect to see as much money committed for Wi-Fi connections in 2015 as was committed in total in the five years prior. In short, 2015 will be a year of change. Those changes will require learning new rules and new ways of doing things, but in the end we expect to see a more effective E-rate program helping to further the cause of internet access in our country’s schools and library buildings.

5. From political to practical    
Melinda George, President, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future

We are entering the year of supporting good teaching for deeper learning. The conversation will shift from one that is political in nature to one that is truly about the conditions that need to be in place to support teaching so that all students have the opportunity to learn in a way that prepares them for college and career readiness. NCTAF and its partners will play a pivotal role in sharing case studies and highlighting the “how to” for schools and districts around the country. The key to success will be found through an open and collaborative dialogue. This year, look for a renewed focus on how to support teachers, as well as practical ways to improve learning for all students.

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