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Life Skills, Cloud Technology and Branding: K-12 Trends for 2014, Part I

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Even though the traditional K-12 calendar is only about halfway over, the New Year is a time for reflection and goal-setting for educators. The year 2013 has certainly seen a lot of advancement in pedagogy and technology in the classroom, but 2014 is poised for even more changes. While every district, school, and individual classroom operates in its own way, these are some sweeping trends that will impact K-12 education across the board.

Today I look at three of those trends in the first part of this three-part series. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on these trends in the comment section as well.

Life skills. Public schools have always been more than places for book learning and have been a socializing agent too. Now even the most elite, expensive school systems are recognizing the need for training students beyond academics. It is no longer assumed that parents in middle- or high-class homes will bridge the gap between academics and real-world applications. Schools are expected to shoulder that responsibility.

As a result, it seems that educators everywhere are placing greater focus on "life skills" and how they relate to well-rounded students. From the public Eugene School District in Oregon to the $26,000-per year progressive, private Wildwood School in Los Angeles, a rise in emphasis is obvious in areas like integrity, curiosity, problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Schools are not just teaching the skills out of social responsibility; parents have come to expect them as a normal part of the K-12 learning experience.

Movement to the cloud. As technology becomes more customized within classrooms, educators will continue to look for ways to access vital classroom information outside its walls. Cloud computing and storage make it possible for everyday lessons to be revisited from home, for parents to follow along more easily and for teachers to access their files away from their desks. The convenience offered through cloud applications mean that every member of the educational team can work seamlessly toward the same goals without boundaries or having to wait on each other.

Schools are just one industry jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Experts predict that by the end of 2015, the cloud market will be globally worth $180 billion, with 50 million physical servers in the world. Unlike technology developed specifically for classroom use, cloud applications are facing mass adoption in 2014, making it a more affordable and convenient technology for K-12 use.

School branding. There is a lot of talk of "school choice" these days. With more than 2 million students enrolled in charter schools and 16 states with private school choice programs, the days of settling on school because of geography (or paying a hefty premium to avoid it) are past. As a result, competition for students is on the rise and a type of branding is taking place, even at public schools. Consider it school team spirit - on steroids. It is not enough to simply claim education in vague terms as a reason to attend a particular school. Schools must "prove" their worth in the broader educational marketplace.

Expect educators to band together and come up with niches or specialties that set their schools apart in some way. In the case of magnet schools, a specialty is often already established - but there is still room for even more customization of a particular school's brand or identity in its area. Schools will continue to flock to social media as tools for outreach and will become more invested in community events that feature that particular school as an integral part.

Are you seeing these trends take shape at your own schools?

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends and Technologies in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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