informa
/
Commentary

Education IT: Hot Tech Trends To Watch

Cloud, big data, and security are all big factors in education IT this year. At the same time, there is a cultural shift taking place not only among the student body, but within the demographics of the IT departments themselves.
10 Quirky Tech Job Interview Questions That May Stump You
10 Quirky Tech Job Interview Questions That May Stump You
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

(Continued from preceding page)

"Institutions need to develop new and more efficient ways to operate and extract key data from their complex internal systems. Fragmentation in how and where data is stored is resulting in the development, as we speak, of technology solutions that work to bring data from multiple sources together under one umbrella."

Some see that process as underway, with plenty of forces for good. "The sophisticated use of educational data will enable personalization of educational technology in a way that had previously only been possible on a small scale," said Dr. Amy Ogan, assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition, she said she sees education technology as increasingly able to take students' emotional and social needs into account, in addition to the cognitive.

In the short term, education technology may adopt a more decentralized model, in which computational thinking and doing happen all over the school via portable devices, said JD Pirtle, director of innovation at a preschool-eighth grade school and founder of the Catherine Cook School IDEA:TE conference. "Instead of pull-out tech time, emerging and traditional technologies are incorporated into every discipline, from art to science to PE. This shift means that technology can be intentionally used by teachers and students as a significant tool for research, expression, and inquiry."

Education Without Borders

Education has always been about making information available to a wide audience, and several trends are underway making it more so.

In particular, education is becoming less proprietary and bound by geography.

[ Rock your next job interview. Read 8 Cheat-Sheet Sites To Ace Tech Job Interviews. ]

"Like it or not, the traditional way of educating our planet is about to be hugely disrupted," said WalkMe's head of marketing, Boaz Amidor. "Heavyweight universities like MIT and Harvard now offer materials open-source via massive online open courses [MOOCs]. Practically unlimited numbers of curious individuals can access course materials without ever stepping foot on campus. A critical mass of free and very low cost MOOCS are high quality in both academic level and user experience." That's a boon for potential students but has IT implications -- not the least of which is bandwidth.

education-IT_keyboard.jpg

(Image: NiroDesign/iStockphoto)

"Social learning is not only about technology, but as with many things, technology can amplify, improve, and expedite a process, as is the case with learning," says Sabine Welz, global business development lead, SAP Learning Hub. "The real shift is in the culture, which encourages ongoing knowledge transfer through social learning tools and connects people in ways that make learning more enjoyable."

According to Columbia University's Rosenblatt, three factors are moving education from a location- and time-based event ("I have a math class at 3 p.m.") to a fluid experience ("I just figured out that last problem, I logged into my virtual class and answered the question."). You need a fast network, mobile access everywhere as an enabler, and big data to create and track these virtual classes, he said. "I don't think that this will be available everywhere next year, but I see the beginnings right around the corner."

Open source in general may continue to have an impact, though it's less obvious precisely how and where. "I believe that schools are not competitors, and by embracing open source we can all work together to provide great, robust tools that can be easily modified to work best for the individual needs of any school," said Carlson at the American Embassy School.

Not everyone expects school IT to be dominated by open source. "Open source content will continue to grow, but open source software will never take hold. School districts do not have software engineers like colleges and universities. As a result, it is unlikely for this market to contribute a lot in open source software," says Kim of Education Elements. "However, there are a lot of teachers who can contribute to creating open source content. The resources and support in the area of open source content will grow even faster than in prior years. By 2020, I expect over 50% of all core curriculum across K-12 to be open sourced."

Columbia University's Rosenblatt reminded us, however, that educational technology moves slowly. "Having worked at the same university for over 38 years, I can safely say that there have been tremendous changes in the use of technology in education, but none of them has been short term."

Rising stars wanted. Are you an IT professional under age 30 who's making a major contribution to the field? Do you know someone who fits that description? Submit your entry now for InformationWeek's Pearl Award. Full details and a submission form can be found here.