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What's Trending in Ed Tech?

If you think there's a lot of mobile technology in schools now, just wait five years.

That's among the most compelling findings—in my opinion, at least—of the Software & Information Industry Association's Trends Report for Education Technology, which is actually a series of five separate reports on K-12 learning management systems, postsecondary learning management systems, education technology capability across the states, online learning and mobile computing. The report was released Tuesday, and is available free for SIIA members here.

Expect a big jump in cloud computing, an embracing of students using cell phones, better and faster mobile devices for educational use, and so much specialization that you generally can't keep track, say Tom Greaves and Richard A Milewski, authors of the study and partners at the educational consulting firm The Greaves Group. Equally, expect technology businesses to adopt their models or suffer consequences. The bundling of hardware and software products together to sell is one possibility, as is the rise of more systems that aid distribution of online learning materials, like Apple's iTunes U.

If you follow ed tech, there's nothing entirely revolutionary about this. But the language is strong enough to get your attention, particularly their forecast which boldly reads "A cell phone in every pocket." Greaves and Milewski expect most of this to occur within the next five years, which if you look back at the last five, seems entirely possible.

Cloud computing—where students work at an on-site terminal, but their computations are stored on a remote network rather than a hard drive—was gaining some significant steam with some of the chief information officers I talked to for a story about negotiating purchases of hardware and software in our upcoming Digital Directions issue. The same story also touches on how CIOs can use the differentiation Greaves and Milewski predict to help cut costs and create competition when buying. And our former Education Week colleague Andrew Trotter explored the cell-phone trend more than a year ago. Also, District Administration has a whole new package on the potential for mobile learning in schools.

To recap: Cloud computing, cell-phone use in schools, increasingly capable mobile technology, differentiation galore and new business models will typify the next five years in education technology. Anything they left out?

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