The rate of emerging new technologies that will drive academic advancement and impact education over the course of the next five years is quite staggering. Some of the frontrunners include cloud computing, mobile learning, learning analytics, open content, MOOCs, virtual and remote laboratories and tablet computing.
Cloud Computing has become an essential part of collaboration in both schools and the workplace. This year, the placement of cloud computing on the near term horizon for a second time underscores the fact that the impact of this technology continues to unfold in new and expanding ways.The cloud-based Brazilian Electronic Learning Organizer helps language teachers produce and share digital learning objects and activities for their students. The learning objects are created by the teacher or assembled from a resource repository created by other teachers in the network. California State University Northridge launched the computer supported science initiative to help science teachers in high-need Los Angeles-area schools to engage students in authentic research experiences through the use of cloud-based tools.
Mobile Learning is expected to consist of over 7 billion accounts, equating to about 3.4 billion users, or one in every two people on the planet, mobile traffic on the Internet is expected to surpass desktop traffic and mobile users will have downloaded 70 billion apps across smartphones and tablets. Educational apps are the second-most downloaded in iTunes of all categories, surpassing both entertainment and business apps in popularity. The students at St. Leonard’s College in Melbourne are using tablets loaded with math apps and e-textbooks to access information, receive instruction and conduct research. Elsewhere students in Switzerland use their tablets to create music in the school’s first iPad Orchestra. The iPads have provided opportunities for students with little to no training to create their own music with classmates.
Learning Analytics is not a new practice, the field of learning analytics has only recently gained support among data scientists and education professionals. In the coming years, as learning analytics platforms become increasingly complex and effective, outcomes of learning analytics will have a significant impact on the evolution and refinement of both K-12 and higher education, especially in the design of personalized and online learning platforms. Developed by a group of programmers and data scientists Mathspace is an online program that meets the demands of the NSW syllabus and National Curriculum for students aged seven to ten years. The platform monitors how students reason through math problems and provides personalized feedback as well as analytics reports for teachers.
Open Content has been available for quite a long time, the topic has received increased attention in recent years. The use of open content promotes a skill set that is critical in maintaining currency in any area of study, the ability to find, evaluate, and put new information to use. The same cannot be said for many textbooks, which can be cumbersome, slow to update, and particularly costly for K-12 schools. More educators are tapping into the wealth of content within open repositories and familiarizing themselves with the Creative Commons protocol. Learn NC is a program developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education to make resources and best practices in K-12 freely and widely available. Their digital textbook for eighth grade history contains a collection of primary sources, readings, and multimedia that can be searched and rearranged. A partnership between Young University’s David Wiley and the Hewlett Foundation sparked a project in which teachers from 18 districts and charter schools across Utah pulled together science resources to create free digital textbooks.
MOOC’s is striking a balance between automating the assessment process while delivering personalized, authentic learning opportunities. The Purdue University Department of Music and Arts Technology began offering their first MOOC, “Music for the Listener” that can be converted into credit. The learning environment is being delivered through Course Networking, with full translation features, rich media, and social networking tools. A MOOC called “Landmarks in Physics,” pioneered by an MIT graduate and delivered through Udacity takes students on a virtual tour through Italy, the Netherlands, and England while explaining the basic concepts of physics at the sites of important discoveries in world history.
Virtual and remote laboratories reflect the current trend in K-12 education toward more authentic online education. Though technology is four to five years away from mainstream use in schools, the benefits of implementation are already clear. Virtual and remote labs offer flexibility, as students can run experiments as many times as they like, both in and out of school. Because these labs are designed to allow for easy repetition of experiments, students feel less pressure to execute perfectly the first time. In controlled environments students are safe even if they make an error. In Lysekil, Sweden, high school students use virtual tools to explore the marine environment of Gullmar Fjord on the Swedish west coast, learning in the process how scientific knowledge is created. The students use a virtual ocean acidification laboratory to conduct studies on the acidification of the marine environment.
Tablet Computing is so straightforward that students carry tablets from class to class, using them to seamlessly access textbook and other course material as needed, that schools and universities are rethinking the need for computer labs or even personal laptops. A student’s choice of apps makes it easy to build a personalized learning environment, with all the resources and tools they need on a single device. With their growing number of features, tablets give traction to other educational technologies from facilitating the real-time data mining needed to support learning analytics to offering a plethora of game-based learning apps. At Plymouth University in the UK, students working toward their illustration degree are using ipads with an illustration app called Brushes to produce drawings that can be played back as video. Students at Redlands College in Australia are using tablets to collect and share data on indigenous rocks while Vanderbilt University graduate students are designing an Android app that enables visually impaired students to learn math via haptic technology integrated into new touchscreen devices. The vibrations and audio feedback help students feel and hear shapes and diagrams.
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