K-12 Technology Trends

6 Technologies That Will Shape Education

Cloud computing and gaming are among the six technologies that will have a major positive impact on K-12 education in the next few years, according to researchers. But education also faces some critical challenges in that timeframe, including challenges that may require fundamental changes to the way we educate in the United States. This according to a new report released this week by the New Media Consortium (NMC) in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), "The 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition."

The annual Horizon Report--this year funded by a grant from HP--focuses on the key technology areas that researchers identify as likely to have a major impact on educational institutions and other learning-focused organizations within the next five years, broken down into the technologies that will have an impact in the near term, those that are in the early stages of adoption, and those that are a bit further out. The report also identifies "critical" challenges facing education in the near future.

Top 6 Technologies for the Next 5 Years
In the near term--that is, in the timeframe of about a year or less--the technologies that will have a significant impact on education, according to the report, include cloud computing and collaborative environments. In the 2009 report, cloud computing had previously been listed as a mid-term technology, but the report's authors said cloud computing "has seen dramatic uptake by schools over the past twelve months."

However, the report indicated, schools are only using one aspect of cloud computing to any significant degree. "Schools commonly use cloud-based applications today, but the promise of the cloud’s extensive resources for computation, research, and collaborative work has yet to be realized."

In the mid-term--about two to three years out--game-based learning and mobile technologies (particularly the blurring of cellular networks and other types of networks) will play a key role in education, according to the report. Gaming, the authors wrote, has several advantages for education, "but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning."

Augmented reality and flexible displays we identified by the report's authors as technologies that will have an impact on education a but further down the road, four to five years out. Augmented reality refers to the convergence of various media tools and mobile applications to create "a portable tool for discovery-based learning, enhancing the information available to students when visiting historical locations, doing field work, interacting with real-world objects, and even paging through books."

"The technologies profiled in this year’s report show tremendous promise for transforming education at the very deepest levels," said Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC, in a statement released to coincide with the report.

The report's authors cited several examples of schools using these technologies successfully and included links for further reading on each topic point.

K-12 Technology Challenges
Beyond the six technologies identified as significant for the next five years, the report also looked at the challenges facing education institutions and the trends that have emerged in the years since the Horizon Project was launched in 2002.

This year's report cited five challenges that the authors identified as "critical." They include:

  1. Inadequate digital media literacy training for teachers;
  2. Out of date learning materials and teaching practices;
  3. Lack of agreement on how education should evolve, despite widespread agreement that change is needed;
  4. A failure of education institutions to adapt to informal education, online education, and home-based learning; and
  5. Lack of support for or acknowledgement of forms of learning that usually occur outside the classroom.

On this last point, the report said: "Beyond the classroom walls, students can take advantage of online resources, explore ideas and practice skills using games and other programs they may have on systems at home, and interact with their extensive--and constantly available--social networks. Within the classroom, learning that incorporates real life experiences like these is not occurring enough and is too often undervalued when it does take place. This challenge is an important one in K-12 schools, because it results in a lack of engagement in learning on the part of students who are seeking some connection between their world, their own lives, and their experience in school."

Horizon Report Toolkit
Also, for the first time, this year NMC and CoSN have released a toolkit as a companion to the Horizon Report. It's designed to help develop the discussion about new technology in education.

"For educators on a quest to help students grow as 21st century learners, this report is a must-read, one-stop source for information about emerging technologies that have the potential to transform education," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. "We hope to see continued conversation around the report throughout the year and are releasing companion materials like the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition Toolkit to help make that possible."

The complete 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition can be accessed here. (PDF and HTML versions are available.) The companion toolkit can be requested on CoSN's site here.

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