2015 was a year of continued progress for several key ideas, trends, and technologies that were set into motion long before the start of the year. While these focal points were not introduced in the last 12 months, their progress in 2015 is worth noting – whether it comes in the form of increased adoption, or in some cases, even critical mass.
Mapping the momentum: Trends breakdown
Micro motivation: Badges in education
On some level, success is desired by all in education – whether they are on the teaching or learning side of the equation. But with the many moving parts of education, not every lesson learned can result in an “A,” and not every well-planned lesson can receive the appropriate praise. Badges, though not a new concept, have begun to edge their way into the everyday, acting as a manageable form of perceived success.
Badges, or digital tokens, are more frequently acting as proof of accomplishments such as a mastered skill, completed assignment, or community experience. This type of manageable motivation is not limited to students, either; it can also easily fit into professional development initiatives. Speaking to that notion is Veronica Diaz, as quoted by Campus Technology:
“‘A lot of times the work professionals do to advance their careers is not documented in a way they can share their accomplishments with peers, potential employers, and existing employers’, said Veronica Diaz, director of online programs for Educause, the association for higher education technology professionals. ‘We think badging for professional development purposes is kind of a no-brainer.’”
Inverse proportions: Flipped learning gets established
While flipped learning used to be a novel concept, in 2015, it became apparent that most of today’s classrooms are indeed flipped – at least in some capacity. When students complete some of the learning on their own time, it allows for individualized pacing. For example, if the lesson is in the form of a video, students can re-watch until they feel confident in what they’ve learned.
When self-paced learning is encouraged outside of class, teachers are able to use class time to monitor progress, often with individual student-teacher touchpoints, and drive student engagement through open discussion or group activities. Although many teachers are still testing the waters, they have at least dived into experimentation. According to Edudemic, one study from February 2014 revealed that 80 percent of respondents had only implemented a flipped classroom in the last year or two.
Analyze this: The ever-growing hunger for data and analytics
Technology and data go hand in hand – with more computers comes more input, and thus more data that can readily be analyzed. As technology’s influence on education has grown, so has the recognized potential for using data to improve school systems and student outcomes. In 2015, more schools than ever before are using data to design infrastructure, influence instruction, and guide decisions. One of the questions that has become more pertinent is: Which technologies are effective?
One company, BrightBytes, is using data to help schools answer that question and better direct their funding. An article for MIT News quotes BrightBytes CEO, Rob Mancabelli:
“‘It’s a business intelligence platform written for schools,’ says BrightBytes CEO Rob Mancabelli MBA ’12, who worked in the education sector for 15 years before co-founding the startup. ‘Instead of a return-on-investment, though, it’s a ‘return-on-learning.’”
“By giving educators these data-analytics tools, Mancabelli says, BrightBytes hopes to take the guessing game out of fund allocation. This is important, he says: The U.S. spends billions of dollars annually on classroom technologies — such as classroom tablets, interactive screens, and software — as well as targeted academic programs, yet it’s very difficult to measure whether any of these actually boost student success.”
Shiny new things: Chromebooks take hold in North America
In the last year, Chromebooks have filled an apparent gap in the education space with an impressive combination of price, durability, and practicality. Speaking to the trend, Valerie Truesdale, the chief of technology, personalization, and engagement for North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, spoke to The Journal, saying:
“It’s the size of a tablet; it’s portable [like a laptop], but this Chromebook is another animal in between.”
Tablets 2.0: How Windows 10 might breathe new life into tablets in the classroom
Although tablets are not out of the picture in the classroom, the past has still shown favor to laptops when it comes to fulfilling educational roles. Windows 10 in 2015 proved that there is time for tablets to blossom yet. In many cases, the disconnect between tablets and educational use has been productivity. Convenience is an attractive feature, but not when it fails to be matched with productive capabilities.
Windows 10 offers new features that may up students’ abilities to be productive. As written in EdTech:
“Users upgrading to Windows 10 will immediately notice the dramatic overhaul Microsoft’s designers have given the operating system’s user interface, including the return of the Start menu, which was removed from Windows 8. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find features that could help educators organize, present, and conduct research more efficiently.”
The same is true for students. Between a new personal digital assistant, Cortana; Microsoft Edge, the new web browser; Web Note, which allows users to make markings on websites; streamlined login ability using Windows Hello, and a few other features, Windows 10 makes user needs – including the ability to be productive – a priority.
Social studies: SM technology and platforms leveraged in schools
Tweeting and Facebooking are a part of daily life for today’s students, so why can’t social media be leveraged for effective use in the classroom? After initial apprehension, teachers are finding ways to successfully and productively implement social media into learning initiatives. After all, 21st century learning objectives should be achieved using 21st century tools, should they not?
Teachers’ social media use cases vary, from using it as a way to facilitate group work outside of the classroom, to using it as part of collaborative projects, to teaching networking skills. Needless to say, students aren’t the only ones who have lessons to be learned. Teachers are also using social media more often as a professional development tool, with sites like Twitter making way for easier conversation between professionals across time and distance.
Funding frenzy: Ed tech venture capital activity reaches new heights
While many of 2015’s trends caused waves and demanded attention, one saw a greater growth curve than the others: venture capitalists in the classroom. Much of this trend can be seen in Ambient Insight’s “2015 International Learning Technologies Investment Patterns” report. According to the report, the investments made to learning technology companies in 2015 were the highest in the history of the industry, totaling over $6.54 billion.
This unprecedented level of investment comes in the form of many hot-ticket items, such as customer-facing tools, learning technology, and gamification.The most saturated and investment-rich area of the market is consumer-facing tools and companies, with 48 percent of all teaching technology suppliers funded in 2015 being consumer-facing companies. This spike in interest added up to a tripled number of investments to consumer-facing companies in 2015 compared to 2014, totaling $3.12 billion.
Other areas of significant growth include next-generation cognitive learning companies, game-based learning suppliers, and mobile learning edugame developers targeting early childhood learning.
As these trends and others continue to develop in 2016, it is important for educators to remain open to innovation, become comfortable with experimentation, and keep a watchful eye on the emerging opportunities for teaching and learning. Regardless of the specific steps, what’s clear is that the road ahead will be a collaboration between educators, entrepreneurs, and the companies that bring new technologies to life.
1. “2015 International Learning Technology Investment Patterns” Ambient Insight. January 2016.
2. “Badges: A New Measure of Professional Development” Campus Technology. January 14 2015.
3. “Edudemic’s Guide to Flipped Classrooms for 2015” Edudemic. January 23 2015.
4. “BrightBytes raises $33M to help schools everywhere gauge the impact of technology in classrooms” VentureBeat. July 21 2015.
5. “High ‘return-on-learning’” MIT News. March 1 2015.
6. “3 Reasons Chromebooks Are Shining in Education” The Journal. April 14 2015.
7. “4 Reasons Windows 10 Makes Sense for Education” EdTech. July 31 2015.
8. “5 Most Important EdTech Trends of 2015” EdTech Review. August 3 2015.
9. “The Best Education ‘Year-In-Review’ Round-Ups for 2015” Edublogs. December 28 2015.