IT Trends | Feature

5 K-12 Technology Trends to Watch in 2013

Here are five key areas that K-12 districts, administrators, and teachers should keep an eye on in the year ahead.

It's getting harder and harder to predict what the "next best thing" will be in K-12 technology. Is it a new piece of IT equipment? An innovative mobile device? A great new classroom app? As we look to what 2013 will bring the answer is likely: all of these things and more. To find out which of them will have the greatest impact, THE Journal talked to K-12 technology experts for their viewpoints. Here's what they had to say.

1. Connected Learning. Defined by Institute of Play as a theory of learning that connects and leverages various experiences, interests, communities, and contexts in which learners participate--both in and out of school--as potential learning opportunities, connected learning is gaining ground in the K-12 space.

At Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, for example, John Palfrey, head of school for the 1,140-student high school, said he wants to "improve education through the connections afforded by technology." Palfrey, author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, said the school is experimenting with technology tools that allow students to build bridges and connections in their minds.

With two museums (one dedicated to American art and the other to archeology) on campus, for example, teachers work with students to correlate digital images of museum displays with classroom lessons.

"When you connect online and offline within the learning experience," said Palfrey, "you can help students relate experiences in the spheres of life in a very effective manner."

2. Next-Generation Video Production. Few would argue the impact easy video production and sites like YouTube have had on the educational world, but Robin Neal wants more. An English teacher and technology integration specialist at Beaver Country Day School in Brookline, MA, Neal said this is the year that remixable, interactive, enhanced videos will find their way into more K-12 classrooms with the help of tools like Mozilla's Popcorn Maker and TED-Ed .

"We're going beyond stagnant video," said Neal, whose English students are using interactive video techniques to complete projects on the topic of modern slavery. "We'll be using Popcorn Maker to put our work out on the Web and to let others build on it instantly," Neal said. "Students will then be able to see the synergy and collaboration that takes place. It's a pretty powerful concept that we're very excited about."

3. Sophisticated, Subject-Centric Tools. Lower price points and technological improvements are putting highly sophisticated tools within reach for K-12 educators who only dreamed of using such equipment in their classrooms.

Take the Vernier probes that the middle and high school science teachers at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, TX are using, for example. Julie Abell, director of technology, said the tools are being used in class to record temperature, speed, ionic content, and other critical scientific measures.

Rolled out in 2012 in the school's labs, the probes connect directly to classroom laptops that are used by students to record results and write up their observations and conclusions.

"Our 7th and 8th grade classes are using the equipment on a pretty large scale right now," said Abell, who expects the equipment to be used more extensively by additional classes in 2013. "The programs are better and the computer connections are much easier to establish. We see great potential in these types of tools."

4. Data Analytics. Overwhelmed by the reams of data being generated by their technology applications, software, and systems, K-12 districts need effective ways to make sense out of the information overload and properly leverage the data that they're being saddled with.

Lynzi Ziegenhagen, vice president of technology at Aspire Charter Schools in Oakland, CA, said she expects more schools to explore the concept of data analytics--using raw data to draw conclusions and make decisions--this year. Ziegenhagen said schools can venture into data analytics by taking small steps and using attendance systems, for example, to determine what students missed the most school during a specific term.

"School systems generate a lot of interesting data," said Ziegenhagen, who said Aspire Charter Schools uses products like Tableau Software's analytics products to wrap its arms around its own data. She said she expects more districts to implement similar systems during the coming year.

"Schools have a big appetite for finding ways to get data in a format that can be turned into useful reports," said Ziegenhagen.

5. Educational Tech as a Transformative Force. This could be the year that educators and administrators officially accept the fact that technology is here to stay, said Phillips Academy's Palfrey, who added he sees technology as a "major, transformative force" that isn't going away.

"Schools that don't get out in front of this issue will be bypassed," he stated. "Unfortunately, technology has been largely underestimated in the realm of education."

Palfrey said the schools that "get it" are the ones that are willing to experiment, test out new ideas and tools, and then implement those that have true impact on teaching and learning. "The key is not to get wrapped up in the 'cutting edge,' but to instead look at how to apply technology in an effective manner," said Palfrey, "and accept the reality that technology is transforming the world and society as a whole."

Gartner's Top 11 IT Predictions for 2013

Research firm Gartner recently unveiled these 11 predictions--several of which relate directly to the educational space--for IT organizations and users for 2013 and beyond:

  • Through 2015, 90 percent of enterprises will bypass broad-scale deployment of Windows 8. Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt to bring the touch interface to its flagship product to counter gains by Apple in rapid-growth markets.

  • By the end of 2014, three of the top five mobile handset vendors will be Chinese. Mobile phone penetration in emerging markets has resulted in a changing of the guard in terms of the leading vendors.

  • By 2015, big data demand will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled. The demand for big data is growing, and enterprises will need to reassess their competencies and skills to respond to this opportunity. Jobs that are filled will result in real financial and competitive benefits for organizations.

  • By 2014, European Union directives will drive legislation to protect jobs, reducing offshoring by 20 percent through 2016. An upward trend in unemployment has continued in the European Union during the ongoing financial crisis. With little expectation of a short-term recovery, Gartner expects to see the European Union introducing directives before the end of 2014 to protect local jobs.

  • By 2014, IT hiring in major Western markets will come predominantly from Asian-headquartered companies enjoying double-digit growth. An increasing number of successful Asian companies--particularly from China and India--are enjoying double-digit growth rates and will substantially grow their geographic footprints, making significant investments in major Western markets through 2015.

  • By 2017, 40 percent of enterprise contact information will have leaked into Facebook via employees' increased use of mobile device collaboration applications. Facebook is one of the top five applications installed on smartphones and tablets. Many organizations are being pressured to permit interlinking with Facebook and similar products, because those products provide a high degree of leverage for new contacts.

  • Through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices. Corporate networks will become more like college and university networks, which were the original "bring your own device" (BYOD) environments. Because colleges and universities lack control over students' devices, they focus on protecting their networks by enforcing policies that govern network access.

  • Through 2014, software spending resulting from the proliferation of smart operational technology will increase by 25 percent. Previously "dumb" operational devices or objects, like a vending machine, medical device, marine engine, or parking meter, are now having software embedded in them, and sensors are being linked to the Internet to create and receive data streams.

  • By 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. Gamification addresses engagement, transparency of work, and connecting employees' actions to business outcomes.

  • By 2016, wearable smart electronics in shoes, tattoos, and accessories will emerge as a $10 billion industry. The majority of revenue from wearable smart electronics over the next four years will come from athletic shoes and fitness tracking, communications devices for the ear, and automatic insulin delivery for diabetics.

  • By 2014, market consolidation will displace up to 20 percent of the top 100 IT services providers. Cloud, big data, mobility, and social media, along with continued global economic uncertainty, will accelerate the restructuring of the nearly $1 trillion IT services market.

    Source: Gartner Predicts 2013

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].