The rate of innovation within the world of technology forces us to live in the future. In order to stay competitive, we must constantly follow current trends and anticipate future possibilities. In 2013, Menco Platform asked over 100 European and North American teachers about their interest in ten different technology trends. You can find their results here: http://visual.ly/exploring-tomorrows-education-today
Although “over 100” is a pretty small sample given the global audience, their narrow results give us a starting point. Web-based tools, online resources, digital literacy, personal learning networks, and blended learning garnered the most interest (each received 50-70% “most interested” by teachers). Trending behind these were social media, e-moderation, and mobile learning (each received between 30-50% “most interested”). Both digital games in education and smart boards lagged behind with less than 30% “most interested.” These results show that teachers are most interested in technologies that help create, share, and differentiate instruction, but are less interested in technology that focuses on the user’s experience.
Personally, I find these results flawed, since teachers should be mostly concerned with how students use the technology. Teachers ought to follow advances in technologies that enable students to collaborate and apply their learning. In 2014, a year after the survey, the education milieu shows this trend. Professional development and conversations now revolve around facilitating social learning. There is less interest in Java and Flash-based educational games; instead, digital environments and simulations give students the sense of play while incorporating content. Finally, the app industry booms and many LMSs support learning on mobile devices.
But what’s the next big trend?
What will have the greatest impact on digital learning within the next five years?
To answer this question, one can’t only look at current trends in technology, but must also examine current trends in society. I expect that communication will only accelerate and spread, connecting more people to farther corners of the world. These connections will foster global awareness and involvement. Education leaders will want to take advantage of this by collaborating with experts and institutions beyond their own local communities and states, even looking world-wide for inspiration and solutions. Although the implementation of the Common Core Standards revealed that many local school districts resent federal standards, this does not suggest that teachers want isolation from other teachers, resources, and instructional practices. Rather, as Menco Platform’s results show, teachers are increasingly interested in connecting online to share resources and tools.
Therefore, the next big thing will be technologies that use social learning to help students create solutions to existing global problems. Social learning is already strong, as we value opinions as much as fact, if not more so; celebrities foster awareness faster than nonprofits (“ice bucket challenge”); a good reference from within the company is more likely to get an interview than a glowing resume, and political platforms divide further from compromise because voters listen mainly to pundits who share their opinions. Some school do effectively use social learning to facilitate lessons, and in the future more schools will rely on collaboration. Going forward, technology that connects students with experts and resources will become cheaper and more accessible.
Yet collaboration and social learning are not ends themselves, and people don’t treat them like they are. People are motivated to work together and learn when they must produce a product. Project-based learning is already a trend in education, and new technology will enable students to collaborate digitally to create solutions to international problems.
Therefore, the next big trend will be technologies that work around verbal language barriers. Specifically, we will see advances in computer programming, voice recognition and translation, and visual literacy. Computer programming will become easier to use and the new computer languages will be visual-based instead of text-based. Many schools teach coding already to more students, and they are introducing coding to younger students. This trend will continue until all students design and create software as naturally as they compose essays now. Voice technology will improve so that students are able to use smartphones to interact with curricula and teachers in different languages. And finally, technology will create visual literacy by using symbols and pictures to represent ideas and information. These three advances will support the larger trends of social learning and global awareness that are already looming on the horizon.