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IT Trends | Feature

5 K-12 Technology Trends for 2011

Education technology experts discuss their top technology trends for the coming year.

As technology continues to infiltrate every corner of the K-12 educational space, administrators, teachers, and students are undoubtedly curious about what's coming around the bend in 2011. Will the cloud continue to reign? Will more schools embrace student-centric mobile devices?

To get the answers to these and other pressing questions, THE Journal spoke with a handful of technology experts and came up with a short list of top tech trends they said you'll want to watch in the new year.

1. There will be more momentum for mobile devices in classrooms with an eye toward affordable alternatives to traditional 1:1 rollouts.

The popularity of 1:1 laptop implementations and related initiatives have left many school districts wondering how to introduce mobile computing into the classroom in the most seamless, affordable manner possible. Some schools are rolling out 1:1 and related initiatives, while others are tapping into the existing technology (laptops, PDAs and iPads, for example) that students already own. Doing so allows districts to skirt budgetary issues while still staying on the leading edge of the technology movement.

Expect this trend to gain momentum in 2011, said Roland Rios, director of instructional technology at the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. "Schools are smartening up and letting students use their tech tools in innovative ways," said Rios, who added that he expects such initiatives to be centered on concepts like "ubiquitous learning" and 24/7 access to technology.

The schools that "get it" will be the ones that stay ahead of the tech curve. "As educators, we really need to stay on top of this stuff," said Rios, "instead of constantly playing catch up."

2. Web-based instruction will gain more traction at the K-12 level.

Already being used extensively in the higher-education space, Web-based learning is expected to continue proliferating for both high school and middle school students. Crowley Independent School District in Dallas is just one of many districts that's already embraced distance learning across various disciplines, most recently for its summer school program. The move not only pushed the district further into the technology age, but also saved it some money.

"Like many other districts, we needed to find ways to conserve budget dollars," said Theresa Kohler, chief instruction officer. "We offered the online courses to students who wanted to gain accelerated credits, or to make up credits for classes they'd failed."

Using a password-protected system that was put in place in 2009, students either logged in from home or used the school's computer labs. "It was a pretty successful program," said Kohler, "and one we plan to expand and utilize more of in the future."

3. More tech-based monitoring and assessment tools will be incorporated into to the instructional mix.

There's nothing quite like being able to pull up a dashboard on a laptop or desktop and quickly figure out exactly where a student stands, and what enrichment is needed to get him or her up to speed (or, provide the student with more advanced instruction). Automated monitoring and assessment tools do just that, and continue to gain in popularity in the K-12 space.

Take classroom "clickers," for example, which teachers can use to engage students, even in the most crowded of classrooms. Combine the assessment tools with the clickers, said Kohler, and teachers can quickly ascertain whether a lesson has "sunk in" or determine whether further instruction is needed.

"We've had really good results with this technology, which gives our teachers real-time data instantly," said Kohler, "instead of having to wait for the graded papers and tests to come back."

4. The cloud will help ease the financial burden on schools while helping to expand technological capabilities.

No longer interested in building their technology coffers with expensive hardware and software, today's K-12 school districts turned to more cloud-based applications in 2010 and are expected to continue down that path in the coming year. "We're doing a lot of cloud computing in our district," said Lynn Reedy, educational technology specialist at Stafford Public Schools in Stafford Springs, CT. "We keep all of our data on a network that's shared among teachers, and we encourage them to use the cloud."

Recently, for example, all the district's K-12 classrooms began using MimioConnect as a resource for sharing lessons and information, and for uploading files. "We don't have to worry about space because the files are all stored in the cloud," said Reedy, "and accessible to everyone."

5. Teachers will have access to expanded professional development programs.

All the new technology in the world isn't going to do students any good if teachers can't use the tools, or show students how to use them. To fill the void created between classroom teachers and new technology, Reedy said her district is expanding its professional development options, both in terms of scope and timing.

"We're trying to get to a place where professional development is available all the time for our staff," said Reedy.

Stafford is also partnering with other districts to create online educational options for teachers who need further enrichment on topics like "how to use your whiteboard" and "how to develop interactive lessons for your science class." Reedy said the expanded professional development helps "keep teachers on top of things and in tune with new technology."

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to correct the name and URL of a product mentioned in the article, MimioConnect. [Last updated Dec. 3, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.] --David Nagel

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