Report: Cloud-based Learning, Social Media Will Have Impact

The Horizon Report Europe: 2014 Schools Edition has been released by the European Commission in partnership with a team from Inholland University of Applied Sciences, and the New Media Consortium, a non-profit group based in the US that brings together education technology experts from across the globe. The report looks at key trends and technological developments that will most likely impact the education system.

The report builds on the Horizon Report series from the NMC, covering 18 topics including new technologies, new trends, and technological challenges that schools are currently facing.

Horizon Report Europe identified several technological trends. In the short-term, it says social media will continue to have a presence and the role of teachers needs to be rethought as technology continues to advance. As this happens, physical and virtual learning environments will become further entwined.

The experts believe that in the new few years, cloud-based and tablet computing will increase in the school system. It may take a few years for computer games to become a more integral part of the learning process, although research has shown that encourage the growth of social skills and can simulate scenarios providing students with a better understanding of ideas like racism or inequality.

The experts believe that in the next five years, online learning will significantly evolve, as well as data-driven learning and assessment.

Among the challenges faced by schools in the report were three specific types. The first, solvable challenges, included easily fixable issues such as offering more teacher training on new technology and increasing digital competence within schools. The second, difficult challenges, require solutions that will take more time, such as "authentic learning" (bringing the real world into the classroom) and integrating physical and virtual learning environments.

The last set is referred to as "wicked" challenges. These are will take a long time to solve, including updating the teaching of complex thinking and creating strategies to encourage students to take a more active role in their learning.

In an effort to address the challenges presented, the commission published Opening Up Education in 2013 as a strategy to promote innovation, open educational practices as well as open educational resources in order to develop high quality digital skills needed in the job market not only today, but in the future. It is estimated that 90% of jobs will require these digital skills by 2020.

The strategy offers suggestions for teachers and other educators to make a digital classroom a reality, including the new program for education, Erasmus+, which aims to improve education through funding for technology-driven projects.

"This report provides valuable insights and guidance for policy-makers and school leaders about the need to embrace digital and open resources. Europe needs to raise its game if we are to ensure our young generation are prepared for their future careers," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. "Improved digital skills and access to digital and open resources are crucial, not just for better teaching, but also for creating flexible education models that make life-long learning easier."

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