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6 Technologies That Will Have a Major Impact on K-12 Education

What do learning analytics and wearable gadgets have in common? They're both technologies that will have a have an important impact on K-12 education within the next few years, according to a new report released last week.

The report — a preliminary version of the NMC Horizon Report, 2014 K-12 Edition — identifies six technologies that will have a major impact on education. Some are nascent; some are already fairly well established; some are a bit abstract. These technologies are categorized by time to adoption: near-term, mid-term and long-range.

Each year, the New Media Consortium details 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.)

This year's report was released in conjunction with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

Near Term: BYOD, Cloud Computing
The two technologies cited in this report as near-term were BYOD and cloud computing. Both, of course, are very well established across K-12 schools nationwide. But they're being driven more rapidly of late by factors that are impacting schools: funding shortfalls and the need to support more collaborative models of teaching and learning.

According to the report: "The BYOD movement in education institutions is being driven by a major challenge that many institutions face — a lack of funds to support one-to-one learning, which is a systemic solution in which every student is provided a laptop or mobile device that can be used to support learning in and outside of the classroom. BYOD makes one-to-one easier by simply leveraging the devices that students already have, or those their parents can buy for them."

Similarly, cloud computing is being driven, in part, by the need to provide a collaborative environment in which students can stud and work on assignments. School IT organizations have also shifted their resources to the cloud for storage, virtualization and other needs.

Mid-Term: Gamification and Learning Analytics
A little further out in time to adoption — two to three years — are learning analytics and games and gamification.

NMC's researchers characterized learning analytics as "an educational application of 'big data,' a science that was originally leveraged by businesses to analyze commercial activities, identify spending trends, and predict consumer behavior. The rise of the Internet drove research into big data and metrics as well as the proliferation of web tracking tools, enabling companies to build vast reserves of information they could study and use to personalize their marketing campaigns. Education is embarking on a similar pursuit into data science with the aim of improving student retention and providing a high-quality, personalized experience for learners. Learning analytics research uses data analysis to inform decisions made on every tier of the educational system."

This, as previously noted, is being hindered by widespread concerns over student privacy, in particular the collection of identifiable student data by schools, government and private companies.

Gaming and gamification once again made the Horizon Report's top-6 technology trends. Now, with tablets and smart phones as commonplace as they are, "game play is a portable activity that can happen anywhere, and with anyone who is online. Once considered purely as entertainment, scientific studies are revealing the impact games can have on human behavior, leading to their uptake in the worlds of commerce, the military, and education. Similarly, there has been increased attention surrounding gamification — the integration of gaming elements, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations and scenarios for training and motivational purposes."

Long-Term: Internet of Things and Wearables
The report identified two broad technological developments that will have an impact on education in the longer term, three to five years: the Internet of Things and Wearables. The report did not explain how these two categories will have an impact on education. It merely defined them and notes some possibilities for their usefulness in people's lives in general. For example, the myriad of sensors that make up the Internet of Things is used to monitor equipment or control inventory, while wearables, which presumably make up a subset of the Internet of Things, monitor health, track personal activity, etc.

The complete preview report is publicly available at nmc.org. Methodology and additional information can be found on the Horizon Report wiki. The full final report is expected to be released this summer.


About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .