Tech Trends | Research
6 Shifts in Education Driven by Technology
Six critical shifts are happening in education right now that are being driven, at least in part, by technology. According to preliminary findings from an upcoming report, these changes affect everything from the role of the teacher to a rethinking of how schools themselves work.
The findings are part of a preliminary report introduced this week by the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking. Each year, NMC releases an annual Horizon Report, detailing new and impending developments affecting K-12 education in the United States — including emerging trends, technology drivers and barriers to adoption. The findings are the result of research in coordination with an expert panel of Horizon Project participants, ranging from representatives of individual schools to the World Bank. (A complete list of current panelists and methodology can be found online.)
Technological shifts are broken down in the report in three timescales: near-term (time to adoption of one to two years), mid-term (three to four years) and long-term (five or more years).
Near-Term Shifts: Teaching & Learning with Tech
In the near term, the top technology-driven shift cited in the preliminary report is the rethinking of the role of the teacher.
That's not as ominous as it sounds, however.
According tot he report: "Teachers are increasingly expected to be adept at a variety of ICT-based and other approaches for content delivery, learner support, and assessment; to collaborate with other teachers both inside and outside their schools; to routinely use digital strategies in their work with students and act as guides and mentors; and to organize their own work and comply with administrative documentation and reporting requirements. Students, along with their families, add to these expectations through their own use of ICT to socialize, organize, and informally learn on a daily basis, and many educational thought leaders argue that schools should be providing ways for students to continue to engage in learning activities, formal and non-formal, beyond the traditional school day."
In the near-term, that means teachers are increasingly using experimental teaching approaches and integrating technology into their professional development and their teaching practices, as well as their students' daily activities.
Related to this is the second tech-driven shift: a shift to "deep learning approaches." According to the report, tablets and other mobile devices are increasingly being used in active learning scenarios, where curriculum is tied to real-life scenarios.
"The active learning approaches are decidedly more student-centered, allowing them to take control of how they engage with a subject and to brainstorm and implement solutions to pressing local and global problems," according t the report. "The hope is that if learners can connect the course material with their own lives and their surrounding communities, then they will become more excited to learn and immerse themselves in the subject matter."
In the mid-term, according to the report, open educational resources will play an increasing role in education at the policy level, and that has distinct implications for technology adoption since most OER is in an electronic format.
"Open content, or open educational resources (OER), are growing in breadth and quality, as is the use of these materials in classrooms, networks, and school communities," the report's authors noted. "The use and adoption of open content materials is increasingly a matter of policy in schools, especially in the many disciplines in which high quality educational content is more abundant than ever."
The second mid-range shift is a trend that has been growing for some time now nationwide: the increasing use of hybrid learning designs.
"As teachers and students alike become more familiar with and adept at using the Internet, traditional classroom pedagogies increasingly include online learning components, hybrid learning strategies, and increased focus on collaboration within the classroom," according to the report. "Schools that are making use of hybrid learning models are finding that using both the physical and the virtual learning environments to their highest potentials allows teachers to engage students in a broader variety of ways, and even extend the learning day."
The authors noted that effective implementation of hybrid learning designs enables students "to use the school day for group work and project-based activities, while using the network to access readings, videos, and other learning materials on their own time, leveraging the best of both environments."
Further along the time-to-adoption scale are two emerging trends noted in the report:
- Accelerated adoption of intuitive technologies thanks to the proliferation of devices with "natural user interfaces" (tablets, smart phones, gaming consoles and some smart TVs) ; and
- Rethinking how schools work.
"There is now a focused movement to change the traditional classroom experience and rearrange the school day — a trend that is largely being driven by the shift to innovative learning approaches. Methods such as project- and challenge-based learning call for school set-ups that enable students to move from one learning activity to another more organically. Plus, as these approaches are increasingly multidisciplinary, there is a need for learning design that better connects each class and set of subject matter to each other," the report said. "The traditional bell schedule can be perceived as jarring as it forces students to move from one class to another in an unnatural manner with no connection between the projects and activities. As learning becomes increasingly fluid and student-centered, some teachers and administrators believe that schedules should be more flexible to allow opportunities for authentic learning experiences to take place."
The complete preview report is publicly available at nmc.org. Methodology and additional information can be found on the Horizon Report wiki.
About the Author
David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.
He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).