During the CoSN Webcast themed “Emerging Technology Trends in K-12,” Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, said the NMC initially looked at about 100 different technologies not only by themselves, but in the context of the challenges schools face as well. “Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives,” he said. “Second, technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate and succeed.”
T Minus 12 Months: Cloud Computing and Collaborative Environments
Rachel Smith, vice president at NMC, said the first technology likely to be adopted in one year or less is cloud computing, which she said is essentially many computers networked together that share storage and applications, and swap off computing power. “And what we’re seeing is a lot of schools are using cloud computing for the shared apps and the storage,” she said, “but not as many schools are using them for the higher end computing power that’s used in research.”
As outlined in the report, cloud computing “can offer significant cost savings in terms of IT support, software, and hardware expenses. It has become common for schools to use cloud-based applications to manage calendars, rosters, grade books, and communication between school and home.”
The second technology, also likely to be adopted in 12 months or less is collaborative environments, which Smith said are simply online spaces where people can work in groups and they’re typically used for collaborative creation of content and as social networking spaces.
“What teachers are finding out is they can connect their classrooms with classrooms across town or in another part of the country or world, and their students can actually work with these sister classrooms,” Smith said. “No matter where they are, they can explore the differences that happen because of different cultures or environments, and the students can work together to create products with people they may never meet in person.”
A prime example of such an environment is the Solar Navigations wiki launched by Duke University Libraries as a mentoring program for North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools. Using this wiki, students collaborate between classes to create jointly-authored reports on the solar system.
T Minus Three Years: Game-Based Learning and Mobiles
The report describes game-based learning as “an expansive category, ranging from simple paper-and-pencil games like word searches all the way up to complex, massively multiplayer online (MMO) and role-playing games.”
The time-to-adoption horizon is two to three years for a specific category of game-based learning is open-ended, challenge-based, truly collaborative games — but they have tremendous potential to transform education, according to the report. “Games like these, which occur in both MMO and non-digital forms, can draw on skills for research, writing, collaboration, problem-solving, public speaking, leadership, digital literacy, and media-making,” the report states. “When embedded in the curriculum, they offer a path into the material that allows the student to learn how to learn along with mastering, and truly owning, the subject matter.”
The examples Smith pointed to were The Potato Story, which she said is more of a tutorial for students to learn about where food comes from. This program originated in the UK, where a study revealed that many students didn’t know potatoes grew underground. Urgent Evoke is a game occurring right now and has the tagline “A crash course in saving the world.”
“It has over 15,000 players right now, and every week there’s a new theme for the quest,” Smith said. “The quests are all related to major global problems such as hunger, poverty, women’s rights, water, sustainability, electricity, the future of money. Each week there’s a lesson where you have to learn about, teach and take action on the topic, and you have to imagine what the world would be like 10 years from now if these actions were carried out.” This week, Urgent Evoke is helping to evoke change in the lives of women. The fourth technology on the second horizon is mobiles, and an enormous number and wide variety of mobile devices are available globally. In fact, Smith said, “the cell network is bigger than the electricity grid globally.”
And the range and number of educational applications for mobiles are growing at a rapid pace, according to the report, “yet their use in schools is limited — more often constrained by policy than by the capabilities of the devices they run on.”