Eduporium Weekly | Welcome to 2017
Well, we’ve made it to 2017! First of all, Happy New Year! We have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a good one for education, technology, and the pair’s relationship. With that being said, it’s not too early to take a look at what lies ahead for EdTech this coming year. The trends and tendencies are popping up everywhere and include things like virtual reality, coding, collaboration, and, yes, more makerspaces. Let’s get 2017 off to a good start!
A Few EdTech Trends to Keep an Eye on This Year
Like in all aspects of life, 21st century education is filled with trends that come and go. In 2016 and the years leading up to it, we saw the emergence of competency-based education, BYOD, and a reliance of student data among many others. In 2017, there are more that will continue to appear both in and out of the classroom. Educators will want and, in some cases, need to keep up with these trends to put their students in the best position possible. Some trends involve hands-on technology tools to enhance maker education and project-based learning and also more powerful technologies, like those designed to offer students a new way to use computers. Here’s what to look out for this year on the EdTech front.
The first thing to look out for is a rise in mobile learning. With students being so in tune with their mobile devices, mlearning is likely to continue impacting both teachers and students in 2017. Mobile devices have provided students with a compelling way to explore content in a way that’s both personal and beneficial to them. It also leads to a greater focus on technology-enabled collaboration, which is next on the list of emerging trends in education. Innovative technology is one of the most effective ways of bringing students together. It’s a fine start for imitating larger scale collaboration and valuable for shaping students who are ready for routine collaborative projects in the real world. Collaborative tools allow for an open learning experience and enable children to learn with other students from around the globe, further enhancing education.
Outside of the education sector, virtual reality is a booming new field. So, you guessed correctly – it’s another thing that has already began weaving its way into classrooms. VR has a number of benefits for students as it offers them the chance to explore topics from totally new angles while simultaneously introducing them to how the technology works and what they can do with it. While having VR in most classrooms is still likely years away (if it’s even that close), many educators have already begun experimenting with some simpler forms of virtual reality goggles. Using products like the VR One or View-Master, the limits of learning are significantly reduced and students can begin feeling the benefits almost immediately. While still coming into its own, virtual reality-based learning, along with these other two trends, is expected to substantially pick up steam in 2017, hopefully benefitting STEM students in the very near future.
More EdTech Trends that are on the Rise
EdTech is a wide area that encompasses a number of different parts of contemporary education. There’s the hands-on side, which enables and enhances STEM initiatives as well as maker education and then there’s the information technology side, which brings learning to life using top-of-the-line computing products, 3D printers, or virtual reality technology just to name a couple. Many of these popular movements are just trends while some new innovations will likely wind up being important enough that they stick around for quite some time. Keeping up with the current EdTech trends and knowing what’s hot in the industry is one way for educators to keep their classrooms buzzing with the latest and greatest tools and gadgets. Each of these technology trends has the potential to become the next big thing or fizzle out as quickly as it burst onto the scene.
They have another thing in common as well. These EdTech trends will work much better in some classrooms with teachers and students that have particular interests and skills than they will work in other classrooms. Some of the trends that look promising to have long-term roles in education include redesigning learning spaces (similar to creating makerspaces), instituting collaborative learning, and bolstering deeper learning on more of a regular basis. This group of trends is joined by the goal of making coding a fundamental literacy among students (ideally by implementing coding classes for every student in every grade) and enabling students to be creators with technology rather than consumers. Each of these are popular and important now, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will be sustainable over the next few years.
Some other trends that may or may not become mainstream over the next few years or so include the pressing desire to create more authentic learning opportunities for students, the reshaping of teachers’ roles, advancing digital equity among children, and scaling teaching innovations. While it would be tough to create across-the-board adoption for these trends right now, it could be possible in the near future. On the other side of that fence, there are some trendy terms that have popped up, but would likely present schools and districts with too steep of a challenge for them to get them off the ground. These include closing the achievement gap (especially in STEM) and personalizing learning. So, instead of dwelling on what is likely impossible, we encourage educators to act on the trends that they can continue in a meaningful way – things like makerspace learning, robotics clubs and classes, virtual reality in the classroom and wearable technology to help kids learn in new ways. These may just be trends, but, for right now, they’re extremely important ones.
A Look Back: The Biggest EdTech Trends From 2016
So much of education is looking towards the future, but how can teachers, administrators, and students know how to improve if they do not take the time to revisit what they have done in the past? With all the trends likely to pop up in education this year, it’s important for the education community to remember how they got there. Some of this year’s trends might even be some of last year’s trends repurposed and refocused to help improve learning more efficiently. Or, there might be some brand new stuff unleashed in classrooms in 2017. In any case, we thought we’d take a look back at what were deemed the most noteworthy EdTech trends of last year and see how they might shape what’s bound to happen next.
We focus a lot of our attention on hands-on, STEM education in which children immerse themselves in learning key scientific concepts with the use of meaningful tech tools. While this is certainly important, they can do even more if their school has set them up with a legitimate network they can use to explore further. In 2016, there was much made about students’ right to having a safe, reliable, and speedy wireless network in their school so that they could have better access to material and enjoy a smoother learning experience while becoming truly Future Ready. Another trend of 2016, and rightfully so, was educators embracing the importance of Computer Science and trying their hardest to find new ways to weave it into every child’s learning experience. In many districts (and hopefully in many more in 2017), Computer Science became the No. 1 priority as educators continue to realize its vital importance and unmatched value in 21st century education.
EdTech also enabled some other key trends in 2016, including a significant uptick in personalized learning initiatives in K-12 classrooms. By embracing the power of technology, teachers have found that personalizing lessons to meet the needs of each individual student is much more attainable. Educators are able to get feedback that is larger in scale and more useful, indicating how their students learn while also fueling engagement since kids are able to have more of a say in what they are learning. And, finally, as you might have guessed, we have a repeat. Virtual reality made its presence felt in education in 2016 and it looks to continue that presence in 2017 (as we touched on earlier). Apparently, up to 85 percent of current classroom teachers believe that virtual reality is a valuable tool to enhance student engagement and retention. Enabling students to explore worldwide, virtual reality might just have a place on this list for years to come.
Emerging Trends in Project-based Learning
You could say that project-based learning is an oversized trend encompassing much of the education community these days. We like to think that it has transcended ‘trend’ status and solidified itself as a staple of learning. With that being said, however, trends have emerged within PBL in much the same way they have in other areas of technology and experiential education. It used to be true that most of the hands-on learning was left for college, but now it’s totally common for high school students (and in some cases even younger) to develop their skills through project-based experiences held both inside and outside their classrooms.
Among the trendy topics in K-12 project-based learning is internships. Instead of group projects that span a year or a semester of classroom time, teens are now holding real positions and gaining real experience out in the world. These kinds of programs are usually put on by schools who are able to partner with specific companies, so it will likely be a while before it becomes mainstream (if it even does), but, for now, internships are no longer uncommon in the high school world. Another trend centers on the principle of design thinking, a growing trend in which students draw inspiration from product development and solve problems in steps. They use driving questions that are framed around a specific human or community need and lead to students creating an authentic call to action, helping to engrain them in their communities and boost real-world readiness at the same time.
Since project-based learning tends to involve some form of technology, there has also been an increased tendency for schools to launch digital making and other collaborative programs. STEAM projects, like 3D printing, have a valuable place in the community as well as in the classroom. Students can learn the intricacies of the technology, the machine, and how to develop custom components that can help them accomplish a range of tasks and even solve a slew of different community problems in the process. Plus, 3D printing is used in all sorts of 21st century fields, including medical science, architecture, and even the culinary arts, so students who are able to learn using 3D printers in high school are put in a pretty good position moving forward. There are plenty of other things going on in today’s project-based learning cultures, like game-based learning and student agency construction, to name a couple. It’s how today’s students use the skills they’ve built, though, and apply them to achieve success in the real world that truly matters.
Short-term EdTech Trends with Long-term Promise and the Role of Makerspaces
There certainly is plenty to get excited about with what’s coming up on the EdTech horizon this year. We touched on some of the hottest trends that could make names for themselves, but there are definitely some that hold more of a long-term promise for use in education than others. Education technology experts have reason to believe that high-tech options, like robotics, artificial intelligence, and wearables, could soon explode in popularity in K-12 or higher education classrooms. They believe this is likely to take four or five more years, though. Education and technology innovations that could burst onto the scene sooner and more strongly than these have both educators and parents excited about what 2017 has in store for students and education.
The trendy solutions in EdTech usually come about as a potential solution for solving the student engagement conundrum that teachers face on a daily basis. Educators often struggle to grab and keep the attention of their students and technology is one of the most effective and beneficial ways in which they can do just that. Both technology and educational trends have the potential to increase student achievement if they are used in the correct way. While movements like game-based learning could find their way into classrooms over the next few years, the here and now very much includes makerspaces. You may be thinking that makerspaces have been around for a while and have supplanted their status as a trend. That is a valid argument, but, for the sake of what’s hot right now, we’ll call it a trend. With so much riding on boosting student creativity, makerspaces afford kids with valuable opportunities for experiential learning, productive failure, and collaborative experiences, all of which are pretty popular trends themselves.
Makerspaces give kids tactile learning opportunities and, by nature, require that they take charge of their own learning experiences. One new trend surrounding makerspaces, however, is that they are seeming to drive tech adoption in K-12 schools. When educators see how students are able to engage while working with their hands in makerspaces, they tend to become more willing to incorporate various technologies in their classrooms on more of a regular basis. Makerspaces also provide the environment for kids to playfully explore critically important educational skills and concepts without the fear of failure. They can use maker products to design, build, and even code devices, which brings us to two more key trends. Encouraging coding and students to be creators are taking off as well. These two trends don’t seem to be going anywhere, either. Coding is rapidly becoming the 21st century literacy and today’s students are always going to need to be creating – in one form or fashion – in the future. With the short-term adoption of trends like makerspaces, coding, design thinking, and creating, schools can help set their students up for long-term success.
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