12 Education Tech Trends to Watch in 2012

| January 3, 2012 | 38 Comments
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Looking ahead at some of the education technology trends we’ll likely see in 2012, many are already underway.

But here are 12 areas where we believe we’ll see significant adoption and innovation in the coming months.

MOBILE PHONES: Mobile learning is hardly a new trend, but we have now reached the point with near ubiquitous cellphone ownership among adults, and growing ownership among children. More than three-quarters of teens own a cellphone, and about 40% own a smartphone. As such, these mobile devices will help unlock some of the promise of “anytime, anywhere” learning opportunities.

BYOD (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE): A related trend to mobile learning. More schools will grapple with their policies surrounding students bringing their own devices to school. They do so already, of course, although cellphones in particular are often required to be turned off or stowed in backpacks or lockers. It isn’t just cellphones that are brought from home now either. There are iPod Touches, tablets, laptops, e-readers, and netbooks, and schools will weigh whether or not students will be permitted or even encouraged to bring their own devices to school.

BANDWIDTH ISSUES: The FCC has made broadband access the focus of some of its efforts over the last few years, arguing for its importance to the U.S. economy and education. It’s pushing for better access across the board, but also recognizing the importance of high-speed Internet specifically at schools and libraries. Even those schools with broadband access may find their resources strained in coming months — with the increasing number of mobile devices brought to schools, tapping into the local network as well as with growing demands for streaming video content.

NATURAL USER INTERFACES: The last few year have brought about a number of important innovations in the ways in which we interact and interface with technology: motion-sensing as with the Microsoft Kinect, the touchscreen of the iPhone, the voice-activation of Siri. Just as the graphical user interface, the GUI, opened computer technologies to new populations (specifically non-programmers), these natural user interfaces will likely push those things further forward, increasing accessibility.

WEB APPS (HTML5): Despite the popularity of Apple devices — among consumers and in the classroom — an emphasis or reliance on native (iOS or Mac) apps excludes a lot of people. The demands for tools that can be used at home and at school, regardless of device, will lead to more Web-based education applications. Thanks to HTML5 technology, Flash, which is still used by a lot of educational content providers, will no longer be as ubiquitous.

DATA: “Data-driven” has been a buzz phrase in education for a number of years now, but much of the emphasis has been on standardized testing. With more “data exhaust” from our usage of technology and the Web, there’s a trove of information we aren’t really fully tracking when it comes to teaching and learning. 2012 will likely bring about a search for new analytical tools to account for just this (many sidestepping the question of whether or not teaching and learning can be quantified and analyzed this way).

ADAPTIVE LEARNING: Adaptive learning companies had an interesting year: Knewton and Grockit raised substantial investment, for example, while Carnegie Learning found itself critiqued in a New York Times story. With the promise of personalized learning — that is, instruction and quizzes aimed at a student’s specific needs and skills — adaptive learning is poised for widespread adoption, both at the K-12 and higher ed levels.

PRIVACY/SECURITY: There was an increasing realization in 2011 that many of the pieces of legislation that govern children and students’ online interactions are woefully out of date. As such, there will be increased scrutiny in 2012 to COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), CIPA (the Children’s Internet Protection Act), and FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Whether or not the government’s legislation and kids’ usage actually match up will be another thing entirely. Another major trend of the year, particularly in light of an increasing importance of data: user (student) control of their own educational data — that means both privacy protections and data portability.

OPEN LICENSING: “Open” may well be one of the big marketing terms we’ll hear in the coming months, and it’ll take some scrutiny to really evaluate what many companies mean when they adopt the label. That said, openly licensed content and openly licensed code is likely to be one of the most important trends in 2012: open source technology, open source textbooks, open educational resources, and open data.

PEER TO PEER: “Social learning” has gained a lot of attention in recent years as new technologies have offered ways for students to communicate and collaborate — whether they’re side-by-side in the classroom or thousands of miles away. The ability for learners to connect with one another will be one of the most important trends of the coming year. This isn’t just a matter of connecting learners with online resources or with online instruction. Rather, one of the big opportunities will be to create a space in which learners can help and teach each other.

THE MAKER MOVEMENT: The Maker Movement — encouraging people to make things by hand — may be one of the most important keys to improving STEM education in this country. That’s because it works outside the realm of standardized testing and all the associated hand-wringing. The movement, which includes efforts like Maker Faire and MAKE Magazine, may be the key to helping new demographics (or at the very least, “kids”) discover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in an exciting and hands-on way. Building and tinkering and playing all offer powerful ways to learn and experiment. We need more of this — lots more.

GAMING: Game-based learning has been on the cusp of being “the next big thing” for a while now. Perhaps 2012 will be the year. With the flourishing of mobile technologies, with the promise of data and analytics, and with a realization that we can create new and engaging ways to move through lessons, we are likely to see an explosion of educational gaming apps this year. The big question, of course — with this as with every new ed-tech development: does this actually improve learning? When is a educational game fun? What makes it engaging? What makes it actually educational?

What are your predictions for technology and learning in 2012? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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  • http://incheck.org/ Keanan

    Good writeup. I’d add collaboration technologies, on both the learning (user) and education design ends. A surprising number of the edtech startups in the past year have been towards open ‘source’ course content, learning, and work between students, their professors and staff, and the general community.

    • Tonk

      Great posts. I too agree with some of you. As a high school teacher, I watch daily as students become more and more dependant on technology. It is a good thing, but I think our kids are losing many other important lessons in learning which can truly only come from a living, breathing person, not an i phone. Too much technology is becoming a crutch for too many.

  • R2D2

    IPads in schools and app based learning. Check out the science app Plants HD (http://www.bitly.com/vfUWTU) for an example of curriculum based on apps.

  • Michael Ha
  • http://playwithlearning.com carlton

    Thanks for the post.  Particularly intrigued by BYOD and the Maker Movement – sparked lots of ideas.

    I’m a passionate believer in the potential of game-based learning but I think many so-called educational games have done us a huge disservice – they are neither educational nor games! (http://playwithlearning.com/2011/11/09/educational-games/). 
    Still, I’m optimistic that this year we might see genuinely fruitful developments in the area and some renewed focus (http://playwithlearning.com/2011/12/12/what-games-are-good-for/)

    Thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    Nice article. We are already seeing ‘open’ being used by loads of educational businesses. It makes the business seem more altruistic.

    We think the P2P learning or at least enabling teachers to take classes remotely via video teaching rooms is going to take off in 2012. Anyone interested in this please contact me, kavan@teachme.co or view http://www.teachme.co.

  • Mike in Minn

    As we see more and more technology in classrooms, and we start to see decreased test scores and less tech-educated students passing the various “certified” diploma requirements, and as the job market continues to get tighter and tighter… most of these brilliant ideas will go the way of “new math” because the kids are far too distracted by the “gtitz” to actually learn anything.  This all ignores the fact, as touched upon in this article, that most “broadband” at schools follows the year 2000 definition and simply can’t support this junk… and the teachers are completely unqualified to decide what technology to use in their classes, let alone teach with it.

    • http://www.douglascrets.com Douglas Crets

      Disagree. The corpus of what students must learn is shifting, and we will see more students become conversant in newer learning models and the curriculum embedded in that. It is fair to say that your thinking is traditional and will die out. 

      • Greg Iorio

        Douglas, I agree with you. The educational needs of students today has changed dramatically and the way we teach needs to change accordingly.  We tend to think that since we grew up a with specific teaching style, that all successive generations need to go through the same process, when it is really just a case of something being familiar to us. I think that Educational Gaming is going to change the playing field. Lets embrace it and see where it takes us.

    • Mike in Carmel

      Wow, Mike in Minn, you are way off. You clearly haven’t been in a classroom that uses technology well. The increased engagement of students and the use of technology to allow students to actually see and interact with concepts and ideas that in a non-technological classroom they only get to listen to a teacher talk about, or maybe stare a couple of glossy images, is an amazing occurrence. Oh, and by the way, not all teachers are unqualified to decide about technology, some of us live this stuff. 

  • Mark Lamont

    nice article but i could not help think that most, if not all, of the trends outlined have been trends to watch over the past year or two. like the old saying, the future already exists, it has just not been broadly distributed yet. ditto for the horizon reports that come out each year.

  • http://www.spellathon.net/ Richard Wood

    We are certainly seeing global interest in the first digital Spellathon. Children & students of all ages from over 90 countries are practicing english spelling through this free resource.
    http://www.spellathon.net

  • Anonymous

    Will definitely be keeping an eye many of the trends you discuss. My top interests include mobile leaning, BYOD, open licensing, and games. We need a stronger focus on teacher support to learn how to effectively integrate these technologies and shift their beliefs on tacking and learning to align with the 21st century global economy.

  • Linda

    It sometimes seems like I am trying to move a boulder sized obstacle when I talk about the value of technology tools in the classroom.  Teachers may have a wonderful smart board in their classroom if they are lucky but it is used only in limited ways and often the teachers express frustration at having to use it. 
    I would love to show a student how a writer edits text using a smart board to move things around.  Too often students think that editing their work involves correcting spelling and punctuation.  It shouldn’t be that way.  I edit by changing the content of my writing to make it work.  Showing my students how to do this is a miracle on an interactive surface like a smart board.I have so many technology ideas to share but it is hard to get the teacher to open the doors.

    • Moasismedia

      Agree. Too often, I see school boards both in Canada, S. Korea, China and Malaysia buy expensive equment but have not put the same research and funding in training the teachers to use this material

    • Beyondtool

      The problem with interactive whiteboards is that there just isn’t the software to support them at least in a secondary setting (sure there are a thousand paint and match apps for primary schools). They become glorified data projectors. The few promising apps that I have come across are beyond the finances of most schools.

  • Sljones

    Skyping, texting  and conference calling need to be more prominent in the communication realm, especially in Literature/ Language and English classrooms.  The use of technology seems to be limited with second language learners and creates a gap between those who have access with those who don’t.  You would think it would level the playing field, but it sees to have magnified it.

  • http://www.iputilinet.com/ dquinn

    Is there a way to “love” this discussion? I especially liked the adaptive or what we used to call blended learning. Establishing a functional capability to access a broad set of tools sets the stage for individualized learning. The tools however must align with the curriculum and the time period learning goals. What I am not seeing here is a mention of analytics engines and/or content repositories which are useful in guiding a particular learning style and the curriculum for a certain age group. Thinking about a mind map that focuses on each student with branches that correlate to preferred learning method ( ILT, CBT, WBT, LAB, GAM, EXP, TOU, etc.) with forks that support preferred outcomes rolling up to a teacher dashboard that provides progress toward curriculum goals. 
    Also Liked the NUI use here since I am the individual that first used that term on stage ( 2000 ) with Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) here at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. Still have the videotape. That presentation was about the GUI, the CUI, and NUI as a progressive human/machine interaction. Glad to see that it is happening. For those of you that want a “heavy” read, check out my “Gulf of Learnology” paper at http://www.slideshare.net/iputilinet  

  • Graham Stanley

    Rather than building educational games, which are rarely good games and is the expensive options, I think Education needs to concentrate on COTS (Commercially Off The shelf Games) and free online games and write tasks to exploit these. That’s what we have been trying to show language teachers at http://www.digitalplay.info/blog/ 

    • Andrew Pass

      Graham, 

      I think you are absolutely correct.  So many meaningful educational activities can be draw from the many highly engaging video games that currently exist.  It’s time for educators to stop looking at XBox360 and Play Station as the enemy and begin collaborating with them to create meaningful educational activities. 

      http://www.pass-ed.com

  • Emma

    The fact the educational technologies have become indispensible should come as no surprise as this generation of millennials is more adept at technology than any other. They come to school armed with tablets, smart phones and what not. So it’s obvious that educational content providers deliver   interactive resources that align with these new, more popular interfaces.  Evidently, the hottest trends in the educational sector in the past years have been successful in meeting this new requisite. And going into the future these trends are likely to continue as long as they enable convenience, interactivity, collaboration and make learning less of a task and more of a joy (which is a challenge that will keep innovators and educators on their toes, I’m sure).   I’d like here to mention a rather exciting resource I’ve stumbled upon recently which makes learning simple, fun and more personalized and all that for free. It’s called a FlexBook made by an organization called CK12. They’ve got FlexBooks for all K-12 subjects and are especially great for STEM. Check it out- http://www.ck12.org/flexbook. I’m sure you’ll absolutely love it.

    • Linda

      Wow!  Thanks Emma. I was impressed.  I will try to post some that I have found incredible for my students and especially for me as a teacher. I’ve been using My Delicious to bookmark my favorites and allow others access.
      Incidentally   

      • Emma

        Cheers Linda… Will look forward to your posts.

  • http://twitter.com/edgamer EdGamer

    As a supporter of “Games and Learning” (educational gaming) I am glad to see gaming is on your list. As an educator for 15 years and as someone who utilizes tech when appropriate, I think that every trend on your list is important. I mentioned your list in this week’s EdGamer Podcast #35 http://edreach.us/category/ed-casts/edgamer/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OJMPJBGENZR5NBVGY4XUNDL3I Jeck

    The fact the educational technologies have become indispensable should
    come as no surprise as this generation of millennial is more adept at
    technology than any other. They come to school armed with tablets, smart
    phones and what not. So it’s obvious that educational content providers
    deliver   interactive resources that align with these new, more popular
    interfaces.  Evidently, the hottest trends in the educational sector in
    the past years have been successful in meeting this new requisite. And
    going into the future these trends are likely to continue as long as
    they enable convenience, interactivity, collaboration and make learning
    less of a task and more of a joy (which is a challenge that will keep
    innovators and educators on their toes, I’m sure). I’d like here to
    mention a rather exciting resource I’ve stumbled upon recently which
    makes learning simple, fun and more personalized and all that for free.
    It’s called a Flex Book made by an organization called CK12. They’ve got Flex Books for all K-12 subjects and are especially great for STEM. Check
    it out- http://goo.gl/c32w9. I’m sure you’ll absolutely love it.

    • no

      It’s mind boggling how people are dazzled with the (not-so-new) next big cost tech item. THere’s no excuse anymore. Boomers are clued into what Microsoft Office and the internet are now, tools that are not going to solve the problems of mankind.
      Whether it’s on an I-phone or a textbook, moving pictures or static ones, students still have to read text and work through problems. The traditional role of a k-12 teacher was, and is, to help facilitate that knowledge with TRUE interaction, not a canned video with canned questions being targeted predicated on which canned question the kid get or did not get right.
      I used to play eductional video games, back in the 90s it was on a desktop, not a ‘mobile device’. Big deal…the educational benefit was marginal. How about more tutoring services, wrap around services, teacher’s aides, or God forbid, competitive salaries and classroom autonomy to bring in dedicated personnel? No money for the companies, charters and political lobbyists in that!

  • Jamie

    Components of this article objectively inform the reader of facts about the occurance of trends. However, like most popular media education articles, both the author’s and many commenter’s points of view are based in the current “Very Common = New Standard and Worthy Goal” approach to pedagogy and curriculum. The author omits many of the negative aspects of the overuse of technology “toys” that expedite communication and resources yet remain untested in the evidence-based arena. The ability to delay gratification is a well-researched trait, long associated with academic and career success. Unfortunately, we are just beginning to understand how technology can decrease this abillity.

    The fields of educational and school psychology have produced repeated findings indicating that students learn best when presented with material through multiple modalities (cognitive modes, e.g., auditory, visual, etc.). For reference, begin with research by Dr. Daniel Reschly. Conversely, his research refutes the popular “Treatment by Aptitude” (TBA) or even worse, the “Learning Styles” subjective research by advocates/marketeers like Rita Dunn which suggest that students have a mode, which if not exclusively addressed, will explain learning difficulties.

    As the author notes, the growing use of technology affords many opportunities previously unavailable. Missing is the obvious conclusion that this trend is simultaneously wonderful and regretful.

  • kairos

    If you’re focusing primarily on whether or how most of these trends will be used in traditional schools, you’re missing the point. The central impact of these innovations – games, “social” or affinity-based educational networks, mobile computing – is that they don’t require tight participation in an enforced knowledge institution. And if they don’t require immersion in a restrictive, inefficient disciplinary environment, they won’t occur in those contexts – and already don’t. We can teach each other better than they can, and our kids are going to be scary.

    Actually, screw that, my brother is six years younger than I am and the gap in our facility with novel and mobile network interfaces scares me a bit. Pessimistic teachers on the thread: Have you not seen the infant trying to work a magazine like an iPad, and that 13-year-old app designer giving a damn TEDTalk? Wake up and smell the coffee, we may be headed toward a cliff, but either way you’re behind the curve.

  • English_teacheralex

    Hi, this is ALex from Brazil. as I scrolled down the mouse through the comments I started wondering if it was only intended for teachers from the US to come here and post.

    As I couldn´t find that answer I´m here to share my opinions with you people, regarding the role of tech in the classroom here in Brazil.

    well, basically, there aren´t too many schools either public or private Institutions making use of tech these days, all they know is that it´s impontant, but haven´t found a way of dealing with it in the classroom.

    Too many of us are afraid of using tech inside the classroom due to on the one hand the fact thatr teacher´s knowledge during college doesn´t include the subject of tech in the syllabus. On the other hand, there are quite good teachers not only willing to use tech with the students but also finding ways of offering the students the possibility of using their own devices inside the classroom in controlled classrooms environments.

    • Adam

      As I couldn´t find that answer I´m here to share my opinions with you people, regarding the role of tech in the classroom here in Brazil.

      Very good statement, +100500

      http://www.plagiarismdetect.com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EJUCAOL6ZQ27UKHCN5YDLR2PUM Jim

    It seems that in the near future, printed textbooks will become history as 21st century students grow up with technology and opt the same to access educational material. I have seen students using communications, media, and digital technologies to keep themselves informed and get a clear understanding of topics that they find difficult. Their worldview is different from that of previous generations and therefore, I being a teacher encourage them to learn the way they want to. Customizable CK-12 Flexbooks provides you the liberty to learn at your own pace and in your own style. You can download CK-12 FlexBooks from: http://goo.gl/U40c0. Believe me that student’s participation will increase much more than ever before if you start using CK-12 textbooks in classroom. 

  • Anonymous

    Several points…
    * STEAM not STEM –   STEM is a perversion of the real process and ignores the importance of Art. We need to recognize that Art is important to the creative, scientific process and support it.  Music classes, Art/Craft/Shop Class – these are getting cut so “schools” can spend $$ on computers and sterile corporate learning.   http://www.mauimakers.com/blog/2010/10/from-stem-to-steam-lets-not-forget-the-arts/     * FABLabs as part of Maker movement  MIT created the FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) as an outreach. Now it has taken on a life beyond MIT. The line between makerspaces, fablabs and techshops gets blurred, but FabLab is characterized by open access (low or no fees) and focus on education. Makerspaces are membership driven. TechShopTM and kin are commercial ventures.* Replacing lecture/homework with in-class practice/KhanAcademy-style at home
      This seems to be one of the biggest trends – teachers assign video lectures to be watched outside of class, then do exercises and work with students during class… the opposite of usual process.  Kids can review the lectures when needed, as many times as necessary.

  • Anonymous

    Several points…
    * STEAM not STEM –   STEM is a perversion of the real process and ignores the importance of Art. We need to recognize that Art is important to the creative, scientific process and support it.  Music classes, Art/Craft/Shop Class – these are getting cut so “schools” can spend $$ on computers and sterile corporate learning.   http://www.mauimakers.com/blog/2010/10/from-stem-to-steam-lets-not-forget-the-arts/     * FABLabs as part of Maker movement  MIT created the FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) as an outreach. Now it has taken on a life beyond MIT. The line between makerspaces, fablabs and techshops gets blurred, but FabLab is characterized by open access (low or no fees) and focus on education. Makerspaces are membership driven. TechShopTM and kin are commercial ventures.* Replacing lecture/homework with in-class practice/KhanAcademy-style at home
      This seems to be one of the biggest trends – teachers assign video lectures to be watched outside of class, then do exercises and work with students during class… the opposite of usual process.  Kids can review the lectures when needed, as many times as necessary.

  • http://www.solidoodle.com/ Sam

    This is a great article. I can say from my perspective in the personal 3D printing industry that we’re definitely seeing a rise in the Maker Movement and Open Licensing in the classroom. More and more schools are purchasing 3D printers for the classroom to encourage project-based learning in support of STEM initiatives. Teachers tell me that students feel a sense of ownership when the make something. The proliferation of 3D printers is likewise spurring the creation of Open Licensed content, such as the Google 3D Warehouse, where you can download 3D models of any building on Google Earth for free. With My prediction for 2012 is that 3D printing will continue to become an integral part of the classroom, just as the Apple II computer did in the 1980’s.

  • http://incheck.org/keanan Keanan

    here’s an interesting addition, summary of the NMC Horizon Higher Ed 2012 report: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/02/06/the-6-technologies-that-will-shape-higher-ed.aspx

  • http://twitter.com/textmarks TextMarks

    There’s not doubt mobile phones present a huge opportunity to expand a teacher’s reach beyond the classroom. Some savvy teachers are already assigning homework (and sharing assignments with parents/guardians), providing tips and encouragement, and sending out updates, via bulk SMS. The tools for doing this are inexpensive, easy-to-use, and significantly more effective than email. 95-99% of all texts are read in the first 15 minutes. Food for thought.

  • Ashley Villeret

    Honestly, I believe that technology has become so dominate in today’s society that it is kinda scary. As a college student pursuing to become a teacher I feel that technology it taking away for the one on one relationship that can develop with the students by talking and answering questions during breaks. Now, the only available way to communicate with a teachers/professors is through email due to the almost impossible schedules to meet in their offices.

    Do not get me wrong, I do appreciate the fact that I can easily email my teacher to ask a quick question, I just hope that as a future teacher my students will come to me personally for things they are confused or have questions about. Technology it a great asset but is becoming a crutch.

  • Margo McCann

    Adaptive learning is the biggest trend in education. There is so much technology available that classrooms spend a lot of their time on it. Each year technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of the learning experience.