Evolving Classroom Education: Where Is K-12 Technology Headed?
In the past decade, classrooms have become more than a hub for learning; they have transformed into showcases for the latest technology. From utilizing the Internet in lesson planning to "one tablet per child" initiatives, multimedia learning has arrived in K-12 classrooms. New teachers may not understand the extent to which technology has changed the student experience but veteran educators know the significance. Even the most progressive technology will be considered outdated, or even obsolete, in just a few short years.
So where will technology go from here? Educators can expect fast developments in the following areas:
BYOD: Known as Bring Your Own Device initiatives, this idea represents a reversal from schools' original stance on mobile devices. Instead of asking students to put Smartphones or tablets away during class time, teachers and administrators are starting to encourage those devices in public school settings. Integrating the technology that students already own and use is an affordable approach to digital forms of learning. Of course not every student has access to a personal mobile device, but this change of mindset shifts learning control from school officials to the hands of the student user.
Natural user interfaces: In its simplest definition, a natural user interface, or NUI, uses the body's movements to provide outcomes. In the consumer market, examples of natural user interfaces including the Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and the iPhone's famous virtual assistant, Siri. The potential in the field of K-12 education is still being realized but will certainly lead to developments in the next half-decade. The advantage to this type of technology is that it expands the reach of what students can use it. Blind, deaf, physically disabled and autistic children can better learn through use of this still-evolving technology. Dimitri Kanevsky is a member of the Obama administration's Champion of Change initiative. He writes about the way that technology works to "remove barriers that emerge due to a person's social characteristics, geographic location, physical or sensory abilities." NUIs have the potential to meet these qualifications and on a life-changing level.
Personal learning environments: This type of learning is student-centric. PLEs focus on allowing students to choose resources, often through electronic formats, for individual learning that fits their own style and pace. If implemented correctly, students will be empowered to create their own learning futures and reflect on the way these tools impact academic and life success. For public schools to completely embrace this philosophy, cloud computing and mobile device technology needs to be in place. PLEs need to be portable and easily accessed to really provide an academic advantage.
What Does it all Mean, Really?
Tablets. Apps. BYOD. NUIs. PLEs. Each piece of K-12 classroom technology builds on the one that preceded it. At times it may seem like public school teachers and administrators need a second full-time job in the technology sector in order to keep up with electronic classroom culture. While it will be several years until the impact of these technologies can truly be measured in terms of student success, the general consensus is to adapt at all costs, and fast.
Do public schools have the resources to adapt in a relevant span of time though? Changes in technology policies often need approval. To bring in new equipment also requires budget approval - and actual money available in the budget. All of this red tape takes time and time is not a friend of technology.
While colleges and universities, even public ones, move to adjust rapidly to advancements, K-12 institutions are just the opposite. This is a disadvantage to students, teachers and our culture as a whole. For technology to truly make an impact, the barriers in its way in public schools need to come down. This will require a shift in attitude at all levels of K-12 decision-making and forward movement at a rapid pace.