John Dewey, 1940s education reformer, said it best: “We must prepare our children not for the world of the past, not for our world, but for their world: the world of the future” (Mitchell, 2007). Dewey’s sentiments have a greater impact and meaning in light of growing trends in education technology, as well as innovations in learning.
Checkout this video: there are many eerie similarities to where we are now and where education was in the 1940s!
In a review of education technology trends throughout the last four to five years, it is evident that technology is shaping education in a variety of ways. Some of these trends can be summarized into the following categories:
As technology becomes a catalyst for change and innovation, these trends should be looked at carefully to see the type of impact they can make in an individuals’ own education system at the K-12 level.
Technology’s role in Higher-Education:
It is important, as a college-prep K-12 charter school, to leverage trends in higher education to shape our own programs and classes. At a glance, there is no doubt that technology is relevant, especially for undergraduate students. The Educause Center For Analysis and Research (ECAR) shows blended (or hybrid) learning and mobile technology are on the rise since 2012. (Dahlstrom & Bichsel, 2014; Dahlstrom, Walker & Dziuban, 2013; and also (Dahlstrom, 2012).
Of 75,306 students surveyed in 2014, 75% students between the ages of 18-24 prefer these “partially online” (or blended/hybrid) courses, compared to no online or completely online courses (2014 Study of Students, 2014). While technology is increasingly prevalent in universities, students still do not feel prepared to use the technology in their undergrad. About 67% of students in the 2014 report feel they have adequate skills when they enter college, a number that has not fluctuated since 2012 (Bichsel, J. & Dahlstrom, E., 2014). As the rise of mobile devices and tablets exponentially grow (Constine, 2014), it is important to support students in their digital skills.
A variety of learning spaces, driven by the growing demand of technology use in schools, are fostering collaboration between students in and outside of the classroom. The New Media Consortium (NMC) reports show a need to rethink the traditional classroom to support this skill. Learning spaces can be seen as “live ecosystems” that evolve and change with the context in which they reside (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2014).
Blended (or hybrid) learning has now arrived and is more prevalent that ever. This environment closely reflects the real world: one that is both physical and virtual in collaboration and promotes online collaboration and face-to-face collaboration with peers and the instructor. It allows for learning to be social as it provides the time for interaction, group work, and development of solutions to real-world problems to occur (Johnson et al., 2014). Blended learning is providing students with ownership of their learning and accountability (Johnson et al., 2014). It is producing better outcomes than face-to-face or online alone (Vega, 2013). Blended learning paves the way for face-to-face time to include small group instruction (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015). Quite similar, flipped classrooms encourage self-paced learning at home, which then frees time up during the class period to engage with the teacher and collaborate with each other (Verma, 2015). In fact, flipped classes are improving outcomes, such as a 12% increase in pass rate at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Oklahoma (Flippedclassroomworkshop.com, 2015).
The renovation of physical spaces is just as important as the online space. The “Future Classroom Lab” looks at six different learning zones that take into account new modes of learning and teaching-those zones include: interact, exchange, investigate, create, present, and develop (Fcl.eun.org, 2015). One of the most recent innovations, Makerspaces are becoming more prevalent and are transforming the learning environment by providing a hands on place for students to create, collaborate, and problem solve (Johnson et al., 2015). Students desire experiential learning and changing the physical environment can provide this for them. Technology is a student’s norm, and classrooms are no longer the only way to learn. Ideally, chances to change and innovate are between the virtual and physical worlds (Oblinger, 2015).
Within the last five years, changes to pedagogical and learning practices have shifted the focus to deeper learning for students (Johnson et al., 2015). Since 2010, a shift to a “more learner-centered model focused on the development of individual potential…to deeper and more sustained learning across the curriculum” and teaching practice is occurring (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 5).
Project-Based Learning (PBL) allows for students to learn through authentic experience, and permits students to master collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Mobile devices such as tablets and laptops are key to the success of this type of learning practice (Johnson et al., 2015). Currently, there are several studies to support the success of PBLs on learning outcomes; in one study by SRI Education of Next Generation Science Learning, students that participated in PBL science curriculum outperformed standard textbook curriculum at the sixth grade level (Harris, 2014). Project-based learning allows for students to use technology to solve problems using real-world relevance and application of what they are learning (Johnson et al., 2015).
The demand for custom learning has driven new technologies to appear (Johnson, Smith, Levine, and Haywood, 2010). A challenge facing the future of education is adaptive instruction, which is personalized learning that “refers to the range of educational programs, learning designs, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies intended to address the specific learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students.” (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 26). Most successful implementations can be seen at the higher-education level, as reported in the NMC Horizon Report for 2015 Higher Education. As a one-size-fits-all approach dies within a teacher-centered environment, the potential for adaptive and personalized learning to be successful would best be suited within a blended-learning environment (Johnson et al., 2015). The use of data and analytics will far surpass the data that most teachers currently have on their students (Verma, 2015). Teachers will have real-time data on each individual student to see what is working for each student, and what is not.
With the growth of technological changes in the last five years, the role of the teacher is now evolving. Implementing blending learning, flipped classroom, and student centered learning through the use of devices means that teachers must be prepared to be facilitators virtually and in a newly designed classroom (Johnson et al., 2015). To see large impacts, widespread professional development must be provided (Vega, 2013). According to a National Center for Education Statistics study, in 2011 only 23 percent of teachers felt ready to integrate technology into their instruction and are doing so to present information and not provide student-centered learning (Moeller, & Reitzes, 2011). As of 2015, changes in pedagogy are considered a “wicked challenge,” which is one that is complex to define and address, due to inadequate funding, freedom to try new ideas, and little ability to scale and replicated successful innovations (Johnson et al., 2015).
Support for teachers is evident in a variety of places and innovative teaching is more predominant where teachers have support from other educators, as seen in studies of eight countries in Finland to Indonesia (Johnson et al., 2015). Online toolkits, video conferencing, and online courses are beginning to offer support to teachers that are busy, at a fraction of the cost of face-to-face conferences and trainings (Burns, 2015).
As technology implementation in education is rising, so is the data to support its successes and challenges. Trends in learning spaces, learning practices, and professional development should call to our attention and we should take action to continue moving forward with technology integration and innovation in this learning revolution.