Ed Tech | Spotlight

5 K-12 Tech Trends To Watch in 2014

IT administrators and technology specialists lay out the top technology trends for the year ahead in the K-12 space.

With technology advancing at an increasingly rapid pace, keeping up with what's new and hot on the educational side is no easy task. To help IT directors, administrators and teachers stay up-to-date with the changes, THE Journal talked to users in the field about what's happening now and what's coming down the pike during the year ahead.

Here are five tech trends to keep an eye on in 2014.

1. Increased use of flipped learning and related tools. As teachers and students warm up to the idea of reversing the age-old "classroom instruction first, homework later" approach, expect to see more schools adopting flipped learning techniques. As those adoption levels grow, the number of classroom tools enabling such approaches is sure to expand as well.

The online learning community ShowMe, for example, allows teachers to create video tutorials and students to post their own videos to share with other pupils. "ShowMe is basically like every teacher's Kahn Academy," said Mike McCormick, assistant superintendent for education services at Val Verde Unified School District in Perris, CA, "and it also pushes down to the student level and allows them to interact and share with other pupils."

Other suggested flipped learning tools to check out in 2014 include BrainPOP for creating animated, curriculum-based content, TeacherTube for sharing videos online and Educreations for turning iPads into recordable whiteboards.

2. Support for the new Common Core Standards (CCSS). The February 2014 CCSS deadline is looming for K-12 districts across 45 states. Along with it will come new approaches to pedagogy and testing — both of which will be supported by emerging classroom technology tools.

Jeanine Swatton, a senior lecturer in engineering at UCSC Extension and a technical mentor for ImagineK12, said she expects mobile apps to play an important role in the schools' adoption of CCSS and the related professional development and training. OpenEd, for example, is an educational resource catalog that allows users to search through a database of videos and content to find those that are CCSS-certified.

"There are 95,000 education apps available, but no real 'standards' in terms of which apps should be used to address CCSS," said Swatton, who is currently working with the Los Angeles USD to roll out its iPad and app initiative. "In the educational technology community, there's much focus right now around CCSS and getting CCSS-certified," she added, "because that is what's in teachers' heads right now as we move closer to the February deadline."

3. Tech tools that give teachers more mobility. The days when teachers sat behind a desk or stood behind a podium during class are long gone at Val Verde Unified School District, where teachers are combining remote desktop apps like Splashtop with student iPads to interact with students as they move around the room. The app pushes the iPad content over to a desktop computer, said McCormick, and projects that content onto the wall where teachers can annotate and/or write on it.

Teachers even hand over their iPads to students who, in turn, work the problems out in front of the entire class. "Teachers can engage the entire class," said McCormick, "and also have the freedom to move around and work with students one-on-one."

4. More streamlined classroom processes. As a technology integration specialist at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, Melissa Alkire is always on the lookout for technology that will make life easier for the teachers and students that she works with.

"It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of tools that are introduced during a particular year," said Alkire, who focuses on selecting quality tools that streamline specific processes.

Two of the newest additions to the school's stable are YouCanBookMe, which allows students to reserve meeting times with teachers outside of class, and VideoNotes for posting notes and questions to the class via Google Drive. Up next, said Alkire, will be Subtext, a free iPad app that allows classroom groups to exchange ideas in the pages of digital texts.

"When we start using Subtext, teachers will be able to take PDFs, Web sites and other content and make them more dynamic," said Alkire, "and make their own mini-textbooks for their classes to use."

5. Fun stuff ... like augmented reality in the classroom. Defined as a live (direct or indirect) view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input, augmented reality is making its way into the nation's K-12 classrooms.

Val Verde USD has a few pilots underway and is planning a bigger rollout in 2014 as the related classroom technology becomes more accessible. In some of the district's fourth and fifth grade classrooms, for example, teachers are projecting images — both teacher-designed and student-generated — onto their walls and then using the Aurasma app to recognize and work with those images.

"We're having a real kick with this cutting-edge augmented reality in the classroom," said McCormick, "and looking to do more of it in the year ahead."

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