Six different kinds of technology and tech practices—some of them familiar to most educators, others not as much—are likely to become increasingly important in K-12 systems over the next few years, a new report predicts.
The Horizon Report's 2013 K-12 Edition, the fifth in a series focused on pre-college education, discusses those tech tools, which include those meant for use by individual students and those designed to change the digital makeup of entire schools and districts. It also describes barriers that are likely get in the way of effective use of technology.
The report was released by the New Media Consortium, an international organization focused on educational technology, as well as the Consortium for School Networking and the International Society for Technology in Education. Its findings are based on the opinions and analyses of school and college tech officials, business representatives from companies around the world, among others.
The report organizes the technologies in three categories: those likely to have a major impact in the near-term, meaning they're likely to make a difference in schools within the next year; mid-term tech and tech practices, or those likely to make a difference in schools within the next year; and those on a far-term timeframe, likely to have an impact in the next four to five years, respectively.
In the near-term:
• Mobile technologies have an expanding presence in school, a growth driven by "bring-your-own-device" policies, the rise of mobile apps and other tools, and a strong interest from the private sector in developing new technologies.
• Cloud computing is already being used by schools today, and more are turning to that option as a way to outsource portions of tech infrastructure. New devices designed to operate in the cloud that could help schools are coming on the market, the authors note.
In the mid-term:
• Learning analytics, or the field focused on making sense of trends and patterns using "big data," or huge amounts of student-related data, is likely to grow. Data analysis is being used to help struggling learners and tailor curricula to student needs.
• The use of open content was once largely confined to higher education, but now more organizations are developing those free, flexible materials for K-12 schools. That's partly a response to "an expression of student choice about when and how to learn," the Horizon report says.
In the far-term:
• 3-D printing has the potential to help schools introduce students to the design process, help schools create materials that demonstrate concepts in curriculum, and make classrooms more creative places, the Horizon report argues.
• Virtual and remote laboratories can allow schools to use wireless networks, cloud-based software, and mobile devices to bring scientific experiences to schools that have only limited labs.
The authors also point to big potential stumbling blocks on the horizon. Today's technology in schools doesn't do enough to support personalized learning, for instance. And professional development to implement new technology is often lacking, they say.
"All too often, when schools mandate the use of a specific technology, teachers are left without the tools (and often skills) to effectively integrate the new capabilities into their teaching methods," the Horizon report says. "The results are that the new investments are underutilized, not used at all, or used in a way that mimics an old process."