A Digital Future: K-12 Technology by 2018

Rapidly changing technology continues to make its mark on K-12 learning. Last fall the New Media Consortium Horizon Report released a report that details six up-and-coming technologies in the next five years for K-12 classrooms. Let’s take a closer look.

Horizon #1: In the next year, or less.

Mobile learning. Tablets and smartphones in the classroom are no longer a matter of “if,” but “when, and how quickly?” Administrators and educators can tap into the convenience of mobile technology in the classroom and the potential for student learning adaptation. Over half of school administrators say there is some form of mobile technology in their classrooms and that they plan to implement more when it is financially feasible. School districts should keep in mind that the purchase of mobile devices for K-12 use is only one piece in the learning puzzle. There must be funding for teacher training and maintenance of the devices too.

Cloud computing. When it comes to greater educational collaboration, cloud computing has unlimited potential. This is true for teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-parent and teacher-to-student applications. By using a common location, academic expectations can be better accessed, along with actual student work. Instructors can also share learning materials and experiences through the remote opportunities that cloud computing provides.

Horizon #2: Within two to three years.

Learning analytics. This evolving concept in K-12 classrooms is different from educational data mining in that it focuses on individual students, teachers and schools without direct implications to the government. Learning analytics is the education industry’s response to “big data” that is used in the business world for improvements and redirection of focus. Learning analytics essentially show students what they have achieved and how those goals match up with their peers. If implemented correctly, this technology has the potential to warn teachers early of academic issues while keeping students more accountable. Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences.

Open content. The rise of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, in terms of college learning is having a trickle-down effect on K-12 education. The idea that all the information that exists on any given topic already exists, and does not need to be re-created or purchased, is gaining steam among K-12 educators. Within the next three years, expect more shared content available to teachers and to students. Open textbooks, resources and curricula are not the only benefit of an open content push; shared experiences and insights are also valuable teaching tools.

Horizon #3: Within four to five years.

3D printing. Also known as prototyping, this technology will allow K-12 students to create tangible models for their ideas. Many fields, like manufacturing, already make use of this technology to determine the effectiveness of ideas on a smaller, printable scale. In education, this technology will bolster creativity and innovation, along with science and math applications. The STEM Academy has already partnered with Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company, to start integration of the technology in programming classes.

Virtual laboratories. These Web applications give students the chance to perform physical science experiments over and over, from anywhere with Internet access. As in a physical lab, the performance of the student will determine the results of the experiment. While not a replacement for all in-lab exercises, the virtual version can provide extra practice and guidance. There is no pressure to “get it right” on the first run, and mistakes are allowable because the technology lends itself to no-cost repetition. It also may prove a smart solution to rekindling the American public’s interest in the scientific.

In coming posts, I will take a closer look at each of these technologies and their implications on K-12 learners. Which do you think will have the greatest impact?

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11 Replies to “A Digital Future: K-12 Technology by 2018”

  1. It wouldn’t surprise me if mobile learning and cloud technology doesn’t end up in the classroom quicker than this article surmises. My four kids all have access to mobile technology in our home and I’m certain we are not the only family that have given their children tablets, etc. . . Getting it into the classroom, I feel, is just a natural progression of what is already happening for entertainment in the home.

  2. Open content will be a boon to K12 education! While traditional textbooks will not go away for sometime, having access to online content will help students oriented to technology succeed in what may have otherwise been a boring subject.

  3. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about open content, but I can only see the good in it. Why not let people learn if they want to learn?

  4. Dr. Lynch, thanks for the update and focus of attention on the “horizon” of effective edtech in schools. I have a vision for educational technology in schools that I have yet to read in detail. Maybe you know more about it…the computer display wall. Have you read about the following scenario…Imagine the K-12 whiteboard is gone, as well as the projection system, the interactive whiteboard, the TV, the large screen HDTV…all replaced by the interactive, touch controlled computer wall….a vast visual display and interactive surface for displaying all that once was shown on the devices previously listed. The wall could be organized like a neat web page with space for the calendar, the learning objectives, the whiteboard like space, instructional lessons, video links, video conferencing, social media trends, and the constantly changing poster display area. I see the entire wall of a classroom used to display all this information, plus student work in digital form. Wall space is not longer limited to the square inches of sheetrock. Can you imagine the lessons for the day are recorded and archived in video format for students later review. Imagine every student with a mobile device that can be projected wirelessly to the wall to show their work. Imagine the computer wall has a camera to record the student activity (permissions and legal issues granted) plus a camera across the room, facing the computer wall to record the teachers’ at work. Imagine beyond the emerging trends of existing technologies as the Horizon Report does so well, to the dreams of the R&D labs in high tech companies. I wonder if you and your readers have imagined, or better, seen this system?

  5. Wearable technology will result in massive databases of information being created interfaced by artificial intelligence systems. As much of our education is based around fact recollection, there will be a huge advocacy for changing the curriculum to ‘soft’ skills beyond even what we recognise as 21st Century skills currently. With the acceptance of ‘robots’ in many forms from self-driving cars to decision-making systems these areas will gain prominence as far as … training is concerned. This is because of the efficiency that these systems will bring compared to their human counterparts. At some point it will become cheaper to use a robot in a factory than a human, maybe because of widespread 3d printing techniques, then manufacturing will be automated and human interaction will be programming and maintenance. Due to the massive populations in the developing countries eventually coming online the nature of internet content will change as their cultural influence becomes more prevalent and their skills develop.

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