Three EdTech Trends to Watch in 2018

Analysis from an experienced educator and edtech company director of instructional strategy.

GUEST COLUMN | by Kellie Ady

CREDIT Schoology Exchange trends.jpgEarlier this year, my company issued an invitation to educators to answer a questionnaire about digital learning. The goal was to get a snapshot of digital learning today and better understand the challenges, priorities, and strategies of schools and districts worldwide.

Conducted May–June 2017, over 2,800 educators responded, answering questions about using technology to impact learning. Some respondents were Schoology users (around 25%), but the majority were not.

These educators came from all over the world, from both public and private institutions, and served in a variety of roles.

What will get more focus, though, is how students will use data around their own learning to define goals and directions on their own paths.

Approximately 32% of the respondents identified themselves as administrators with the remaining 68% falling into the teacher category. 66% of all respondents had more than 10 years experience in education.

Based on the insights gleaned from the Schoology survey, below are three trends edtech trends to look out for in 2018.

Maturity with EdTech Will Lead to Transformational Learning Experiences

Technology is certainly not new to the education space, but the natural entry point of substituting technology for another process or product is making way for other levels of adoption. In line with the SAMR model, educators and administrators are moving higher up on the ladder as technology tools become more widely used and available.

Some of this maturity is likely due to the broader access of known or familiar hardware and devices for fewer dollars. Project Red reports that “between 2011-2017, the average cost of student devices dropped 55%. Since the start of laptops in classrooms in 1996, device costs have dropped 80%. Between 2013–2016, the cost of bandwidth has dropped 70%” (p. 3).

There is still see a digital divide in our schools—and student access to technology was identified as a top challenge for digital learning; however, expanded 1:1 programs, schools who have adopted BYOD, the influx of shared carts, and the increasing proliferation of mobile technology means that greater numbers of students do have access, both at school and at home.

Because these devices have been around for a while, many teachers don’t necessarily need extensive PD on how to use the device and have a basic comfort level. That means the willingness to try new things to transform learning can become much more of a reality.

Another aspect of this shift may be due to pedagogical approaches that have matured as well, like concepts around blended or hybrid learning.

Almost 95% of the survey respondents felt that blended learning positively affected learning to some degree.

As more and more organizations have adopted blended learning programs or initiatives for students and staff, changes in how we work with students in the classroom have gained a level of familiarity, even for those who may not view themselves as “techie” teachers.

David Thornburg, in a CUE article from 2012, noted,

“In some sense, blended learning has been around for a long time. The life sciences teacher who tells kids to watch a video on the Discovery Channel that night at home is practicing blended learning. But now the bar is raised even higher. With broadband available both at schools, homes, and even some school buses, access to networked resources is common enough that many people don’t even think about the number of times they are connected throughout the day” (p. 5).

If that was true in 2012, we now have teachers who have been embracing some form of blending for several years, and those folks are likely trying new approaches and getting past substitution phases in their own growth in the model.

K-12 Schools, Districts, and Teachers Will Invest Heavily in Digitizing Curriculum

According to the survey results, the second-highest priority for teachers was digitizing curriculum. But the time and effort it takes to digitize curriculum continues to be a challenge. This, however, is a challenge that vendors and leaders will start to tackle in earnest.

The investment into digitized curriculum won’t be solely fiscal. The strength and ease of collaboration between teacher teams, schools, and districts is also increasing, which means that teacher-developed materials will also be a focus.

This investment will be worth it.

Research published by Dina Drits-Esser and Louisa Stark in the Electronic Journal of Science Education revealed that

“the curriculum design process, which can occur in a relatively short time period, can foster meaningful, task-oriented collaboration.

The collaboration process provides the vehicle for active learning, where teachers can reflect on their beliefs while applying new knowledge to the classroom.”

In fact, faculty collaboration surfaced in the questionnaire significantly.

Administrators who responded to the survey listed increased collaboration among faculty as a top priority, and the teachers who responded listed collaboration in their top three priorities. As faculty members collaborate on their use of existing resources, work together on curating content, and create new content, the investment of time into digitizing curriculum will happen at a staff level.

We can likely expect investments in publisher content as well, especially as learning management systems, or LMSs, increase partnership integrations.

Recognized standards like those from IMS Global can bring learning tools together in new ways, which will lead to vendors investing their own resources into advanced integrations.

The ability—or even necessity—for tools to integrate will enter into purchasing decisions more than ever before, even as we can expect the use of free tools like Open Educational Resources (OERs) to increase.

Again, as more devices land in the hands of students, access to digitized curricular resources can become more of an expectation. We won’t see paper vanish completely as it can still be valuable for learning, but as budget dollars are needed to invest in instructional resources, expect to see budgets previously devoted to paper consumption shifting to accommodate digital materials.

Interestingly, the research conducted by Project Red found that schools that invested in learning management systems saw cost-savings specifically around paper consumption.

Data-driven Personalization of Learning Will Increase

Using data to inform instruction is, again, not a new concept.

The ways in which we can get useful and actionable data at the classroom level is increasing, as is the flexibility of tools that serve this purpose.

Analytics are becoming more sophisticated while data visualization tools are enhancing the way that data is presented in meaningful ways. The immediacy of the information means that decisions at an instructor or system level can be made with both precision and intention.

What will get more focus, though, is how students will use data around their own learning to define goals and directions on their own paths.

Paige Kowalski, in the article If You Want Personalized Learning, Don’t Forget about Data, explains that:

“Data provides a timely, robust picture of where students are, their strengths and where they need to grow, and their progress over time. Empowered with this shared understanding, there are many ways students, parents, and teachers can give students the individual supports and opportunities they need to succeed.”

Tied to the idea of greater device access is the ability to involve students in the process, which hasn’t necessarily been possible before—or at least not to this degree. Education has had instructional tools for some time now that dictates direction based on learner data, but expect to see more ownership on the part of those whom it impacts the most: students.

Looking Ahead

The survey results yielded some surprises but also helped quantify some trends that we in the educational technology space have been seeing.

In thinking about how to adjust and adapt our own practices where needed, we should continue to explore how to leverage the maturation of approaches and tools, actively pursue new ways to collaborate and integrate resources—and prepare our students for a world where they use their own data for learning.

Kellie Ady is Director of Instructional Strategy at Schoology. She is an experienced educator with specialties in professional development, blended learning, curriculum development, educational technology integration, and instructional design—and she is dedicated to anytime, anywhere, any device learning. Contact her @kellie80

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