K-12 education: 6 trends, 6 challenges, 6 incoming technologies

Preview of annual report identifies where K-12 education and education technologies may be headed

education-technologiesOn May 12, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the New Media Consortium (NMC) gave a small online audience a taste of the nation’s K-12 education technology trends for 2015.

After about two months of work, a panel of about 50 experts settled on six trends, six challenges and six coming technologies in K-12 education, which are outlined in a preview version of the upcoming report, set for release on June 29.

The panel of technology and education experts from across the nation — holding titles like chief information officer, school principal and leader of NGOs — shared ideas on a wiki and eventually voted on the most impactful forces in lower education today.

Next page: The top 6 education technologies

The panel members posted their thoughts on topics like drones, wearable technology, cloud computing, online learning, mesh networking, biometrics or visual data analysis.

“Our goal is to have the content reflect the most diverse perspective possible,” said Samantha Adams Becker, NMC Horizon Project director. “We loaded this wiki space with prompts, the latest research and readings on educational technology and trends and challenges.”

Two long-term trends identified include rethinking how schools work and a shift to deeper learning approaches. Two mid-term trends include an increase in the use of collaborative learning approaches, and a shift from students acting as consumers to students acting as creators. Two short-term trends include an increased use of “hybrid-blended learning designs,” and a rise in science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics (STEAM) content.

“With the rise of interdisciplinary teaching, there needs to be a structure that supports the integration of disciplines into each other,” Becker said. “This is about how learning is becoming more fluent and student-centered and some teachers and administrators believe that schedules should be more flexible to allow more opportunities for authentic learning to take place and more room for independent study.”

The report identifies education’s six challenges as: creating authentic learning opportunities, integrating technology in teacher education, personalizing learning, rethinking the roles of teachers, scaling teaching innovations, and teaching complex thinking.

As teachers transition from the role of lecturer to mentor, Becker said, so must teachers rethink their strategies in the classroom.

“There’s an expectation for teachers to organize their own work and comply with administrative documentation and reporting requirements,” she said. “Integration of technology into everyday life of students and also teachers is causing many thought leaders to argue that schools should be providing more ways for teachers to get training on new pedagogies and integration of new technologies.”

Two developments expected to arrive to most schools in the next year include bring your own device (BYOD) programs and maker spaces — areas where artists, engineers, designers and builders have a workshop to pursue ideas rather than follow the dictates of cookie-cutter assignments.

In the next two to three years, the report concludes that 3-D printing and adaptive learning technologies will become common in K-12 environments.

“Adaptive learning technologies refer to software and online classrooms that adjust to individual students’ needs as they learn,” Becker explained. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded $100,000 in adaptive learning grants for colleges and universities in 2013 in the anticipation of this trend.

In four to five years, two trends expected by researchers include badges and microcredit transactions, along with the broader field of wearable electronics.

“Mozilla is providing and enabling their users to display their achievements on the Web in any platform,” Becker said. “More schools are looking into digital badges as an alternative method of validating informal achievements not just for students, but also for teachers and professional development.”

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