By now, most educators have probably at least glanced at the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report on the top 6 emerging technologies in K-12 education. An interesting list, full of technologies that I would love to see take hold in education.
But some things are still on the list from 2010 – like cloud computing. How many years will they let cloud computing be listed as emerging in one year or less? As others have noted, the word “cloud” is becoming an overused cliche (like “social” and “___2.0” before it) – so we may not even be able to tell if or when this one actually emerges. After all, some people still debate whether Web2.0 is old news or still around the corner.
In many ways, K-12 kind of serves as a litmus test for whether trends have substance or not. I used to be a junior high teacher, and I found that most teachers don’t get overly excited about new technology just for the heck of it. Those of us that do (like me) tend to go into different lines of work. The rest just want to know “will this work?” If you can’t prove that it will help students learn better/faster/easier/etc, they won’t touch it. Sometimes this suspicion keeps grade schools lagging behind, and other times it saves them from wasting time on pointless hype.
But it also means that if anything catches on, it probably has some merit. K-12 teachers usually don’t have the time to experiment on their students like (some) college professors do.
So some of these predictions I see as wishful thinking. Yes, I too wish they would emerge – but I don’t see it happening in five years or less. Mobile devices and educational games? I love them myself, but too many educators are still suspicious of them… and they still cost money (money that many states don’t have for the next few years at least). Open content? Love the idea, but content still rakes in big money for some companies – so expect push back against that one. Learning analytics? Sounds too much like administrative-ese to many, so expect a hard road on that one. Cloud computing? I do a lot of it myself, but how many IT Directors do you know that love releasing that much control.? Anyone? Anyone? Yep.
The problem with most of these emerging technologies is that so many of them rely on administrative decisions – districts have to decide to allow cellphones, or to switch to cloud computing, or to fork over money for games, etc. The main one that actual teachers have the most control over is the Personal Learning Environment – assuming they can choose tools that their school fire wall allows that is. But even with restrictive firewalls, you can always use them after hours from home to extend student learning. If the idea catches on, then we will possibly see this one emerge.
Don’t get me wrong – I want to see all of these emerge as soon as possible (used properly, that is). But we need to be aware of the obstacles for their emergence as much as we are of their existence.