Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five Trends to Watch in Educational Technology

Thanks to EdSurge for providing a link to this informative presentation by Frank Catalano on trends in educational technology. In it, he outlines five trends that cross K-12 and higher education, and it's certainly hard to argue with any of them.
  1. Tablets
  2. Digital Chunked Content
  3. Games/Simulations
  4. Paradata (Learning Analytics)
  5. UnCollege Movement
Reading through this made me think about my own lists of trends and, more importantly, the reasoning behind what research I am pursuing at the moment, and why I clip the articles I do. In general, everything I pursue is related in some way to learning content itself. That is my primary interest and filter. So, for example, I definitely place iPads and Smartphones in my top-five educational technology trends list, but my interest is in their impact on learning content -- delivery, formatting, design and reading.

With that brief bit of context, here are five trends that I am actively watching, along with fresh news for each.
  1. Curriculum -- Across education, the very notion of curriculum is changing in a number of ways. We are seeing a shift to newer literacies and are even beginning to entertain significant changes to what core content needs to be taught/learned. There is certainly a growing realization that curricula today must be more flexible and open, and that the idea of fixed/static bodies of important information to be taught no longer works. Within this broader curriculum trend is an evolving sub-trend around the popularity of Web development courses. These are not part of General Education today but I think it's fair to ask whether or not they should be introduced. In particular, why wouldn't we include Web development languages like Ruby, Python, or PHP as part of the languages component in the Gen Ed core (and remember, this is a languages teacher suggesting this)? The whole purpose of requiring students to study "foreign" languages is to help them develop a broader understanding of the world and to communicate better with everyone. I think it's fairly easy to make this argument for Web languages and I think such knowledge would be at least as beneficial as learning Spanish or French for many students.

  2. OER Learning Platforms -- This is another big bucket but my specific focus here is on the evoluton of learning platforms specific to the introduction and use of OERs and other free/open learning content. This content is a critical component of the future of education in the U.S. and while commercial learning content and platforms have a strong symbiotic relationship, there continues to be a lack a general coordination or roadmap for OERs and learning platforms. That's why I have an interest in newer platforms such as GoodSemester. I think Audrey Watters is correct in suggesting that GoodSemester could be like a Basecamp for OERs and I know we will soon be seeing a number of other platforms that take this approach as well.

  3. Learning Analytics -- This is a relatively new area in educational technology but it will absolutely explode in the next 3-5 years. Universities and schools are focused on student outcomes and engagement, and the emphasis on assessment and student success makes improved analytics imperative. As with any newer area of research, however, there are concerns about how it is used, what it measures, and the reliability of its assumptions/data. Gardner Campbell outlines his concerns with learning analytics in this LAK12 talk, and David Jones provides links to this and other discussions here. A worry shared by many, it seems, is that learning analytics attempts to provide simple, linear data related to a very complex and organic process -- learning. I definitely agree that this is a problem with current commercial approaches, That said, with the evolution of complex big data solutions, I believe we can get to the point where we provide analytics that are truly meaningful. From a content perspective, learning analytics means gaining an understanding of the learning efficacy of our content as well as the optimum ways we can construct any content for ideal learning results.

  4. Smart Mobile Devices -- For future reference, I include both tablets and smartphones in this category. And this is a key trend for learning content because it has and will continue to have a huge impact on how we design that content. Display flexibility, granular construction, and ubiquitous distribution are all critical. The latest numbers from IDC show that close to 1 billion smart mobile devices were shipped globally in 2011, and that number will more than double by 2016 to 1.84 billion. Also of interest in this category are numbers from Samsung showing that the company has shipped 5 million of its Galaxy Note phone/tablet devices since October. This is a better-than-expected showing and highlights the attractiveness of a stylus for many users as they interact with touch devices.

  5. E-books and Digital Reading -- Obviously, general trends in consumer reading and content formats have a big impact on learning content. The most recent numbers from AAP show a great overall January performance by the trade book industry and continued strong growth for e-books. "Total trade revenues were up to $503.5 million in January 2012 from $396 million in January 2011, a 27.1% increase. E-books led the way with $128.8 million in revenue in January 2012 versus $73.2 million in January 2011, a 76% increase." With regards to specific publishers, Random House recorded "record triple-digital-percentage" digital revenue growth and a "surging demand" for Random House ebooks helped by the "increasing availability of lower-priced e-reading devices and tablets" that offset declines in print sales."
Suggested Reading

A Surge in Learning the Language of the Internet|-
GoodSemester: Basecamp for OER? | Inside Higher Ed
How Open Education Can Transform Learning | MindShift
How Are Learning Analytics Being Used in Education? | Emerging Education Technology
“Here I Stand” – Campbell’s concerns on analytics and other stuff | The Weblog of (a) David Jone
IDC: By 2016, Android Devices To Outnumber Traditional Windows PCs | TechCrunch
Samsung Ships Five Million Galaxy Notes, a.k.a "Phablets" | AllThingsD
eBook Sales Up in January, AAP Reports|- eBookNewser
E-Books Drive Revenue Growth Across Book Trade in January 2012 | Digital Book World
Triple-Digit Digital Growth Drives Random House Profits in 2011 | Digital Book World

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