4 Education Technology Trends To Watch - InformationWeek
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4 Education Technology Trends To Watch

Educational technology is changing rapidly. These four trends will influence learning in schools -- and in corporations.

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Windows 10: 7 Predictions Of What's Next
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Gamification, the maker movement, augmented reality, and distance learning aren't the first things that come to mind when you consider your local schools. Yet, these were among the hottest topics discussed at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando on Wednesday.

Now in its 36th year, FETC brought together 9,000 educators and technologists to explore how best to incorporate high-tech instruction and testing into classes. While the focus here was on teaching kids, many of the technologies and techniques discussed can be applied to corporate learning and IT training as well.

The first big topic started years ago. Today, we call it "gamification" instead of the old "making learning fun." Though the methods may have changed, the goal remains the same: To improve information retention and critical thinking by applying game design principles to curriculum development and teaching practice. There are a couple of new wrinkles in this old topic, though. The first is that gaming principles are being applied to testing as well as instruction. The second is that teachers and technologist aren't apologizing for turning classrooms into gaming centers. They have research to back up gamification's effectiveness, and the push is on to include it in more and more classrooms.

The maker culture was also on the list of hot topics at FETC. Now, this isn't strictly a single technology -- it's an approach to technology. It's an approach that more and more educators are seeing as a valuable way to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lessons into the classroom. The kind of projects that tend to be popular among makers -- robotics, 3D printing, computer programming -- have long been hits for boys. But a recent Intel-sponsored report points out that making can be critical for bringing more girls into STEM programs.

[Augmented reality is a growing trend in business and education. Read Augmented Reality Is For Real In The Enterprise.]

The third thing conference attendees were talking about is augmented and virtual reality in the classroom. No one thinks that middle-school students are going to start spending their days attending class with virtual reality helmets firmly in place. But at FETC, the audience for Wednesday's keynote gasped and applauded when augmented reality applications were demonstrated for teaching topics as diverse as history and chemistry. There are things that can be done through augmented reality that simply can't be done with any other tool -- and a growing number of educators see those things as absolutely, positively worth doing.

(Source: svonog/Wikipedia)
(Source: svonog/Wikipedia)

Finally, there were a number of conference sessions on the "blended classroom" -- a classroom where the demands of in-person teaching are shared with technologies and practices from online, virtual classrooms. Just as many companies have decided that employees' locations are much less important than their ability to successfully do work, teachers and administrators are recognizing that there are many ways to be "in front of the classroom" -- and some of those ways don't require the teacher and student to be within 1,000 miles of one another.

It's important to note that this embrace of technology isn't universal. In fact, discussions also focused on the number of academies that continue to eschew the technology development discussed in favor of books and "traditional" lectures and tests. For many educators at FETC, though, the consensus is that if technology can be effective as a teaching aid, then there is no reason to refuse its use.

How does your local school district use technology? Would you consider your local schools to be "high tech?" Let us know which side of the debate you (and the schools in your area) fall on.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is executive editor for technical content at InformationWeek. In this role he oversees product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he acts as executive producer for InformationWeek Radio and Interop Radio where he works with ... View Full Bio
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Curt Franklin
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 1:13:38 PM
Re: Retaining capacity
@SachinEE, you won't catch me discounting the importance of reading but the fact is that there are many different literacies that a person must have to function in western society and it's time we spent time recognizing and cultivating those literacies.

I'm not talking about things like "emotional literacy" (though, to be honest, that's important, too) but audio, video, and graphical literacy. My generation was the first to have television used as a formal learning tool; I'm amazed at how much more literate young people are in terms of moving image contstruction and understanding than am I.

For me, the most exciting thing about the new technologies is that they allow students the opportunity to learn in the way that works best for them, whether it be listening, reading, watching a demo, or hands-on experience. "One size fits all" doesn't -- especially when it comes to education.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2015 | 2:29:50 PM
Channels vs teaching techology
I'm rather new to the technology in the classroom debate but have been in technology for over 20.  I find this debate interesting since we seem to spend more time on talking about delivery of content (the channel) than talking about what kids need to understand about technology so they can make good decisions concerning when a technology should or should not be used.

There are times when a technology makes a lot of sense to use such as spell checking.  However as one uses this technology it also has an impact on how one writes.  I have found that as I learn a new language, French, and respond to question when using Duolingo, I many times miss type words thus getting responds wrong.

I believe schools need to spend more time teaching about what technology is, the pros and cons in different situations and even the moral issues concerning technologies and less time using the newest channels or widget.  The channels and widgets will continue to change and schools can't afford to keep up with the latest and greatest widget but they can address the what, when and why questions cost effectively.

User Rank: Strategist
1/23/2015 | 10:14:30 AM
Re: Effectiveness and Competition with Gamification
I spent a few months covering education tech, and gamification and blended learning were both hot topics. Glad to see these trends are still growing. Gamification has huge potential to help kids become more engaged with what they're learning and collaborate with one another. Sure, it may involve competition, but I think some competition is a positive thing. After all, kids play competitive sports. What's wrong with a bit of competition in the classroom?
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2015 | 1:05:33 AM
Effectiveness and Competition with Gamification
Gamification is already a very proven education tool, as many many examples show. We collected many examples on our Enterprise Gamification Wiki

Also competition, which is just one of nearly 200 game design elements, can be problematic in a learning environment. Gamification is not at all about competition, but as mentioned before, can also be cooperation.

And finally, how effective is it? Indeed, with traditional classroom settings, only 10% of the taught material is retained by the learner. If you use visuals, sounds, appeal to more senses, and use gamification, 30-40% are retained. But if you create an immersive experience, such as instead of learning the facts about the French revolution, but experiencing it through let's say role play through a character, up to 90%(!) of the taught material retain with the student.

I write about all these things in my book Enterprise Gamification - Engaging People By Letting Them Have Fun
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 11:04:29 PM
Re: Retaining capacity
@molly, the one concern people might have about gamification in classrooms is that it would stoke the dark side of competitiveness. But gamification can be designed to encourage cooperation and teamwork. And I suppose it can be even designed like a game of T-ball, where everybody wins. On the other hand, perhaps having winners and losers isn;t a bad thing (since that's life, as Sinatra might say).
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 9:59:57 PM
Re: Retaining capacity
Implementing a STEM program that is thorough and efficient can be lots of fun. Unfortunately strict pacing calendars, gathering assessment data, gathering work for the bulletin boards and portfolios and the beaucratice red tape placed on teachers this is not always easily implemented. Teachers are faced with adhering to the strict guidelines of the commone core through the use of common core aligned textbooks, it leaves little time for creativity, flexibility, and learning through fun and innovative ways such as STEM infused activities. The test obsessed system is sadly constructed around teaching to the test on a consistent basis, especially since teachers are not largely evaluated by their student's scores. I think schools that participate in STEM and project based learning can really be a valuable learning experience for students. I think that The educational trends that you mentioned in the article can create positive learning experiences, increase student engagement, and steer more girls into possibly pursuing fields in science, technology, engineering, and math. If teachers are not supported in being able to take time to facilitate such technological trends, than they should at least be able to do so in after school programs or clubs. I think it can really benefit the children and enhance their learning.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2015 | 2:18:34 PM
Re: Retaining capacity
I completely agree, the use of games in the classroom in order to allow students to grasp a concept more fully is a brilliant use of our time and money. Not all children can reach their full potential listening to a lecture. I'm not a huge fan of video games (for my own personal reasons) however when used for educational purposes it allows children who may have a hard time concentrating or who need their hands to be busy along with their ears and their eyes to focus on the task in front of them. I hope futher advances are made and this form of education continues to be apart of the classroom.
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 1:05:54 PM
Retaining capacity
Let's be honest: books are important, however, students can get a grasp of the topic and retain it in their memory better if the topic is presented in the form of pictures and sound, maybe a video and maybe virtual reality. 
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