As January comes to a close, it’s a good time to take a look at what might be hot this year in K–12 education.
Though Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education, hasn’t spoken much about educational technology, a Forbes article reports that she has said in the past that blended learning and digital tools play a role in K–12 education choice.
From data analytics to innovative STEM programs and personalized learning tracks to new competency-based approaches, thanks to technology, K–12 education is poised to leap forward in new and exciting ways this year.
1. Increasing Understanding of Data and Student Privacy
In the past few years, schools have collected more data than ever before, and some, like Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan, have used that data to boost student attendance and achievement.
Woody Dillaha and Jeanette Haren of Performance Matters, which helps schools analyze data, told eSchool News that 2017 will see schools looking to connect student and educator data as a way to measure program investments and their effect on learning outcomes.
“Using data to point to what’s actually happening in a district encourages collaboration across departments to make sure that teachers are in the classroom as much possible, and that when they are engaged in professional development, it is for meaningful and substantial learning that makes their time away from the classroom worthwhile.”
With increased use of data comes an increase in student privacy concerns. Those will continue, but as Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, told THE Journal, teachers and parents are now coming at privacy with a new understanding: “There’s an expectation around privacy, a new strategy around reframing it from privacy to what I would say is trust.”
When it comes to privacy concerns, the best defense will be educating teachers and students about the law and training students for digital citizenship.
2. Creating Access to STEM Through Makerspaces and VR
Last year saw big strides in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. From President Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative to the launch of new AP courses and Minecraft: Education Edition, 2016 was all about increasing access to STEM.
For 2017, ISTE’s interim CEO Cheryl Williams told THE Journal that a continued emphasis on transforming STEM programs to STEAM by adding art components could broaden the appeal to women and minorities.
“When we concentrate too much on the hard cognitive things without understanding the importance of appealing to the emotive side of who we are as learners, then we miss a whole entry point,” says Williams in the article.
Some English and language arts educators have already turned to STEM tools, such as robots and littleBits, to help students with critical thinking and empathy toward characters they are reading about.
Makerspaces will continue to be an important tool in bringing STEM-related technology like 3D printers to the classroom.
In a trend piece on TrustED, teacher and blogger Matthew Lynch touted the importance of makerspaces to help kids learn to solve real-world problems.
Kathy Schrock, a Wilkes University professor and educational technologist, told eSchool News that tools that help students create 360 degree images and videos for virtual reality tools like Google Cardboard will also be more prevalent in the makerspace.
VR also has the potential to open the entire world for students in STEM classes. Not every school has the budget for a number of science labs, and Lynch told TrustED that’s where he believes VR comes in.
“Such places as Howard Hughes Medical Institute offer free use of online virtual labs that significantly support both scientific learning and critical thinking skills,” says Lynch.
Google also offers a number of free VR tours of natural history museums that make a class field trip even simpler.
3. Making Way for Blended, Personalized and Competency-Based Learning
Thanks to technology, teachers can now tailor education to each student. Educators Stephanie Shaw and Michael Meechin have told EdTech how certain apps have helped them reach out to students who need extra attention.
Tech will certainly continue to boost these opportunities to improve learning outcomes. Peter West, director of e-learning at St. Stephen’s College, told eSchool News that an increase in blended learning — a combination of traditional instruction and individualized digital programs — will likely soon create a tipping point where schools will be reorganizing their curriculum to support widespread use of such programs.
New Hampshire schools are already moving in this direction with their innovative competency-based learning models. A report in the journal Education Next outlined the program as a way to help students learn at their own pace.