Mirror Mirror on the wall, show us what trends will impact the educational landscape, which ones will be the greatest of them all. Cognitive modification, metaverses, open-source assessment, personal learning ecologies are perhaps a bit too far out. Maybe a decade or two away. Let’s pinch to zoom a bit closer to 2020. What can schools and educators look forward to over this year? It is not a very easy question to answer as schools are complex beasts. You will have top tier schools which already have access to some of these technologies. The middle tier schools who will probably pick one or two of these trends and the majority of the schools which will still be struggling with trends that were supposed to be implemented over the last decade like effective student information management systems and learning management systems. For the purposes of this article, we will look at five tech trends which are still in their infancy and though the potential is great, they should be graduating this year into the mainstream.
Learning analytics is the process of identifying trends and patterns to reveal areas of improvement based on data about a student’s academic performance. The goal is timely action and relevant intervention strategies to improve attainment. Designing effective lessons and learning experiences using data generated allows the teacher to focus on helping students informatively.
Learning analytics software can be part of other software or collation of data from different systems. It allows teachers to track students who are academically weak or measure engagement with the content. Student learning patterns can be identified to create stimulating lesson plans and additional resources utilised as a result. Finding out how students learn is quite powerful and this helps in personalising the learning experience. The software can though go further than individual lessons and it allows a holistic overview of student performance over time.
Adaptive learning systems build on learning analytics and use data to adjust learning for students on an individual scale. The scope for personalisation of learning is immense. These systems often utilise machine learning/artificial intelligence or statistical analysis to inform content selection. The goal, as always, is to provide customised education to deliver the right content at the right time.
The software can create engaging, personalised learning experiences which the teacher can build upon leading to a more inclusive approach to education. More and more ed-tech software will be utilising both learning analytics and adaptive learning over the year. Here the software does a lot of the grunt work that teachers often do saving them time and that is a quick win and sell in schools.
Augmented Reality (AR) seems to be around for a while, overshadowed by its big brother Virtual Reality. AR has the potential to tap into education much more due to its ability to create shared experiences. All one needs is a phone and teachers and students can participate in an AR experience. Allow each student a device and you have a truly personalised experience. Invest in an AR headset and now you are talking cutting edge.
At its simplest, using a mobile device, AR superimposes photos, videos and animation onto the real world. How powerful is it to see a piece of literature come alive or hear music from a music sheet? It allows embedding experiential learning in the most rote of lessons and surely that is not a bad thing.
Like any other technological tool, it is the creation and curation of these learning experiences which is key. Teaching a whole lesson using AR probably is not the right way, yet. Short snappy experiences which make a well-planned lesson come alive to connect the student to the learning will be the way forward.
Data Protection and Cyber Security
As schools move down the road of ed-tech software solutions, student data is becoming more and more lucrative. There will be a dearth of companies looking to monetise this data and as such schools will start looking at policies and solutions related to data protection and cybersecurity. With the new IT act inbound and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations prevalent abroad, dealing with organisations like Cambridge International Examinations and International Baccurelate based in Europe will require compliance and schools will need to start formulating plans on how they deal with the security of student, staff and parent personal data. Even accreditation organisations like the Council of International Schools and others will require this as part of their accreditation processes. It can be tricky to walk the tightrope between an individual's rights to privacy and the lawful processing of personal data and schools will need to upskill their leadership to understand how this impacts all aspects of school life from vendors to in house data sharing.
To highlight some of the key requirements under GDPR:
Now, this one is not new however if you are paying attention to the 2019-nCoV situation in China, you can see how schools still aren’t prepared to deal with virtual learning. With school closures going into March there and even with virtual learning environments being a staple of most schools for over a decade, it is still becoming cumbersome for schools to teach students online. Distant learning is easily achievable by structured courses on platforms like Udemy and edx, but not in a school. Videoconferencing is extensively used in business however not in schools. Expect a renewed focus on this in the international school market with some ed-tech companies thriving as they build solutions to cater for this need. Teacher training is another area that virtual learning will focus upon as the costs of sending staff to face to face training sessions soars.
In addition to the above, gamification of learning will continue its march along with other technologies which perhaps are on the periphery. Blockchain, Internet Of Things, e-sports are going to slowly inch their way into schools especially as they migrate towards becoming Smart Campuses. Use of app-based learning and bespoke software solutions are a bit of a hit and miss however solutions focussed on creativity will definitely be leading the pack. Whatever K12 tech trend a school follows in 2020, the common mantra will be the personalisation of the learning experience and that surely is a good thing.