2011 was a big year in the advancement of technology with consequences, intended -or otherwise- impacting the educational sector with ripples quickly becoming waves. The Ipad tablet has transcended being the plaything in bourgeois households of the upper class and are now making their presence -and more importantly utility- in schools a thing of the present with every passing day. Take the Eufala primary school in Alabama, USA as a prime example, where children at the pre-Kindergarten level have access to and learn interactively through Ipads which as Tiffiny Woo notes
“prepare(s) students to (be able to ) navigate (through) a technologically centered society”.
Kindle, like the Ipad has also revolutionized the consumption of books through digital formats, with Amazon.com noting for the first time “in July that the sale of digital books outpaced that of traditional hard copy publishing, selling 143 digital books for every 100 hardback from May through July -the rate reaching 180 e-books for every 100 hardbacks in the last four weeks (of July) alone“.
With January nearly half finished, I thought it was time I contribute my two cents on upcoming trends in education, technology and how their deepening relationship would come to impact classrooms this year. These are trends and stories I’ll be returning to and fleshing out further, but I thought I’d get my ideas out there while they’re still hot!
1. Regulatory regimes to govern the emergence of Virtual Schools.
As the United States moves inches closer to the upcoming 2012 election, expect education reform to make a return of sorts to the national spotlight. Nearly two years ago Florida became the country’s first laboratory for education reform, making 2011 the year for virtual education. Unfortunately, while the fight for education reform is pitting proponents of blended/hybrid education against teachers unions, what is resulting is a greater array of educational tools available to the student. As this market grows, so too is the inexorable march towards a concrete set of regulatory rules for a massive and largely untapped market that’s worth billions.
The Colorado board of Education has already voted on instilling a set of educational regulations, which traditional brick-and-mortar schools currently face. This is but one example of how government regulations are beginning to codify a set of standards for student learning in virtual schools. This is a sign of the times, with necessary rules in place to ensure students receive an education that is comparable in the least, to traditional schools within an industry that has virtually -pardon the pun- exploded.
2- Open Source University Programs
Late last year the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that the university was expanding the array of open source courses it was providing, courses that are free and available for anyone interested in the classes offered- with a certificate of completions provided to any enrolled MIT student who completes a number of courses. This comes on the heels of news that Stanford University has provided similar courses – such as Software as a Service,Computer Science 101, Machine Learning, Cryptography, Natural Language Processing, Human Computer Interaction, Design and Analysis of Algorithms I, and Probabilistic Graphic Models, which are both free and open source.
3- Apple readies their foray into Digital Textbooks
The internet is already abuzz in anticipation of what exactly Apple has in store with news of their upcoming announcement. Early reports “by sites such as Ars Technica hint that Apple will unveil a textbook version of its Garageband music software – a ‘book creation kit’ that will make it easy for publishers, or teachers, to add video, music and images to text.” This may do what Garageband and Pro-Tools did to the production of music- made it accessible to the public. In doing so, Apple is ready to “disrupt” an $8 billion dollar market, one Steve Jobs said was “ripe for digital destruction”. I don’t want to place too much of a weight on Apple’s share of the market, but news of technology that would empower educators, at the expense of traditional publishing, is news that will definitely make waves. We’ll know definitively what Apple is up to when their plans are finally unveiled at the New York Guggenheim on January 18th, 2012.
4- Move to Cloud Computing
In the same vein a Dropbox changed the way information is stored or how SoundCloud forever altered the way music is heard, disseminated and experienced, Cloud Computing is set to alter the educational landscape in a way that is set to bring educators, students and administrators together like never before. The concept of “clouds” is well elaborated on in the YouTube video Cloud Computing Explained with the Shankerblog delving deeper into what this might mean for educational institutions in general. Consolidating the information students need through “clouds” would facilitate students’ ability to learn anywhere, providing students and teachers the ability to interact and collaborate in ways that will enhance learning.
While troubling to some, cloud computing would also contribute to the development of “learning analytics”, qualitative metrics taken from student activity, time spent on work, and student grade outcomes in ways that could help us understand the process of learning in ways we haven’t be able to before. This does present questionable issues, consolidating student information at the expense of student privacy. However, just the possibility of what cloud computing presents is an exciting prospect for researchers of education pedagogy helping further understand how best students learn.
5- Handheld Mobile Devices will Democratize Advances in Education Technology
For those of you who follow MathQuack on Twitter, you know how excited we were for UNESCO’s “Mobile Learning Week” seminar in New York earlier in the year. For nations in the developing world, governments often don’t have the money to invest in infrastructure like telephone lines -let along broadband- that are critical in allowing citizens a means to access the educational tools the internet has helped to disseminate. The UNESCO Mobile Learning Week website has a great collection of the presentations that seminar played host to, giving you a good idea of how much of an impact the use of mobile devices have worldwide; “Mobile Technologies, Education and Socio-Economic Development by Stephane Boyera” in particular.
Stephane Boyera of the World Wide Web Foundation, a participant of the “Mobile Learning Week” notes that in “the mobile is often referred to as the computer of Africa”. This was at the heart of what made Mobile Learning Week so exiting; increased access of learning applications that expand. This isn’t as critical of a medium in learning as it is in the developing world, however attitudes are quickly changing with regard to their utility in the classroom, with many schools becoming increasingly accepting of students who “Bring Their Own Technology” or BYOT. Take the Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City as an example of how school attitudes are changing, making 2012 a year for greater integration of education technology in and out of the classroom.
And so we keep a keen eye to developments on the horizon of 2012, with ones we listed as those we think will be shaking up the industry. Think we left some out? Let us know which developments you’ve got your eye on and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!