Let’s get a related, and simple point out of the way: the biggest trend involving technology in education is the near universal adoption of the buzz word “Ed-tech” (regardless of how you spell it – for more on the language of Ed-tech read Audrey Watters’ hilarious take). The term is a dominant force in social media, professional development, post-secondary education, and educationally commentary, and I don’t remember using it even 5 years ago (and I’m think of myself as pretty tech-savvy)
With a surface read of the six articles in the selected readings, it is clear the group contains semantically similar ideas. In one article we are given “seamless resource access,” which is explained in another as “cloud computing.” “Student-centered learning” is also explained as “Custom learning experiences.” While I agree with some of the trends on each list (in my limited professional experience), I have some disagreements on the inclusion of others, and with the overall order of most lists. Most of this post will focus on the similar “educational technology” trends listed by Khushboo Jobanputra and Steven Lahuillier. While the others lists have flaws, or are focused more on general tech trends than educational trends, these two lists contain many aspects of technology incorporation that I have utilized myself or at the very least had diverse conversations around.
Based on my experience, 1:1 status is most assuredly the primary goal for my division and province. Whether that be computer access for each student, or that each student is responsible for bringing their own device (as in my current school), I agree with this as the primary trend as it will lead to personalized learning opportunities – and this is an important connection to make. Regardless of the how an educator may experience that term, “personalized learning,” I would argue that most professional development today is geared towards customizing the educational experience for each student in terms of mobility, content and assessment – something made possible at large scales with 1:1. This makes Jabanputra’s inclusion of “custom learning experiences” as the top trend noteworthy, as it is the only list that has it first. Although, Lahuiller has 1:1 first…so I guess they both are on track.
To dig deeper into 1:1 devices and personalized learning, it can be noted that these connected trends are significantly restricted in effectiveness without the associated trends of cloud computing and collaborative computing. The inclusion of 1:1 cannot be for the purpose of running the same course material – that’s not “transformative” (another buzzword in education). Technology in the classroom is transformative when cloud computing and collaborative opportunities exist and are utilized in ways that were not previously possible. That is not to say that every teacher is ready to utilize technology in a transformative way on day one. In many cases (if not most), technology is introduced to be, or at least appear, progressive, and only with time and exposure can a teacher truly develop resources and activities that tap into the power of cloud and collaborative computing to personalize learning. Trends like learning analytics, speech-to-text options, digital citizenship, computational thinking, game-based learning, and even possibly 3D printing, would be profoundly limited if not for first implementing cloud computing with 1:1.
On a side note, I was shocked at the inclusion of mobile devices at number two in Lahuillier’s list. By all media accounts this trend is reversing, especially with 1:1 being the primary target of most schools. The recent cell phone bans in Canadian schools is indication that the appeal of mobile devices and their place in schools in waning (regardless of whether a ban is the right step).
Many of these trends may end up being educational fads unless technology improves quickly. I have not been privy to information that suggests even the most technologically savvy of my colleagues is using Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) with any real classroom significance, and I refuse to even acknowledge one list’s entry on “wearable technology.” In many cases, high costs and technological limitations (i.e. not very exciting in its current iteration), prohibit their use in most schools. While these “trends” may have my future support, they are gimmicks in their current state, and at the very least should be below robotics and game-based learning. I also found the inclusion of the Internet of Things (IoT), in Lahuillier’s list to be so vague as to be meaningless for the purpose of education – this is a ubiquitous trend, not and education trend.
All of this makes the included reading by Janet and John Holland so important. While a lot of the technology and applications mentioned are no longer of relevance or never were, the authors’ position on the importance of being selective of the technology trends educators choose to enhance or meet best-practice goals is still relevant. It is the “meaningful integration of new technologies” that is the takeaway message from this group of readings, not the sensationalization of new trends.
Which brings us to a larger problem with writing about “trends” in general – an author needs to be not just prognostic, but also sensational in order to engage and reach readers. No one wants to read an article that predicts little will change, or that the impact will be small and slow – this excites no one. Therefore, we get bold predictions and mention of life-altering technology (which may one day prove true in some cases), but few will bear fruit for the average teacher and the average class anytime soon, with most failing to reach the potential so heavily predicted to grab readers.
PHOTO: By Pixabay – Free for use, no attribution required.