Research

Report: Makerspaces, Coding, Robotics Pick Up Momentum in Schools

Once again this school year, schools will be ramping up robotics programs and opening more makerspaces, according to the latest report from the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.

The organizations have released the annual “NMC/CoSN Horizon Report K–12 Education Edition” report to address new and emerging learning technologies used in schools around the world. Based on perspectives from more than 60 education researchers and experts, the 2017 report charts the five-year impact of these technologies worldwide, identifying six important developments for educational technology, six key trends in K–12 and six significant challenges.

On THE Journal

Highlighted in the NMC/CoSN report, "7 Tips for Planning a Makerspace" cites successful makerspace exemplars across U.S. schools and districts to help when providing recommendations.

As for “important developments” on the horizon, makerspaces (first listed as a trend in the 2015 report) will pick up speed over the next one to two years. As schools continue to foster 21st century skills in students in order to prepare them for the demands of a global workforce, K–12 will see the adoption of more makerspaces and research efforts to surface best benefits and practices. Furthermore, the report noted that “makerspaces were initially lauded for their role in stimulating interest in STEM fields,” but now they are often viewed as conduits to STEAM education with more emphasis on the humanities, visual arts, dance, drama and other areas of the arts.

In addition, as robotics applications proliferate across multiple sectors, the report authors predict more schools will introduce robotics technologies in order to prepare students for future career pathways.

“Robotics competitions are providing learners with opportunities to explore STEM challenges and to apply their skills toward developing solutions to major global issues,” according to the report. “Teachers are also using robots to augment classroom instruction and promote student engagement.”

On THE Journal

A global robotics competition for students presents a central problem and asks participants to develop a solution. Read the story here.

Behind makerspaces and robotics, virtual reality and analytics technologies will make mid-term adoption (over the next two to three years). Long-term (over four to five years), K–12 will see more artificial intelligence technologies in the classroom and more emphasis on understanding the internet of things (IoT).

Other than tech developments, the authors identified similar “key trends” in K–12 as the 2016 report, which focused on turning students into creators. In the short-term, “coding as a literacy and the rise of STEAM learning remains at the forefront of what many schools are focusing on as educational platforms for their students,” the report stated.

In recent years, computer science has become a pillar of K–12 education, helping students to build problem-solving and computational thinking skills, as well as transferable workforce skills. At the center are teachers and school leaders driving the educational experience, the authors noted. “Computer science demand is obviously a big part of this thought process, and if we start teaching students about coding and computer software language at a young age, we empower them to seek the careers of the future down the road, and learn to teach machines to work in tandem with humans."

The report also identifies mid-term key trends on the horizon: First, there will be an increased focus on measuring learning outcomes through various assessment tools.

“The advance of data mining software and online learning environments has compelled many districts to incorporate learning analytics and visualization techniques that can provide data in an accessible and timely manner,” according to the report.

Over the next four to five years, schools will start to focus on improving school culture and advancing “cultures of innovation,” which embrace project-based learning, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Schools will also adopt “deeper learning approaches,” or the mastery of specific content, such as challenge-based and inquiry-based learning, according to the report.

The report is accompanied by a free digital toolkit available on the CoSN website, which aims to serve as a planning tool for educators, school leaders, administrators, policymakers and technologists.  

View the full report here.

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