One of the biggest trends in educational technology shouldn’t be a trend at all.
“Equity should be something that we always do, not a trend,” says Josh Stumpenhorst, learning commons director at Lincoln Junior High School in Naperville, Ill. “It’s become a conversation.”
To that end, EdTech’s trends for 2020 involve the nuts and bolts of educational technology — AR/VR, makerspaces, esports and more — while encompassing the ways those technologies support learning for all students. Here are some things to look forward to in the coming year:
Makerspaces Pave the Way for Inclusive Classrooms
These consciously created spaces where students are free to pursue their own interests are most often linked to STEM, but it doesn’t end there. “We hold a belief system that makerspaces inspire literacy proficiency,” says Ginger Christian, principal of Anderson Elementary in Bristol, Tenn. “They engage students in a way that requires investigation of literacy skills.”
In fact, not all makerspace tech has to be directly related to STEM — the app Book Creator, for example, allows students to create all sorts of digital books, including instructional manuals for experiments done in traditional STEM spaces. The program, which is integrated with Google’s Chromebook App Hub, recently added over 200 updates to improve accessibility from a dictation feature that supports 120 languages to different visual display modes and fonts for students with dyslexia and visual impairments.
Still, STEM reaps a solid share of the benefits makerspaces bring to schools. These spaces have tech on hand that helps educators tailor instruction for students with varying educational needs — programming tools such as littleBits code kits; building sets such as KEVA Planks and Tegu blocks; and digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers.
“Student choice is so powerful,” Christian says. “When students are engaged in work that previously they did not want to be engaged in, they’re invested. They’re building with their own hands.”
READ MORE: Learn how makerspaces are transforming K–12 schools from our FETC 2020 coverage.
Esports Boost Student Engagement and Collaboration
With more schools embracing the possibilities of esports in career and technical education, the field is poised to grow in 2020. The National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors is launching a new certification program in March 2020, helping schools hire appropriate coaches and offering professional development courses. Esports programs can assist schools looking to capture the attention of otherwise disengaged students, particularly in STEM. These programs also offer an opportunity for both boys and girls at all levels of physical ability to play together, which other sports programs are missing.
Mobile Device Management Is No Longer Optional
One-to-one programs and mobile hotspots play an important role in closing the homework gap, but they also mean that schools have more devices to manage than ever. Coupled with BYOD policies, mobile device management systems are less a trend and more of a matter of necessity. But different districts will have different MDM needs — an institution with a robust IT team may be better off with an on-premises system that offers more control over sensitive data, while a smaller team may opt for a cloud-based system that minimizes complications.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Build Focus and Social Skills
As AR and VR presence grows in schools, so does its ability to aid all students. By providing a learning space that blocks out distraction, AR/VR can nurture focus. This helps students foster social and emotional skills and is a particular boon to students with sensory and attention disorders. VR can also support students with autism by allowing them to practice social skills away from an overwhelming real-life environment.
AR/VR will continue to grow in 2020, even beyond its benefits in assistive learning. Costs are starting to come down, according to a report from ABI Research, making these technologies more accessible throughout the country. As educators are more able to demonstrate the return on investment to schools, districts may have more justification for spending on AR/VR. “It helps kids to interact with things in a way they couldn’t normally,” says Stumpenhorst. “We’re in the suburbs of Chicago, but we can take a kid into the Colosseum in Rome and see a gladiator standing in the room. It’s coming around.”