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Are these 8 trends the future of K-12?

Here are eight ways the future of education could change

future-K12In a recent blog I wrote for Wired, I discussed Jack Uldrich’s book, Jumping the Curve. Essentially, it suggests that the best entrepreneurs, innovators, and visionaries are those who see the intersection of two curves on a paradigm chart, and set up a solution based on the new curve, rather than the old.

As such, I’ve done my best over the years to blog about those “jumping off points” for eLearning each December, specific to the New Year. Some of those predictions have been spot on, such as MOOC-fever in 2009, while others have not, such as confidence based testing in 2007 (I still think we missed the mark by not pushing this concept). But overall I’ve done pretty well looking ahead. As 2014 arrives, the time has come to look at more paradigm curves.

In an attempt to illuminate the possible future, here are 8 trends that I believe will hit their stride, really get (meaningfully) started, or otherwise dot the education landscape.

(Next page: Eight trends that will impact the future of education)

In other words, I believe you will see these concepts blogged about regularly, formally written about in education publications, the subject of grants and other financial opportunities, and represented in numerous conference presentation titles. Now if only I could do the same with lottery numbers…

1. Gamification: From Jane McGonigal’s amazing TED talk to Kapp’s “Bible” on Gamification in Learning, to academically rigorous research showing gains in retention, outcomes, risk taking, positive failure, and on and on–games have reached a critical mass in terms of academic credibility. And these real-world, authentically assessable, deep learning experiences are gaining more and more traction with teachers. 2014 will see a dramatic increase in the creation, use, and integration of games into curricula that will promote richer learning experiences and also start to connect students and classrooms across levels, schools, and even borders.

2. Speech to Text: One of the more controversial predictions for 2014 is a surge in “Siri-esque” interactions for students, and occasionally teachers. While I don’t know that we’ll see it on a test anytime soon, with perhaps second language courses being the notable exception, I’m observing more and more edu-bloggers talk about apps that change on the fly, based on simply telling computers what to do, what to search for, and how to act, so as to customize the experience.

3. Touch Interfaces: Research is being done around the hundreds of thousands of devices sitting in classrooms today. From smart boards to tablets, more “best practices” are emerging every day. For instance, some research has determined that a tablet smaller than 10″ is not as effective for testing or writing on a tablet. So, as interfaces become easier to share, apps provide more intuitive experiences, and as more devices per student are available, we will see larger adoptions of both hardware and software leading to better simulations, more options for assessment, and better collaborative technology than ever before.

4. Learning Spaces: A lot of money will be poured into changing the spaces where students learn. Unfortunately, not much thought will go into how teachers teach, and there will be a large disconnect between innovative spaces, effective usage, and meaningful gains. Within 3-5 years, many will find the money was not well spent–it could have been accomplished with new software, new devices, and changing teaching models. But with the grant monies available for experimental, neo-millennial spaces, school administrators should see “holodecks” popping up around the country.

5. Tablets: Quickly becoming the dominant device today (many manufacturers have already limited creation of laptops), schools will see more widespread use of these devices in 2014. As such, tablets will move into a place of appropriateness in the classroom. And as Android and Microsoft scramble to unseat the reigning device king, also known as iOS, more “packaged” solutions will appear. After all, a superintendent will more readily purchase a full content, assessment, and device package before they’ll purchase each individually. And packaging software, hardware, and cloudware is the only way to depose Apple’s dominant hold on the market in the short term.

6. Neuroscience & Learning Design: 2014 will see more and more assimilation of brain science into the culture of teaching. With liaisons like Judy Willis, neuroscientist and elementary school teacher, or even brain-science “navigators” whose job it is to report on findings from the cognitive science world, it is becoming easier to digest information that used to be overly scientific and jargon-based. Soon, what we know about the brain will finally start to “move the needle” in education. Imagine a learning ecosystem that enables the best memory techniques while boosting processing power, all the while controlling for variables like sleep, exercise, and food. That is what happens when teachers invite neuroscientists to conferences.

7. Curriculum Integration: In 2014, we’ll experience a major uptick in multi-modal programming. For too long, teachers have taught in a vacuum, trying to illustrate math with only math examples and never getting opportunities to see how others innovate in their classrooms. With more social media outlets connecting the world and more research discovering that interdisciplinary, co-taught subjects enhance context and retention of information, schools will start to embrace teaching beyond one teacher, one subject, and 30 kids. Plus, as more and more games create multi-subject frameworks, more integrated learning will happen in schools, across regions, and even across the globe.

8. Constructivism Will Flourish: Along with neuroscience and learning design above, more and more “movements” have emerged out of and around constructivist teaching and learning. From the veteran project-based learning to up-and-comers like the Maker Movement, flipped learning, challenge-based learning, entrepreneurial linked education, etc., people are realizing that the old apprenticeship model is again possible, at scale, thanks to technology. Learning by creating is fostering connections between the learner and real products, services, or ideas and is, to many, a fundamental “missing link” with most education today.

Dr. Jeff D. Borden is Vice President of Academic Strategy & Instruction in Pearson’s Research and Innovation Network.

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