Trends in education – thoughts on what seems to be happening in education worldwide

Submitted by Fiona Beal

I had a phone call today from a friend in another city telling me that her school is revising its entire IT strategy. They are in the process of reviewing current and past trends in educational IT practice and she wondered if I could forward any documentation or links that speak to the conversation. My interest was immediately sparked and I thought this would make an excellent blog post topic. So, a search from all my bookmarked sites on this topic leads to the following thoughts:

photo: Judi Francisoc’s flipped classroom experiment

1. The Horizon Report

My first thought regarding documentation was the Horizon Report, the latest one for K-12 education being the 2013 edition downloadable at . The Horizon Project is a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. Their 2013 table of contents contains:

  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less (Cloud Computing and Mobile Learning)   
  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years ( Learning Analytics,    Open Content)
  • Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years (3D Printing, Virtual and Remote Laboratories)

2. Tablets, mobile learning, BYOD, and cloud mobility
This trend is really gaining popularity world-wide as education policy makers embrace the power, availability, and wide spread use of the smart phone, the tablet, BYOD and the importance of Internet Connectivity in every classroom. We can have information at our fingertips which automatically leads to a complete change in teaching methodology.

  • This incorporates digital wearable technology like Google Glass and smart watches 
  • Augmented reality is making its way into education with a large number of popular apps such as Aurasma being used effectively in classrooms around the world.
  • 3D printing is a technology that allows users to turn any digital file into a three dimensional physical product. Several South African schools have invested in 3D printers for educational use.
  • Google Apps and the paperless classroom. It’s hard to recall what life was life before Google! The paperless digital environment is becoming a reality in many parts of the world and there’s no doubt that Google Apps (and the ever-increasing number of tools that link with Google Apps) is making this happening.  Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) allows students to work totally in the cloud. This means that students can access their work and files anywhere. They can start an assignment at school, finish it at home, and share it with the teacher virtually to have it assessed. The teacher can add notes highlighting good points and errors, and comment verbally or in writing on what is written within the document.

3. Student-created content is on the rise
With information so readily available via the Internet student-created content creation is coming to the fore. Think about what students learn and experience when they create their own digital content.They access and curate materials and put together a layout. They have to research the subject that they are creating the content about and learn the application they’re using to create it. Their work can be shared with a world-wide audience which leads to a sense of pride and achievement.

  • The use of digital tools is becoming commonplace in education. Rich media content that is available widely for educational purposes is awesome i.e. Khan Academy. Jane Hart gives a great updated yearly list of the top 100 tools in education..
  • New online tools for creating content are invented every day! Different tools are used for different needs and the concept of  App smashing for creating multimedia projects is being applied.
  • The Maker Movement, is a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe. Education is recognising the amazing consequences of encouraging students to create–from start to finish.

4. Teaching delivery methods are changing
There’s no doubt that the use of technology plus all these changes in education will allow teachers to create powerful learning experiences based on what is commonly referred to as 21st century skills. These learning experiences could include:

  • Learning simulations The use of simulated activities in education is widely becoming recognized as an important tool in schools. They simulate an activity that is “real”, and so it can be said that they are “virtually real”. They simulate the activity so well that there is little difference between the simulated environment and the real one, and the same kind of learning experience can take place.
  • Project-based learning.Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning, students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying.
  • Classroom Learning Management Systems and Social Learning Networks such as Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology, Obami etc. keep a classroom motivated and organised. These are community-building platforms for a class where teachers and students get to share learning resources and interact with each other.
  • Use of video in education. YouTube is way, way more engaging than reading and writing. Teachers who use instructional video report that their students retain more information, understand concepts more rapidly and are more enthusiastic about what they are learning.
  • Virtual learning encompasses learning that takes place outside of the school…everywhere really…and brings it into the school. The benefits of virtual field trips are well known: They’re inexpensive—often free—and are less time-consuming than a real trip.
  • Gamification of education. ‘This is a little like online math and science games, but bigger, longer, deeper, and more fun, with a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, risk-taking, attention to detail and creativity‘ (Jacqui Murray)
  • Crowdsourcing. So much information is available. ‘’Crowdsourcing’ is the concept of gathering input from the ‘crowd’–in your case, that means students, a class, the school, or whatever group you are focusing on. It encourages everyone’s participation in learning, teaching, and events’ (Jacqui Murray)
  • Social media The important use of social media in the classroom is being recognised around the world – blogging, Twitter, back-channeling, online communities etc.  Knowledge will always matter but connectivity is becoming an important factor in enhancing knowledge. 
  • 21st century skills can be actively pursued in the classroom. Studies have shown a positive impact on learning when students are required to engage in inquiry, collaborate, analyse content critically, construct knowledge, create, and effectively communicate their learning .
  • Genius hour is based on Google’s 80/20 plan. Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.  It provides students with a choice in what they learn during a set period of time (e.g. 20% of the day) during school. 
  • Flipped classroom Flipped instruction frees up some time to enable active learning to take place in the classroom.Sol Khan explain this concept via a video.

The network of Microsoft Innovative Schools includes schools and teachers exhibiting many of these attributes.

5. Global collaboration is on the increase

We are living in an increasingly collaborative, team-based world. Global collaboration projects bring students together from different countries to work on a joint project. They can be introduced at any age or grade-level and infused into any subject area or curriculum. Skype and Google hangouts make this collaboration possible at face-to-face level.

6. Learning space design
Learning spaces are being redesigned. To accommodate the changes taking place in education many schools and teachers are redesigning their classrooms to accommodate deeper learning.


7. Programming and coding Maths andSscience are always hot trends  but the 2013-14 school year seems to also be about coding, programming, and music in some countries. In the UK coding is being brought in as early as Grade 1.

8. Personal Learning Networks and online communities  

Teachers can benefit immensely from connecting with others and developing their own personal learning networks as this video Use Digital Tools to Create and Grow your Personal Learning’ explains. 

9. TED Talks about education
TED Talks bring us the latest innovations and ideas via their popular video series. This video shows some leaders in technology explaining trends.

The world is changing before our eyes. Education is changing. What will we do to embrace these changes in our schools and classrooms? 

Further reading

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