Ed Tech Trends

12 Education Predictions for 2020

The learning and innovation in education never stops. Here's what 12 education technology experts and observers expect for the new year in K-12.

12 Education Predictions for 2020

Everybody in education seems to have opinions about what will dominate teaching and learning conversations in the coming year. Here are 12 predictions from education technology leaders for what we can expect in 2020.

The Beginning of the End for "End-of-Year" Testing?

Chris Minnich, CEO for assessment organization NWEA anticipates a "continued shift" in assessment innovation: "As the concern around over-testing grows, we will see more states and districts challenge the need for the traditional 'end of year' summative test and develop more innovative approaches that better meet the needs of their schools," he suggested. "Parents and educators are looking for an integrated system that connects assessment, curriculum and intervention to create a solution that provides a complete picture of a student's academic health, as well as a complete view of a school's overall performance. These solutions not only reduce testing time overall, but also integrate [the] assessment part of the instructional plan to produce more actionable data that informs what matters in terms of making progress."

Assessment Will Move Beyond Traditional Academic Subjects

Minnich also thinks social-emotional learning (SEL) will become part of the assessment profile. "As our knowledge around the importance of educating the whole child grows, we'll see education go beyond the traditional academic subjects and look at other factors involved in the overall success of a child--things like [SEL] and how it affects a child's readiness for adulthood. This will raise critical questions in the educational field regarding how we can formally incorporate SEL and assess the effectiveness of any program or practice that focuses on SEL."

ESSA Will Drive Changes in Professional Learning

Jacob Bruno, vice president for professional learning at NWEA, said the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be the "biggest driver of change" for K-12 professional development. "As ESSA-driven school accountability ratings take hold in schools and classrooms across the country, we'll see educators experience a more acute need to have professional learning that focuses specifically on grade-level proficiency and academic growth for all students."

He added that PL will also begin to emphasize whatever an individual state's "fifth Indicator" turns out to be under ESSA--those "non-academic benchmarks such as chronic absenteeism, SEL and school climate and safety."

As a result, the use of data will come to the forefront as a way to show proficiency and growth. "Data will become a much bigger focus in driving differentiated professional learning, instruction and all improvement efforts," Bruno explained. "The focus will drive the creation of new paradigms, approaches and applications of data-driven professional learning that prioritize the specific contexts of educators, their students, their curricula, their standards, etc."

Technology Innovations Will Keep Growing

Mike Nesterak, the senior director for NWEA's Product Innovation Center, predicted that we'll see "many exciting developments in the use of advanced technologies in education." Those include growing use in "conversational computing and the use of avatars such as Alexa and Siri, which will allow students to be assessed in a more Socratic way by asking and answering questions to demonstrate thought patterns in solving more complex problems; as well as increased focus on using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of concepts that are difficult to measure on traditional tests."

Nesterak added that gaming design won't go away for assessment. And the use of mobile apps will increasingly "be used to assess students during the instructional process instead of after a unit of instruction."

Student Data Privacy Will Continue to Be Legislated

LearnPlatform Co-founder and CEO, Karl Rectanus, said he expected student data privacy to continue dominating at the state and district levels. "As broadband access and devices have become almost ubiquitous, cyber-attacks, datamining and infringement on privacy have also become more common," he noted. For proof Rectanus pointed to a Future of Privacy Forum count: more than a hundred laws have been passed at the state level since 2013, specifically to address student privacy protections ("often without attached funds"). Likewise, he said, the Student Data Privacy Consortium (of which his company is a member) "has hundreds of unified contracts to streamline commitments," to help participating districts address data privacy concerns in a more collaborative way. Both legislation and collaborative approaches, he added, "are important, valid and useful steps."

Additionally, Rectanus said some states--such as Connecticut--are streamlining the work for districts of staying compliant with privacy regulations by creating a "single, simple safety check" (the LearnPlatform program in that case) for companies that want to sell their technology into the state's schools, "thereby eliminating redundant efforts by every district, lowering costs--and prices--for providers, and increasing equity by helping the smallest districts keep up."

Cybersecurity Training Will Get More Practical

To keep up with the proliferation of cyber-attacks, Bret Fund, who heads up cybersecurity training at Flatiron School, suggested that curriculum will emphasize "practical training in controlled lab settings." The traditional rules-based security practices that deliver lecture-based training "is ineffective," he said. As a better alternative, teachers will fill out security training with "more real-world puzzles and scenarios, providing safe lab environments to unleash worms and viruses and help students understand how and why they spread."

Along with that, Fund added, schools "will look to produce lab models or partner with external agencies that can teach students these critical skills in a controlled environment."

More User Influence on Tech Purchasing

Hilary Scharton, vice president of K-12 strategy for Instructure's Canvas, said she believes districts will emphasize the teacher and student experience "more and more"--above and beyond the IT or administrator experience--in decisions related to purchasing.

George Moore, chief technology officer at Cengage, offered a similar prediction for the new year: "We will see an increased focus on how technology can be used to support the teacher in managing the classroom, enhancing learning and improving assessment," he said. "Furthermore, the teacher's voice will play a growing role at an administrative level to ensure alignment between technology investment and effective classroom applications."

One example of that influence offered by Moore is the growing adoption of open educational resources for classroom use within districts, promoted by the teachers themselves. "There are a growing number of OER and low-cost resources available when it comes to learning content for K-12, putting increased pressure on administrators to support teachers' decisions when it comes to the tools that support a quality learning experience for students."

AI and Peer-to-Peer Will Update Learning and Teaching

AI will get more play in learning, reported Michał Borkowski, CEO and co-founder of Brainly (a self-described "social learning network"). "AI systems with customizable settings will allow students to learn based on their personal strengths and weaknesses" while also helping teachers "understand what each individual student needs."

Peer-to-peer learning will likewise gain heightened attention, Borkowski said, letting students view others' "educational interpretations," which "may help information 'click'" for them.

And the learning won't just happen in the classroom. "Teachers are experimenting with webinars, online tutorials and other forms of tech-based instruction to connect to students in environments where they are more inclined to learn," Borkowski added.

Districts Will Seek More Innovative Tech Outside the Classroom

Instructure's Scharton suggested that ed tech priorities over the next 12 months could reflect an "innovator's mindset," with pick up of technologies such as AR and VR and robotics. This won't be just for the classroom and the purpose of learning, but for operational activities too: "More districts will explore cutting-edge products that help scale data with warehousing, data lakes, machine learning and artificial intelligence," she said.

Another area where innovation is surfacing is in how schools are supporting their student safety efforts, "For example, monitoring software and software that provides a holistic view of a student's wellbeing can help schools gather and analyze information about student safety concerns such as cyber bullying and mental health concerns," said Justin Reilly, CEO of Impero Software. "It can also identify both offline and online safety risks. These types of tools help schools identify risks so they can address potential concerns and maintain focus on academics."

Career Pathways Are Turning Mobile

Jean Eddy, president and CEO of the American Student Assistance, stressed that the latest crop of students--Gen Zers--are "hyper-aware of the need to think about and plan for their futures." Rather than sitting around, waiting for career day in the classroom, they're using their smartphones to get their own information. To keep up, educators and counselors need to be willing to "offer them support outside of traditional school/classroom environments in places they frequent--such as digital and social media platforms," she advised. "In 2020 and beyond, we'll see educators becoming more engaged in ways to empower students in their learning journey--specifically with regard to college and career exploration and planning--on their mobile devices." The big question, Eddy added, is how comfortable parents will be with students' turning to their devices for this kind of guidance.

Sage on the Stage is Out; Collaboration is In

As more teachers move away from the "sage on the stage" model of instruction, said Jason Meyer, group product manager for projectors at Epson America, student collaboration and engagement are coming to the forefront. He expects to see more schools turning to technology to facilitate that. As one example, "interactive projectors can turn any flat surface into a large digital whiteboard, allowing students and teachers to control and annotate on the content, using their fingers or an interactive pen." They can also "bring a lesson to life by displaying a scene, such as a rainforest, on every surface in the classroom," he said, "to enrich the learning experience for students."

Computer Science Will Go Beyond Coding

Careers in tech will require more than just coding, said Christine McDonnell, CEO of computer science curriculum maker Codelicious. Beyond the technical knowledge, "problem-solving and relationship-building" are also "essential elements of the field." McDonnel prophesied that the CS courses of 2020 "will emphasize more [SEL] competencies, like emotion management, goal setting and critical thinking." And teachers "will encourage students to step away from the computer or tablet in pursuit of these skills." As a result, "interactive discussions and unplugged activities will help students connect with STEM learning and each other, gaining the skills necessary for social emotional growth."