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What’s All the Buzz About? 5 of the Hottest Trends in Education Technology

[fa icon="calendar"] January 4, 2017 at 8:45 AM / by Admin

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Technology advances at light speed. Blink, and everything you have in your home is outdated. Education, on the other hand -- well, education doesn’t quite have the same reputation. Progress is often slower than we’d like, but with more education technology trickling into classrooms every day, not even the slow crawl of education can stop technology finding ways to better our lives.

Today we thought we’d pull together a nice roundup of 5 current trends in education technology and the effect they are having on students and educators. 

1. Devices in the Classroom

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Funny how times change. Not even a decade ago, smartphones and mobile devices were seen as contraband in the classroom. By the time 2013 rolled around, 85% of educational institutions in the U.S. and U.K. allowed mobile devices in the classroom, according to research by Bradford Networks.

Today, schools aren’t only allowing mobile devices in the classroom, but increasingly educators are turning to smartphones, tablets, and Chromebooks as both a cost-effective learning tool and a vehicle for student engagement.

In fact, according to a recent survey of 2,500 K-12 teachers conducted by Front Row Education, 75% of teachers report using technology daily with their students, and more than 50% of teachers say they now have a 1:1 student-to-device ratio, up nearly 10% from last year.

Within this trend, two primary themes emerge: BYOD, and the iPads versus Chromebook debate.

BYOD

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is gaining a ton of momentum in schools today. What’s so interesting about BYOD, however, is that all schools already are (and have been) BYOD according to Tom Murray, Director of Technology and Cyber Education for the Quakertown Community School District in the U.S. Every student in the Western world is already bringing a slew of mobile devices into the classroom, he says. What makes the instructional difference is “whether or not [schools] choose to embrace the learning tool.”

There are two main advantages of BYOD programs:

  1. BYOD saves money for the both the schools and students. Schools don’t have to invest in new technology, and students don’t have to buy a laptop or tablet specifically for schoolwork.
  2. BYOD brings student-device access closer to the 1:1 ratio schools covet.

There are obvious concerns with BYOD -- cyber security and student privacy chief among them -- but the many schools that have implemented BYOD programs all seem to point to three reasons for their success:

  1. Clearly defined policies for devices that educate rather than distract students;
  2. Clear objectives rather than merely keeping up with the Jones’. Schools need to ask themselves what they want to accomplish. What do they hope to gain by having students bring their own devices? Without clear goals, it’s difficult to know how you should scale, track, and measure your program’s success;
  3. Ample bandwidth and updated wireless infrastructure. Once your classroom or school goes BYOD, web browsers will be in forever-on mode. You need to make sure your internet speeds and wireless access points can handle this added strain.

iPads v. Chromebooks

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Silvana Hoxha, vice principal at Westheights Public School in Ontario, is not alone when she says her school is “moving toward mobile tools and slowly dismantling our computer lab by replacing the desktops with mobile devices like iPads and Chromebooks.”

iPads dominated the classroom tablet market for years, but a 2014 Digital Trends article revealed Chromebooks have surpassed the iPad in market share:

  • 715,500 Chromebooks sold to schools in the third quarter of 2014 (for 25% of the education market)
  • 702,000 iPads sold to educator during the same time period.

The Front Row Education survey confirmed this shift in buying habits:

  • 60% of teachers used Chromebooks in their classroom in 2016 -- up 15% from 2015
  • 64% of teachers used iPads in their classroom in 2016 -- down 5% from 2015

iPad or Chromebook, the results are clear: mobile devices in the classroom are improving student performance.

Last year Apple released its iPad in Education Results, which proved that iPads in the classroom increase test scores, raise student motivation, lower dropout rates, save schools money, and keep students’ attention longer. The same findings can surely be applied to Chromebooks.

2. Adaptive Learning Environments

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Adaptive learning environments go by many names including personalized learning (primarily used in K-12) and competency-based learning (more common in higher ed). Regardless of the ever-evolving terminology, the goal of this trend is clear: use technology to cater to the individual learner and move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

“As more and more schools race to develop competency based programs, the interest in personalized learning tools grows,” says Devon Ritter, Director of Education at the Saylor Academy in Washington, DC.

And as TeachHUB writes: “Programs that are able to change and adapt to the needs of their students may just be the next big thing in e-learning for the K-12 set.”

When dealing with young learners who are constantly at risk of losing motivation, personalized learning tools and environments provide the best opportunity to keep them on the right path. Adaptive learning environments cater to all types of learners, react to preferences designated by the students, and help identify places where they need additional support and help.

Also beneficial in adaptive-learning environments: teacher to student feedback can be personalized and private, shielding students from embarrassment in front of their classmates.

3. Blended Learning

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“A consensus is emerging that blended learning will become the most common approach to teaching and learning,” writes Sir John Daniel, O.C. in his paper published on teachonline.ca.

Blended learning simply means a mixture of classroom activity and online instruction to deliver an overall improved learning environment. It’s an intentionally flexible and ambiguous term as the actual delivery and implementation of a blended environment is up to the individual school or educator.

In most instances, a successful blended learning environment is one where educators act as partners in the learning process by providing content expertise, scaffolding learning experiences, helping students make connections, and providing prompt feedback.

RELATED: 5 Kindergarten Math Activities You Need to Try in Your Classroom

The term “flipped classroom” is a form of blended learning in which the internet and a variety of online tools deliver the core content to students while they are out of the classroom. The classroom then becomes a time for teachers to answer questions about the lesson and engage with students in a much more hands-on way rather than just lecturing.

4. Tech-Based Monitoring of Student Progress

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Whether blended, adaptive, flipped, personalized, or just a good ol’ fashioned brick-and-mortar classroom, learning management systems (LMSs) are making it easier than ever for teachers to follow student progress.

According to Nancy Safer and Steve Fleischman in Research Matters / How Student Progress Monitoring Improves Instruction:

“In today's education climate, school success is defined as ensuring achievement for every student. To reach this goal, educators need tools to help them identify students who are at risk academically and adjust instructional strategies to better meet these students' needs. Student progress monitoring is a practice that helps teachers use student performance data to continually evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching and make more informed instructional decisions.”


Tech tools that monitor student progress also allow educators to quickly share grades and evaluations, keep in touch with parents who can help motivate students at home, and cater to a mobile generation of learners who want instantaneous feedback.

5. Game-Based Learning

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Game-based learning is a really exciting form of micro-learning that aims to capture and mimic the way people naturally gain and retain information. By “micro-learning” we mean something designed to deliver a specific concept rather than an entire course.

While game-based learning has been held back by the desire of many to fit games into rigid learning platforms, the future looks bright says Sharon Boller, President of Bottom-Line Performance and an industry thought leader.

RELATED: Game-Based Learning: Time to Bring Your Class Into the 21st Century

“More and more learning games will be designed as casual mobile games that people will play on their phones,” Boller says. “The focus will be less about what we can stick in a traditional eLearning course and more about reaching people on the device they most frequently use, which of course, is their phone.”

Perhaps the most exciting development in game-based learning (or any of the above trends, really), is virtual reality.

“Virtual reality immerses people in natural environments that they would otherwise never dream of experiencing in reality,” Boller says. “It emulates such realistic situations that it triggers the same emotions you’d feel if you were actually there in real life.”

Emotion is key for embedding memory, explains Boller. “When you can do something that evokes emotion, you’ve created a much more powerful learning experience as opposed to a flat eLearning course with basic scenarios that simply tell you what happened.”

Boller had one last observation: “Another trend we’re going to see is mobile learning stop being labeled as a trend and viewed as more mainstream.” While referring specifically to game-based learning, this is true for all the above “trends.” As time goes on, devices, online platforms, and gamification won’t be cool and trendy tools used by cutting edge educators, but rather simply the way learning happens.

Remember what Murray said about BYOD: whether we like it or not, the world we live in is one of instant gratification, constant communication, and ultra-niche games and apps for all people.  The only question is whether or not educators choose to embrace these learning tools.

Still, with all these education technology trends, it’s also important to remember that there is no magic, all-purpose technology; edtech tools are only as good as the underlying pedagogy. Education technology is simply an added tool in the belt of an educator. Used correctly, these tools have the power to inspire students and create a new generation of engaged learners.


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Topics: STEM, Blended Learning, Ed-Tech, Game-Based Learning, education technology, Adaptive Learning