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Commentary
12/29/2014
09:06 AM
Harman Singh
Harman Singh
Commentary
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5 Education Tech Trends For 2015

Education is being flipped on its head by technology. Teachers see the promise -- and the pitfalls.

This is an exciting time to be in education technology. The global spend on edtech in classrooms is on the rise, fueling a market that is projected to reach $19 billion by 2018, according to a market study released by Futuresource Consulting earlier this year. As blended learning environments evolve, administrators and teachers continue to celebrate the promise of digital learning and experience the pitfalls of underwhelming edtech tools. Below are five edtech trends and opportunities for developers of these tools to consider.

Technology for flipped-learning
The rationale behind the flipped class -- a form of blended learning in which students learn content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and homework is done in class with teachers and students discussing and solving questions -- is to engage learners in and out of the classroom. The dynamic nature of this approach enables teachers to create effective and fun asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences.

Experts agree that passive learning with video doesn't boost student achievement. As flipped learning becomes more prevalent, the distribution tools and video streaming that are central to this approach must be optimized for interactivity. The stakes are higher than ever, with next-generation, cloud-based solutions displacing older learning management systems (LMS). Features such as powerful analytics that measure student responses and mobile learning capabilities will become the hallmarks of the best flipped classrooms.

[Check out 8 STEM Websites To Excite Kids About Tech.]

Device agnostic learning
While videos and websites are basically ubiquitous across all devices, many apps are native, even exclusive, to one device or mobile operating system. The pain points caused by multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, and multiple operating systems are not sustainable.

Teachers and students shouldn't bear the burden of device management. Their priorities should be centered on learning. The most innovative edtech creators realize that the future is to develop device agnostic services. As more and more teachers integrate mobile learning, this flexibility will be a requirement.

(Source: Wesley Fryer)
(Source: Wesley Fryer)

Assistive technologies in the classroom
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for designers of software systems and technology products is to deliver a uniform experience to a large and diverse human population. Creators of edtech stand to benefit from ensuring that their products and services are designed to allow differently-abled students the same access to learning.

US federal accessibility standards pertaining to information technology, known as Section 508, should be a core design and development requirement, rather than an afterthought. A burgeoning industry continues to go beyond these baseline compliance standards, leading development of assistive technologies.

Earlier this month, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking made headlines with his commentary about the role of assistive technologies that support him. The same Fortune article cited a Gartner report issued in late 2013, estimating that approximately 15% of the world's population could benefit directly from assistive technologies -- and the rest of us will also feel a positive impact from the innovation behind them. It's clear that assistive technologies, ranging from simple to complex, are playing an increasingly vital role in reducing barriers to learning for students with a variety of special needs and challenges.

Mobile learning
Mobile learning apps were everywhere in 2014. This next year, we expect more mobile learning platforms and apps to be available on iOS and Android, along with heightened expectations related to enhanced learning experiences and outcomes. At its best, mobile learning technology can drive collaboration and engage different types of individual learners and various groups of interconnected learners.

My company, WizIQ, is heavily focused on how such technologies enable sturdier scaffolding for student learning and broaden the virtual classroom experience. Features such as live participation, location-aware notification delivery, and ubiquitous access are paving the way for context-aware adaptive and personalized mobile learning systems -- functionality that has the potential to fuel lifelong learning in an unprecedented way.

Personalized blended learning
Customization is king and the array of edtech tools that can meet the needs of students in a personalized, meaningful, and timely manner based on best practices stand to rule. But first, a word of advice to all creators of edtech tools: Technology isn't the driver. Your strong belief in your innovation is secondary to the needs of students, teachers, and administrators.

Recognize that teachers are tasked with implementing, and often times, identifying, the best mix of digital learning tools for each student. Different approaches to learning, such as project-based learning, maker education, game-based learning, and more, will continue to be explored as part of personalized blended learning models. Accordingly, such innovations will push edtech vendors to deliver more than technology or content -- but will require them to demonstrate how their product or service improves learning outcomes.

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Harman Singh is the CEO of WizIQ,a SaaS-based online education platform with 300,000 active educators and 3.7 million registered learners. Recognized for his expertise in conceptualizing, planning and developing specialized solutions for the online learning industry, Singh ... View Full Bio
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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 10:11:45 AM
Re: Streaming education for higher Ed, how about coding for the rest?
thank you for the insight.  I had no ideas of the challenges teachers had in public education. My personal teaching experience has been in the college level. There, administrators are very flexible on how they can go about teaching the class.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 3:14:07 PM
Re: Streaming education for higher Ed, how about coding for the rest?

Pedro Most US teachers have to follow a curriculum determined by their school district so they have very little creativity in the material they present. I think that the curriculum has to embody the actual technology pieces with training in order to really get the technology implemented in the classrooms regularly. For so many school districts putting a Smartboard in the classroom constitutes technology, there is little integration of technology into the curriculum.

PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 10:14:49 AM
Re: Streaming education for higher Ed, how about coding for the rest?
I agree.  There should be an emphasis on training both students and faculty in using such technologies.  I think that there were many things missing from this article.  How can teachers evaluate all these different technologies to better determine which will suit the needs for their class?  Also, how can these technologies help class engagement in the material?  We know instances where when students are giving tablets, they are surfing the web or doing something else. I think that there is room for technology in the classroom, but it won't solve all the problems.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 4:55:52 PM
Potential vs. reality

I agree the opportunities for making learning more powerful than ever are amazing with technology unfortunately I am not seeing this reality realized. So much rests with the teachers many of whom did not grow up with technology and are intimidated by it. The potential will not be fully realized until these teachers get training on how to bring the technology into their classrooms in a tangible way day to day. So much of learning is still happening the way it was when I went to school.

asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 4:41:15 PM
More power to the MOOC
And let's not forget that MOOCs are fast becoming the gold standard for collegiate distance learning.  Why pay $100k for a Bachelor's degree that doesn't guarantee anything except perhaps a job pouring coffee when you can take college level classes from MIT et al. online for free?  
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 2:16:47 PM
Streaming education for higher Ed, how about coding for the rest?
While I think these types of advancements are great for higher ed, where especially for many students, distance learning is going to become more appealing (especially with the rising rates of student residency), I am hoping to see some investments to younger students as well.  While I love the idea that students will be better versed in different technology platforms, I think a huge investment into training students, or at least making classes available, for learning how to program for these new platforms will be a significant area for improvement in the next few years.
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