NMC Horizon Report outlines emerging tech trends for K12 schools

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

K12 education leaders need practical, forward-thinking information that helps guide technology planning decisions, and the recently released NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition can help. The report is a rich resource for educators considering the best way to use new technologies to benefit students.

The report introduces six emerging technologies expected to become mainstream in K12 over the next five years: cloud computing, mobile learning, learning analytics, open content, 3D printing, and virtual and remote laboratories.

It also outlines five critical trends facing K12 educators over the next five years. Ranked in order of importance, they are:

  • Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.
  • Social media is changing the way people interact, communicate, and present ideas and information.
  • Increased availability of technology based on open architecture, transparency, and easy access to data.

It is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices to help increase 1-to-1 availability.

The internet is shifting the paradigm of where and how students find information, which is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. What unique value do schools add to a world of readily available and generally free information? Students will be required to be keen evaluators of information. This means that mentoring and preparing students for the world in which they will live and work will be ever more critical.

As we can see by these trends, education itself, rather than simply how we provide it, is changing. There is increased focus on collaboration and sharing, increased expectations for having ready access to data and information anytime and anywhere, and increased interest in personalizing learning and providing individual choices. It is not about the technology itself, but about understanding these trends and considering how emerging technologies—those presented in the report or others—might be used to stay ahead of them.

The report also identifies significant challenges district CIOs and technology leaders are facing, including:

  • Keeping up with professional development and teacher tech training;
  • Updating practices that enable increased use of technologies and digital media;
  • Incorporating new models of education, and
  • Leveraging a 1-to-1 or personalized learning model.

Moving into the mainstream

Two areas predicted to become mainstream in the next 12 months are cloud computing and mobile learning. Both are about making learning more personal, as students increasingly expect to be able to work, play, and learn via cloud-based services and apps across their mobile devices, whenever and wherever they choose.

Cloud computing was at the top of the Horizon Report’s list in both 2010 and 2011, but because of already-wide adoption, it was ranked lower in 2012. It resurfaced in this year’s report due to the emergence of private and secure clouds, which were unavailable in previous years.

The mobile category, appearing in the report for several years, continues to be significant. The two highest-growth mobile technologies identified in the 2012 report—devices & apps and tablets computing—were combined this year under the category “mobile learning.”

Learning analytics, part of the growing discussion on big data, is expected to become mainstream in K12 within two to three years. Both made the list in 2011 and resurfaced this year in the two- to three-year horizon.

K12 interest in open content also continues to grow and should become mainstream in the same time frame, driven by a growing collection of open source textbooks and resources from publishers, K12 organizations, and schools, as well as a wider acceptance of the philosophy behind creating and sharing free content.

3D printing and virtual/remote laboratories are identified as technologies that will make their way into schools in the next four to five years. The interest in 3D printing stems from the do-it-yourself approach to science, engineering, and other disciplines. The drivers here are the maker/do-it-yourself focus and the opportunity to enable more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to schools.

Virtual and remote laboratories use video and online curricula to broaden students’ science learning experience above and beyond what schools can afford to do in the lab or classroom.

The CoSN Horizon Report: K-12 Edition Toolkit accompanies the Horizon Report and offers guidelines to help chief information officers facilitate a conversation on leveraging emerging technologies to advance 21st-century learning. The toolkit includes:

An adaptable PowerPoint presentation template providing an overview of the report;
Discussion Facilitator’s Guide with questions to pose to stakeholders to stimulate thinking about technologies of interest; and
Discussion activities designed to help stakeholders identify instructional challenges, consider emerging technologies as solutions, and develop action plans.

As the discussions begin, we recommend that you do not lead with technology; rather, work to identify “the big instructional problem” teachers face and then develop a plan to resolve it.

Using both the report and toolkit can help educators set a course for the future and gain support for wider investment in technology, while at the same time shifting the conversation away from technology and toward a focus on improved learning.

Let the conversations begin!

Vicki Smith Bigham, president, Bigham Technology Solutions, Inc., serves as CoSN’s professional development consultant and is author of CoSN’s Horizon Report Toolkit.

The New Media Consortium (NMC), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) produced the NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Both the Report and the CoSN Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Toolkit are made possible through generous support of HP’s Office of Sustainability and Social Innovation. Download the NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition at go.nmc.org/2013-k12, or access the Horizon Report and Horizon Report Toolkit at www.cosn.org/horizon.

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