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IT#1: What’s next in ed-tech? These 18 trends

Annual Horizon Report lists key ed-tech trends from collaborative learning to VR and wearable tech.

[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on September 14th of this year, was our #1 most popular IT story of the year. For last week’s #2 IT story, click here.]

I do a lot of speaking about ed-tech trends, and none of my talks seem to get larger audiences than those that address new or emerging technologies. Part of this is our never ending interest in what is “new,” and also that little voice in my head that says, “maybe I am falling behind.”

So, as an educator interested in technology — after all, you are reading eSchool News — what is the best source for tracking emerging technologies for learning? And, even more important, which of these emerging technologies address the chief problems you are trying to solve in your school or school district?

The answer to the first question is easy. Each year the New Media Consortium (NMC) and CoSN—the Consortium for School Networking — jointly create the Horizon Report. Produced with the insights of an international panel of experts, and with nearly one million downloads per year, this report on emerging technologies for learning is likely the most well-read report identifying key technology trends for primary and secondary education. (The 2016 Report is made possible by Share Fair Nation at This comprehensive report helps education leaders and practitioners develop future-focused digital strategies and learning approaches that mirror the needs and skills of the real world.

The answer to the second question of what trends are most important in your school/school district requires some work on your part. While the 2016 Horizon Report identifies what leading experts see as key trends, the most important conversation to have is to see if any of those trends relate to challenges in your community. The good news is that CoSN is also issuing a new Toolkit to accompany the 2016 Horizon K-12 Education Edition which helps start that conversation. Both the Horizon Report and Toolkit are free.

The toolkit lays the groundwork for you to share the latest education trends and inspire progress amongst your staff and community. From start to finish, the toolkit includes templates, suggestions and guidelines for school and district communication, presentations, and guides for hosting informational events–all in an effort to simplify the process and help you maximize the visibility of the report’s cutting edge results.

(Next page: The key trends

So, what do the experts think are the key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in technology in K-12?  Here you go:

Key Trends Accelerating K-12 Educational Technology Adoption

Long-Term Trends: Driving ed-tech adoption in K-12 education for five or more years:

  • Redesigning Learning Spaces
  • Rethinking How Schools Work

Mid-Term Trends: Driving ed-tech adoption in K-12 education for three to five years:

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Deeper Learning Approaches

Short-Term Trends: Driving ed-tech adoption in K-12 education for one to two years:

  • Coding as a Literacy
  • Students as Creators

Significant Challenges Impeding K-12 Educational Technology Adoption

Solvable Challenges: Those which we both understand and know how to solve:

  • Authentic Learning Opportunities
  • Rethinking the Roles of Teachers

Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive:

  • Advancing Digital Equity
  • Scaling Teaching Innovations

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address:

  • The Achievement Gap
  • Personalizing Learning

III. Important Developments in Technology for K-12 Education

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less:

  • Makerspaces
  • Online Learning

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years:

  • Robotics
  • Virtual Reality

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Wearable Technology

The first step to address emerging technologies for learning is to start by defining the type of learning we want. Once you’ve properly assessed your current situation, the next step is to look at the exciting new tools that will enable that vision.

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