The trends identified as key drivers of technology adoptions over the next five years, in the Advisory Board’s ranked order of importance, are:Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models. Budget cuts are forcing schools to re-evaluate programs and driving increased interest in alternatives to traditional face-to-face learning models. Many are seeking to leverage students’ active engagement in Internet-based activities and social networks and their accompanying online skills by incorporating online and hybrid learning and expanded opportunities for collaboration. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. A trend in recent years, this continues to receive a high ranking. With a mass of readily available information, institutions must carefully weigh the unique value and assess credibility of these resources. Mentoring and preparing students for the world in which they will live is again at the forefront of key trends. It will be required that they be keen evaluators of information. As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming increasingly common for students to bring their own mobile devices. “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs are increasing in popularity in schools, driven not only by saving on school technology funds and earmarking available monies for students who cannot afford personal devices, but also by an attitude shift as schools grow in their understanding of the capabilities of smartphones and other devices.
People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. This continues to be a key trend and is certainly true for most adults, as many of today’s jobs can be accomplished from anywhere mobile Internet access is available. The same holds true for many of today’s school-age children who live constantly connected to peers, social groups, and family. Some may argue this constant flow of information is a distraction, but others are attracted to the opportunity to “flip” expectations and practice regarding schoolwork and homework. Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed. This too is a continuing trend cited in the Report. Today, technology skills are critical to success in almost every arena. Whereas the digital divide once was tied to wealth, it is now seen as a factor of education, with those acquiring technology skills better positioned to advance in their careers and in their lives. Evolving occupations, multiple careers, and an increasingly mobile workforce are among the drivers for this key trend. There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based, active learning. Challenge-based learning fosters more active learning experiences, and active learning approaches are inherently more student-centered. Research and best practice points to potential advantages of connecting curriculum to real life experiences and letting students take control of how they engage with content, such as increased excitement about learning and stronger 21st century skills, among them leadership and creativity.
The Report additionally identifies significant challenges that will likely affect teaching, learning, and creative inquiry over the next five years:Digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession, especially teaching. Despite its perceived importance, this challenge remained at the top of the list in this year’s Report because training in supporting skills and techniques continues to be very rare in teacher education. While some of the lack of formal training is offset by professional development and informal learning, digital media literacy, which is less about tools and more about thinking, is far from the norm. K-12 must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning. Most schools are not engaging students in real-world experiences both inside and outside the classroom but rather continuing the traditional lecture and test model. Designing an effective blended learning model is key, and the growing success of many non-traditional alternatives with more informal approaches, such as the “flipped classroom,” suggests this trend will continue for some time. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices. One-size-fits-all methods are clearly not effective; the continuing demand for personalized learning is driving the need for technologies with more learner choice, control, and differentiated instruction. But there remains a gap between the vision and the tools needed to achieve it. Access to materials and expertise, the amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching can and should be supported by technology.
Institutional barriers present formidable challenges to moving forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies. “The system” and fundamental structure of K-12 education presents a significant challenge. Resistance to change often stems from core efforts to maintain processes and practices of the current system. If the current system does not adapt in order to remain relevant, students may move to new and growing options, such as informal education, online education, home-based education, and others. Learning that incorporates real life experiences is not occurring enough and is undervalued when it does take place. This is significant since it strongly impacts how engaged students are with their learning, as they try to connect their world outside of school with school experiences. Practices such as project-based learning, incorporating life experiences, technology, and familiar tools, and mentoring from community members may help retain students in school and prepare them for post-secondary experiences they will encounter. Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of our learning metrics. Students access a range of learning games and resources via home systems and social networks that contribute to their learning, but it is challenging to tie these experiences back to the classroom and topics being studied. They tend to happen in unexpected ways and often in response to an immediate quest for knowledge, rather than being related to topics currently studied in school.
Over the last two years, cloud computing was at the top of the list, but it has now been widely adopted in K-12 schools so was dropped from this year’sReport. A combination of things such as e-mail, Google apps and collaboration capabilities, data storage, and others have caused cloud computing to move into mainstream use.The category of mobiles has appeared in the Report for the last three years and continues to be significant. This year, the Report splits out tablet computing as its own category, separate from Mobile Devices & Apps.Game-based learning has held its 2-3 year horizon position for likely adoption. Personal learning environments moved into a nearer horizon for widespread adoption, and augmented reality reappeared in this year’s Report after not quite making the cut last year.
Some of the key benefits of mobile devices & apps are:Mobile devices & apps embody the convergence of several technologies that lend themselves to educational use. Among these are annotation tools, applications for creation and composition, and social networking tools. Apps used in tandem with class curriculum can help students better understand complex material. These might include supplemental instructional videos or a game-like app that demonstrates the principles of aerodynamics. Apps with interactive components enable students to learn by doing, not just by listening to teacher lectures. Imagine students virtually dissecting a frog, without access to science laboratory equipment, or studying the periodic table by interacting with the elements, rotating 3D images on the touchscreen and virtually “holding” the elements. Apps allow students to add video, photos, and more to their notes and to readily share them with peers. Students can store individual notebooks in an app, organized by subject, and easily perform a search to find a specific term in their notes while studying at home. Portable mobile devices and apps let students easily capture their ideas, things they like, questions they have, and things they hear and see at the moment it occurs to them. They can make a note, snap a picture, save a webpage and more. Later, they can access and search their notes from any device or computer they use and organize their notes and information in meaningful ways. They can easily share notes and collaborate with peers.
Tablets offer a range of benefits:Because of their portability, large display, and touchscreen, tablets are ideal devices for one-to-one deployments. Tablets are easy-to-use; small and lightweight; capable of displaying photographs, books, video, and other visual content; and they provide intuitive options for interacting with the device. These combined features are driving a number of K-12 institutions to consider tablets as a cost-effective option for one-to-one environments. These combined features also support active learning. Many schools are using tablets to support and enhance inquiry-based learning, challenge-based learning, and other forms of active learning. Because they are designed to easily share their screens, tablets foster key 21st Century Skills in students. The large display and the ease with which the image can automatically adjust its orientation to the viewer make it easy to share content. Recent research indicates because of the screen-sharing capability, tablet use can help foster student creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration. Tablets have proven benefits for students with special needs. Tablets have enabled some autistic students to better communicate thinking and needs to their teachers, and some students with social and communication disabilities have shared eye contact while viewing content in a group on a tablet. Tablets can increase student engagement and sense of leadership and foster better teamwork and communication. Educators are formally and informally beginning to gather information and success stories of positive outcomes resulting from the use of tablets in the K-12 community.
[Pause here for reflection, discussion, and questions. This is an opportune time to also show the two videos on Mobile Devices & Apps and on Tablet Computing that are included in the Toolkit. These videos feature practitioners and students sharing ideas and perspectives regarding use of these technologies.]
Game-based learning provides a range of benefits:It has qualities of being goal-oriented, having strong social components, and simulating some sort of real world experience that students find relevant to their lives. These are all desired qualities in the K-12 learning environment, and games spark interest in students to expand learning outside of the game. Research indicates it lets players readily connect with learning materials when doing so will help them achieve personally meaningful goals. When social issues or problems are woven into game play, it can help players gain a new perspective through active engagement. It reflects important soft skills schools strive for students to acquire. Collaboration, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and digital literacy—each an often found element in game-based learning—are competencies required of 21st century learners. It provides students a safe place to explore and learn lessons from mistakes. Game-based learning allows for the productive role of play, experimentation, exploration, and even failure. With no high-stakes consequences, students can take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. When related to course content, it can help students gain fresh perspectives on material. They can engage in content in more complex and nuanced ways, and game mechanics can be integrated on many levels in the curriculum.It can help prepare students for their continued education and the workforce. Open-ended, challenge-based, collaborative games can draw on skills for research, writing, collaboration, problem solving, public speaking, leadership, digital literacy, and media making.
Personalized Learning Environments are considered to have a number of benefits:They support self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals. PLEs are intended to shift the control of learning—particularly its pace, style, and direction—to the learner. And they expose students to technologies that they may not otherwise encounter in traditional classroom settings that will help prepare them for continued education post-secondary or for the world of work. They may encourage students to approach learning in ways best suited to their individual needs. Visual learners can obtain material from a different source than auditory or tactile-kinesthetic learners. Students can better understand and advocate for how they best learn. Students may benefit from the practice of keeping track of and curating their own resource collections. As they build their own environments and collections of resources, students are learning new research and content aggregation tactics—perhaps without realizing it. Personal learning environments may empower students to take greater control of their learning networks and connections with peers, experts, and others. Many educators see PLEs as having the potential to engage students in powerful ways that best serve their individual learning needs.
[Pause here for reflection, discussion, and questions. This is an opportune time to also show the two videos on Game-Based Learning and on Personal Learning Environments that are included in the Toolkit. These videos feature practitioners and students sharing ideas and perspectives regarding use of these technologies.]
There are key benefits for using Augmented Reality:It can be used for virtual and highly interactive forms of learning. This has significant potential for learning and assessment. AR is an active, not a passive technology. With the interactivity of AR, students can construct new understanding based on interactions with virtual objects that bring underlying data to life as it responds to user input. It facilitates the ability to transfer learning from one context to another. This is a significant skill, and AR can facilitate this in its overt use of context and layering. It can support just-in-time learning and exploration. AR that relies on mobile devices leverages an increasingly ubiquitous tool that is blurring the boundaries between formal and informal learning, making this a compelling technology for schools. It has the potential to provide powerful, contextual learning experiences in the location or environment in which they occur and serendipitous exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world. Museums, for example, commonly use simple AR tools to provide visuals and facts layered over objects or physical settings when viewed through phones or tablets—this simple approach of providing layered information provides students a deeper learning experience.
Consider the benefits of natural user interfaces:They allow users to engage in virtual activities with movements similar to what they would use in the real world. Content is manipulated intuitively. The convergence of gesture-sensing technology with voice recognition allows users to interact with devices in a very natural fashion.They remove the barrier of language between a device and its user. Software that relies on natural human movements as opposed to any specific language offers a compelling utility, especially in countries with multiple languages.Gesture-enabled devices aid collaboration, sharing, and group interactions. These types of devices, which encourage users to touch them, move, or otherwise use play as a means to explore prove especially interesting to schools.They have profound implications for special needs and disabled individuals. Natural user interfaces serve as enabling or assistive technology for this population. Devices with gesture control are already helping blind, dyslexic, and otherwise disabled students reduce their dependence on keyboards.
[Pause here for reflection, discussion, and questions. This is an opportune time to also show the two videos on Augmented Reality and on Natural User Interfaces that are included in the Toolkit. These videos feature practitioners and students sharing ideas and perspectives regarding use of these technologies.]
The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Editionis a collaboration between the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and is supported by HP. The CoSN Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 EditionToolkit, including this Presentation Template, a Discussion Facilitator’s Guide, Discussion Activities, Video Clips and a Feedback Form are presented by CoSN in partnership with NMC and made possible via generous support from HP.