|New Media Consortium - soothsayers of education|
You can download previous reports from the NMC website, and I would certainly suggest taking a look at the 2013 reports.
Each report has a few different versions. The actual report is larger (around 45 pages), and is a great read for nerds like me. The shortlist tends to be a bit shorter (maybe 20 pages), and centers around the finalized list of trends and technologies, and how they contextually relate to education. The preview is released ahead of the other two, and is an unofficial list with brief explanations of the technology.
The preview for the 2014 Higher Education report is available (and so is the whole report!), but I've outlined the main points below (as well as inserted my thoughts in italics).
Key Trends Accelerating Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education
Key Trends Accelerating Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education
- Fast Moving Trends: Those likely to create substantive change (or burn out) in one to two years
- Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning
We've already seen a proliferation in online learning, and it is gaining traction. According to the Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, only about 30% of Chief Academic Officers surveyed believe in the full legitimacy of online learning, and 32% of students surveyed are taking at least one online course. But online learning is one of the most transformative and rapid changes we've seen in education in a long time. Even K12 institutions have started leveraging the use of courses (due to course enrollment issues, smaller course catalogs, and increased opportunities for students). It seems to me the infrastructure, student desire, convenience, and fiscal realities will help online education manifest itself. The discussion about online learning typically doesn't address the empowering byproduct, but I think it's worthwhile to mention that students can decide when and how they want to learn. The ability to shift their learning around their lifestyle is a radical change for education. And the power to review content whenever it is needed or wanted inherently gives more control to the students' learning.
- Social Media Use in Learning
Twitter and Facebook are far from being a staple in the landscape of education, and most efforts are not well documented. However, the next generation of learning management systems (like Blackboard 9.1) have a social layer integrated. I think we'll see more of this, even outside of an LMS. After all, wouldn't it be great to have a system where students can recommend classes, supplemental resources pertaining to a class, homework help, and even a referential rating system on content an instructor posts? Current reports see Facebook losing momentum among adolescents, but be on the lookout for Instagram, Vine, and other social tools finding their ways into the classroom. A great example of a student using Instagram made headlines recently (by recreating photos of all the Presidents of the United States), but it won't be long before we see classroom teachers, administrators, or institutions figuring out how to push out their messages, increase retention, and enhance the educational experience.
- Mid-Range Trends: Those likely to take three to five years to create substantive change
- The Creator Society
If you're not a maker, you're missing out on creating and gratification. The growth of so called "Maker Spaces" across America has only increased recently. Typically, a space is equipped with tools, materials, instruction, and creative people who gather to... well... make! The Rochester Makerspace in upstate New York has 3D printers, sewing machines, a full-blown wood working shop, and other tools. They run instructional sessions, host people who want to make projects, and add value to the community (for instance, by adding planters or benches to local parks). I think colleges should have a bifurcated reason for maker spaces: it provides inherent skill-building in problem solving and creating, and it also is a marketable resource for communities. Furthermore, it's a great learning opportunity for students who can work as "maker concierges" and help community members realize their projects.
- Data-Driven Learning and Assessment
Pearson does this exceedingly well, and this is why institutions should be frightened. Because Pearson gathers statistics from college students, and can help shape a better program. Pearson knows where students struggle. Pearson knows which topics are easy for students. Pearson knows what parts of which videos are watched over and over. So when Pearson creates an online college that goes head to head with colleges and universities, they will have a more refined product. That's why it is in the interest of colleges and universities to use analytics now. They need to be able to respond to the needs of students. In a way, libraries have been doing this for a while (think Patron Driven Acquisition). It's an oversimplification, but the fundamental theory is there - providing a more polished experience for the patrons based on analytics.
- Slow Trends: Those likely to take more than five years to create substantive change
- Agile Approaches to Change
There's really no surprise here - the eternal difference between successful businesses and educational institutions are the speed at which they can adapt. I feel as if I've seen more agility at tackling problems in schools lately (think online learning, the Academies Model, flipped classroom, more apps and devices), and that is a good thing. I think institutions may have larger barriers (funding, contractual issues, technology gap for students), but I'm happy that there is movement. I suspect in the next five to ten years, we'll see radically different implementation models of change in schools. The Horizon Report suggests that schools have a lot to learn from the way startups are run.
- Making Online Learning Natural
The humanization of online learning is a field we are learning more about. We know that the quantity (and quality) of instructor interactions is the most important indicator of success in a class, but we are finding out more about online learning every day. Just this past week, I was involved in a conversation of faculty analyzing an instructional video. They felt that the narrator, who was making mistakes (but correcting them!) and making jokes, was able to establish a sense of realism to the course. A well polished, perfectly produced video sometimes seems institutional and "mechanical". Little details like this make the online environment a more welcoming place. I also read a study that claimed that online tutorials and lessons are more likely to be liked if the instructor had their face in a small window on the screen - they were more personal. All these examples demonstrate the need to increase the natural feel of online learning.
Significant Challenges Impeding Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education
- Urgent Challenges: Those which we both understand and know how to solve
- Low Digital Fluency of Faculty
Although this seems like an easy problem to solve - invest more in staff/faculty training - the problem is often complicated by contracts, time shortages, and money. I think if institutions emphasize the need for training (and provide adequate support), the problem will be easier to solve. But the bigger problem (as mentioned in the Horizon Report) is that learning to be digitally fluent is not a technology issue, it is - fundamentally - a thinking issue. Showing someone how to use an LMS does not make them an expert in teaching online, it just makes them an expert on the mechanism for teaching online. But the problem is bigger than that - many people undervalue the need of learning systems, and focus on the tools. I think once schools reframe the way training sessions are structured, there will be an improvement in technological fluency.
- Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching
There isn't much to add to this, although I thought the Horizon Report perspective was interesting - they claim that a University's ranking is based more on research (60%), which diminishes the focus on teaching.
- Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
- Competition from New Models of Education (MOOCs, Micro-Learning)
I think there is a pattern (not only in education, but everywhere) of eager adoption without proper evaluation. There is a great video on The Onion reporting that Apple has released a new device. The "Mac Wheel" is infinitely more difficult to use than any other device, but Mac users can't wait to get it because "I'll buy almost anything if it's shiny and from Apple". While I don't think schools suffer this level of adoption, I think that promising technologies like MOOCs, flipped learning, and bring your own device (BYOD) are brought in without enough thought of proper implementation and long-term uses.
- Scaling Teaching Innovations
I think there are an awful lot of intrepid educators introducing new ideas into the classroom, but there typically isn't a rigid support structure to make these ideas widespread. Education is seldom the originator of innovation (case in point - the Khan Academy, one of the most revolutionary, transformative changes in education, was started by a hedge fund manager), because historically institutions don't reward (or propagate) innovations.
- Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to define, much less address
- Expanding Access
I see an issue with not only marketing the high quality materials (to disseminate the good materials from the bad), but also in making these materials available. The technology to consume free resources are not free (computers, internet access, mobile devices with plans) have a cost associated with them. Interestingly, the Horizon Report cites a different challenge - students who consume this information may not be college ready - as a bigger challenge. Whatever the challenge, there is no doubt that resources such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy, and edX and the like will provide quality opportunities for students everywhere.
- Keeping Education Relevant
The concern here is that educational institutions are at risk of failing because of their business model. Between free opportunities (Khan, MOOCs, etc.), the justification of college learning is getting narrower. There is also a big push for community colleges to fill the gaps that colleges can't (specific trades, certifications, two year degrees for relevant programs). For these reasons, it is important for colleges to really examine where they fit in the changing landscape. Monroe Community College, for instance, works in concert with the local businesses to identify the largest employment needs (today, it is CNC machining). Programs can be developed and implemented, and partnerships can be established with local employers.
Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
- Flipped Classroom
It seems that I encounter different levels of flipped classroom adoption everywhere I go. There's no doubt that schools everywhere are working on different ways to bring in the philosophy of flipped education. And why shouldn't they? It helps students learn at their own pace, frees up classroom time, and is something that can be slid into a classroom one lesson at a time (it does not need to be done all at once). The bigger challenges are hardware, software, venues for creating, and training.
- Learning Analytics
As mentioned earlier, learning analytics have the potential to improve the delivery of content. Any feedback system that delivers a product, gathers data, and can analyze that data in hopes of providing a more concise delivery in the next cycle is better than current systems. The natural tendency is to look at the improvements of content. If many students visit the same page or watch the same video, it probably means they don't understand the content. But, given a data set big enough, a system might even be able to determine patterns and profile the learner. Optimistically, software may be able to refer the student to a different class or different content (that more closely resembles the student's learning habits). Amazon has wonderful mechanisms for referring users to applicable products. And eBay thrives on "street cred", or the reputation of the seller. Both these are fine examples of where analytics have a huge payout.
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
- 3D Printing
This is already a hot topic in education (and the Maker movement). Just this past month, ISTE provided a list of the best 3D printers on the market in their Learning and Leading magazine. Just like self-publishing and eBooks opened the gateway to the general masses, 3D printing will help innovators and creative people design and produce their own creations. There are reports out there already of doctors who can "print" out body parts in hospitals. But schools are poised to help empower students to create anything they want - and even monetize it as fundraisers! By the way, ISTE (and Make Magazine) list the Printrbot as a "best value". You can buy it for $399 (knock $100 off if you are willing to assemble it yourself!).
- Games and GamificationYou also can't go anywhere without hearing about gamification. If gamification wasn't a potent tool, games like Words with Friends, Angry Birds, and Candy Crush wouldn't be earning about one million dollars a day. It's not necessarily about making things fun, it's about making them competitive. Games that challenge people to compete against themselves, as well as against others, play on the competitive nature of people. Why settle for two stars on a level if you could play just a little bit more and get that coveted third star? James Paul Gee talks about the "regime of competence" - when games hover just above your current level of ability. But practicing, probing, and thinking helps you get better. Games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Age of Empires and Call of Duty take forty, fifty or sixty hours to complete. Now imagine if schoolwork were able to engage students that much.
- Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
- Quantified Self
The ability to track data relevant to oneself is known as "Quantified Self". Nike+ has a "Fuel Band". There's the FitBit. Theres the Pebble. While all these devices are useful for tracking lifestyle (sleeping habits, fitness, etc.), Google is also on a mission to monitor blood sugar through a contact lens. Google Glass tracks daily activity. Even a smart phone can track where you've been (and make predictions on where you're going). But the pockets of data that describe us are all over. Imagine aggregating all that data. What if there is a way to track your driving habits (how you accelerate, break, maneuver) that cross-referenced with local environmental data (weather, for instance), real-time traffic patterns and gas prices. You could get a focused report on where to fill-up. Or reminders about when (and where) to bring your car to get scheduled maintenance. And that's just driving. Consider everything you do. How you spend your money. Your dietary habits. Your fitness rituals. Your daily path. How much you read and when you read it. Grocery shopping. We're starting to see apps emerge that already streamline (or at least monitor) these processes. Amazon even just announced (the Motley Fool describes it better than me, but it's all data-based) the seeming ability to ship items before you order them. And Microsoft, with it's new CEO Satya Nadella, just intimated that they will focus efforts on going through vast amounts of "big data" and leverage results into "quick data" that will help guide strategic decisions for companies. It's all about data these days.
- Virtual Assistants
Lastly, the notion of "Virtual Assistants" is catching on. Even today (though Horizon predicts this won't be a bigger deal for another few years), we have services such as Siri and the "Google Concierge" that look at your habits and provide predictive information based on your current activity and past trends. It's a little alarming (albeit convenient) to look at your phone and have it tell you how much time it would take you to where you're going right now (even though you never told your phone where you're going!). Multiply that by a hundred-fold, and you'll have virtual assistants. Netflix and Amazon have been making predictive suggestions based on your past history for years - and they are scarily good at it. And if you want a lighthearted (though potentially scary) take on virtual assistants, check out the trailer for Her, a non-too-distant futuristic movie about a man who falls in love with his virtual assistant (in this case, an operating system).
- 2014 Horizon Report Preview
- 2013 Technology Outlook for Community Colleges
- The Future of Education: The 2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communiqué
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