Sunday, May 29, 2016

What is next?


What is next can be the hardest question to get right in the context of ICT, not only for schools and individual classrooms but also for every industry and company.  Crystal ball gazing can be very dangerous, especially with the rate of change in technology appearing to be extremely high.  However, when you look at trends, it is normally a predictable rate of implementing innovation into schools.  It is only when there is an unexpected disruptor we normally experience rapid change.

An example is the change in 1:1 computing expectations within schools.  Until 2008, there had been slow progress by schools towards 1:1 Laptop programs.  These were normally very expensive and required a strong commitment from the School Leadership to implement such programs. Having started in Melbourne, the 1:1 ideal had spread slowly across Australia and in some US school districts and state wide in Maine.

2008 and 2009 saw two disruptors that changed the vision of schools around 1:1 technology access.  The first disruptor was the Prime Minister making 1:1 technology availability in schools a policy imperative and committing federal funding to make it happen.  The second disruptor was in 2009 when Apple announced the iPad, which provided a smaller and cheaper alternative to Laptops as student technology. 

The Horizon Report

One of the best resources for planning for the next big thing in technology for schools is the Horizon Report.  The Horizon Report is published by the New Media consortium (NMC) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).  It provides guidance on technology trends thought to be a significant impact in education.  The research is thorough with the process for determining what technology makes it onto the list open and visible.  I have heard the Horizon Report referenced many times in presentations about technology and it is widely referenced for strategic planning.

Therefore, with the disclaimer that all predictions depend on the lack of a significant disruptor to the status quo I have some thoughts surrounding the trends, challenges and technologies highlighted in the Horizon Report.

Trends

Increased use of Blended Learning

I think most teachers in Australian schools are seeing the value of blended learning.  In the resource and technologically rich schools, this can include flipped classroom models, which seems to offer great benefits for educators.  In less advantaged schools, the ability to scaffold using digital resources, although limited by the cost of those resources, is still of high value in allowing some personalised learning opportunities. 

If technology is reliable and simple to use, blended learning for traditional subjects will become deep-seated and should eventually become good practice.  The challenge for teachers is to know just what resources are available.  With that in mind, teachers really should be collaborating in order to share resources; one great opportunity for that sharing is TeachMeet (http://www.teachmeet.net/).

Rise of STEAM Learning

There is increased emphasis within the Australian Curriculum for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  The idea of incorporating other more creative activities into the technology spectrum has created the idea of STEAM learning, in STEAM the A is for the Arts.  Incorporating the creative pursuits into the traditional very dry content promotes the option of project based learning.  The move to project based learning is one of the strengths of technology rich learning as the depth and variety of resources available through technology enhances the learning experience and will potentially engage students at a deeper level.

The level of technology provided into classrooms must support the students by having the freedom to access the most appropriate resources.  These resources could be in the form of software or just be information from the internet.

Challenges

Creating Authentic Learning Experiences

This challenge is one Australia is moving towards covering as technology is adopted for virtual experiences of many of our greatest assets.  The distances and travel costs within Australia seem to have energised the tourism industry with the energy to provide digital experiences; perfect for schools to incorporate into the learning experience.   A dive in the Great Barrier Reef can be accessed digitally and from that, any number of real life exercises can be created to cover many subjects. 

There seems to be a slow uptake of these type of resources.  I see the role of resource identification being very important as the number and quality of digital resources increases.  Schools should be supporting teachers with this identification of resources.  This is probably the new role for traditional Librarians, as the digital resources will augment the information resources in the library.  It may also be an opportunity for the ICT department to become more involved in the educational process.

Integrating Technology in Teacher Education

I think schools treat their teachers as lifelong learners and expect they will in turn produce students who will also become lifelong learners.  The learning of appropriate use of technology for teachers can be one of the best investments in staff made by a school.  There are many options for staff Personal Development (PD) to build technology skills.  I have previously written about the need for appropriate PD for Teachers.

Technology

Bring Your Own Device

I am not a big fan of this terminology as it really about ownership, but the key take away in the Horizon Report is, students should be able to use their phone or other technology in addition to their primary learning device.  As long as there is a specified device for learning, the biggest restriction on the additional devices will only be the capacity of infrastructure to handle extra connections and PD for teachers.

Makerspaces

I think the creativity of STEAM curriculum and Makerspaces work well together as long as the goal is to engender creativity and entrepreneurship in students.  The most difficult part of this will be incorporating those traditional elements of learning into these spaces.  A key thing to keep in mind is the need to cross over from the digital ‘virtual’ world into the analogue ‘real’ world. 

 The entire Horizon Report can be viewed at http://www.nmc.org/nmc-horizon/