For many educators, technology is now a key tool in their practice, and in some cases even shapes the way they teach. So I thought it would be useful to round up some of the key trends in educational technology to look out for in 2015.
Greater availability of data and the use of classroom technology have opened up new possibilities for personalized learning, with teachers able to track the progress of students in individual lessons, find out what they spent most time on and which parts they found hardest, and tailor their approach accordingly.
Instant feedback allows teachers to find out how much of the lessons students have understood. It also means they can provide one-to-one teaching without publicly singling out students or holding up the rest of the class.
The jury is still out on whether Google Glass will become a useful classroom tool or end up gathering dust at the back of the cupboard, but whatever its fate wearable technology looks to have a promising future in schools.
The potential for augmented reality and location-specific activities is clear, and a reduction in cost would bring it within reach of schools.
In the short-term, the smart watch seems a better bet than glasses, with motion and pressure-sensors particularly useful for activity-based learning. If smart watches take off in the same way as smartphones, wearable tech could become an entrenched part of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment.
Schools are only just beginning to tap the potential for online learning. MOOCs are becoming fairly well-established in higher education but are just dipping their toe into the high school arena. The next 12 months will see more widespread use of both traditional ‘courses’ and ad hoc ‘help-outs’.
Alongside this we will see moves to recognize and measure – and ultimately accredit – what students are learning online, with a shift from ‘seat time’ to a competency-based framework.
As online learning moves more mainstream, we can also expect to see providers looking to charge for their courses.
Both blended and flipped learning seem on the verge of breaking into the mainstream in 2015. Charter school operator Rocketship Education is pioneering blended learning – a combination of online and classroom teaching – in the U.S. and school sponsor Ark announced earlier this year that it is aiming to open a blended learning school in the U.K. Although this will not happen before 2016, some of its schools are already experimenting with blended learning.
Flipped learning, where students typically learn content – perhaps through an instructional video – in their own time and spend the lesson on project work, is also gaining traction. This allows teachers to focus in class on areas the students find difficult, providing a more personalized approach.
The ability to give different lessons to different groups of students in the same class opens up new possibilities for differentiation, as well as for mastery teaching, where students have to show competence in one area before moving onto the next one.
Thanks to YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and a host of other sites, sharing has never been easier. Learning will increasingly cross boundaries as teachers share their ideas and tips and students share their work online.
Technology also provides greater opportunities for collaborative working, both within the class and between schools. Teachers and students will not just share their work, but will combine with others and demonstrate the power of collaboration.
While technology is undoubtedly a useful weapon in any teacher’s armoury, there is a lot of talk about the latest gizmo and not enough about what helps students learn. Not so much a trend as an aspiration is that 2015 will see more inquiry into how technology aids teaching and learning, with less emphasis on the technology and more on showing how it makes a difference. After all, technology in education is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
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Author: Nick Morrison
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