K-12 Technology Report Outlines Future of Ed Tech

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition takes a look at emerging technologies and the impact they may have on schools and education within the next five years.

The key trends in K-12 education were divided into three types: long-term, mid-term, and short-term. Long-term trends, or those likely to be adopted within five or more years, included redesigning learning spaces and rethinking how schools work. Learning spaces are being architecturally redesigned to move away from lectures and instead reflect student-centered pedagogies. Also, schools are being reworked to use methods such as project-, competency-, or challenge-based learning and to be more flexible and less strictly reliant on a bell schedule. Online learning is becoming more popular as well.

Mid-term trends include collaborative learning and deeper learning approaches. Collaborative learning is being implemented in classrooms around four main principles: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction, working in groups, and developing solutions to real problems.” Students are learning to collaborate online as well. Deeper learning approaches include those that engage students in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and self-directed learning, as well as that help them remain motivated by staying focused on real-world examples.

Short-term trends, probably adopted over the course of one or two years, include coding as literacy and students as creators. According to the report:

“Schools worldwide are developing coding programs in which students collaboratively design websites, develop educational games and apps, and design solutions to challenges by modeling and prototyping new products.”

Significant challenges impeding technology adoption in K-12 classrooms were divided into three types: solvable, difficult, and “wicked” challenges.

Challenges that we can solve in the next five years include creating authentic learning experiences and rethinking the roles of teachers. Authentic learning experiences aim to give students real-world skills and experiences, and the roles of teachers are changing from purveyors of expert knowledge to constructors of learning environments in which students can gain 21st century skills.

Difficult challenges include advancing digital equity and scaling teaching innovations. According to the report:

“Digital equity refers to uneven access to high-speed broadband, a rampant social justice issue that is not just impacting developing nations.”

Teaching innovations need to be scaled, requiring adequate funding, appropriate leadership, strong evaluation practices, and the removal of restrictive policies.

Wicked challenges, or challenges that we don’t even truly understand, include conquering the achievement gap and figuring out how to truly personalize learning.

Within one year or less, makerspaces and online learning can be adopted in the classroom. Makerspaces are “physical environments that offer tools and opportunities for hands-on learning and creation.” Within two to three years, robotics and virtual reality can be adopted; within four to five years, artificial intelligence and wearable technology can be adopted.

The report’s panel included 59 education and technology experts from 18 countries.

The NMC Horizon project, established in 2002, identifies and describes important developments in technology or digital strategies that are likely to affect education.

The full report is available online.