Jan 19 2018

4 K-12 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2018

Analytics, virtual reality, makerspaces and digital citizenship top the minds of education experts for the year.

The classroom of the future isn’t far from becoming a reality in 2018.

From learning analytics tools providing students with instant feedback on their work to virtual reality facilitating field trips to faraway lands to 3D printers filling makerspaces, the classroom looks quite a bit different than it did just five years ago.

With all of these technologies populating classrooms this year, it is also more integral than ever that educators instill students with the tenets of digital citizenship.

Here are some expert opinions on the four major trends of the year:

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1. Learning Analytics Tools Provide Real-Time Feedback

Rather than continue to rely on end-of-unit tests to measure student progress, educators will continue to embrace data analytics tools to deliver feedback in real time, said Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, in a statement issued by ISTE in August.

“Tools that can visualize student progress in real time and recommend learning activities based on individual student progress are just becoming available,” said Culatta. “This will allow teachers to intervene and adjust more quickly when students are struggling to comprehend difficult subjects.”

Education expert Matthew Lynch notes on his blog “The Tech Edvocate,” that data analytics tools in the classroom will also be increasingly used as a way for students to track their own achievement.

“Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences,” writes Lynch.

Adaptive learning tools, which use elements of machine learning to modify learning experiences based on student ability and understanding, are also on the rise in K–12 with leaders indicating they have tripled their spending on such tools.

2. VR in the Classroom Grows More Feasible

Once an expensive pursuit, virtual reality has become more affordable thanks to tools such as Google Cardboard. Last fall, Microsoft also introduced a batch of relatively affordable mixed reality headsets that cut down the number of sensors needed to provide an immersive experience.

Free resources such as The New York Times VR app and the Discovery VR app are constantly updated, so the likelihood of educators finding a virtual experience to support their lessons has also increased.

Culatta said that as long as teachers consider the learning goals that immersive experiences help them achieve, VR can serve as an exceptional way to help illustrate a topic.

In the vein of VR, Lynch also notes that virtual laboratories, which allow students to try lab exercises with no pressure of getting it right, will likely start to emerge.

3. STEAM Will Continue to Rise

Though it’s been a buzzword in K–12 for quite some time, STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — education will continue to grow in 2018.

“Whether students have an affinity for the arts or not, incorporating elements of creativity into STEM education has undeniable benefits, including making STEM more approachable and understandable,” writes Ricky Ye, the CEO of DFRobot, a robotics and open source hardware provider, on eSchool News.

Makerspaces will continue to be a driving force behind STEAM education with schools utilizing technology (think 3D printers) and traditional art supplies (think construction paper).

Research from School Library Journal indicates that maker activities at elementary and middle schools increased by 4 percent from 2014 to 2017. Makerspaces and STEAM education will also continue to reimagine the role of the school librarian. SLJ notes that in 90 percent of schools with maker programs, librarians were involved in organizing the activities.

4. Digital Citizenship Remains a Priority

Digital citizenship was at the forefront in 2017, with schools looking to help their students identify everything from fake news to phishing attempts. Google even partnered with ISTE to create a game that drove these tenets home.

While digital citizenship will remain a top priority for educators in today’s tech-driven world, Culatta said the focus will turn away from “what not to do on the internet.”

“This year we think we’ll see a shift in the conversation around digital citizenship to focus on encouraging students to harness tech tools to do good in the world and incite change,” he said in the ISTE statement.

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