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The 10 Most Important Emerging Instructional and Education Technologies and Concepts (2013 Update)

by Kelly Walsh on September 22, 2013


The 2013 Update to our Annual Look at the Technologies, Tools, and Techniques That Today’s Educators Should be Aware of.

Each year I refresh this list, sharing my current perspective on those emerging technologies best suited to help engage students and improve learning outcomes in the coming academic year. The list has evolved quite a bit since last year as increased mobility and evolving resources lead the way to more self-directed learning and empowered teachers and students. I’ve also made a point of including Profession Development in the list, which is essential to the successful implementation of these technologies and can’t be overlooked!

Top 10 Education Instructional Technologies

1. Flipped Classroom Tools & Techniques: My passion for this teaching technique has only grown since I first learned of it a number of years back. Time and time again I have seen teacher’s faces brighten as they learn what flipped instruction really means and realize it doesn’t have to be difficult to start using some of the associated tools and ideas. This recent multiyear study further bears out the undeniable effectiveness of this technique. Check out the new eBook, or the upcoming online workshops – great opportunities to get up to speed on flipped teaching!

2. Mobile Learning via Tablets and Smartphones: With the explosion of the tablet niche in the last few years launched by Apple’s iPad, and the ever increasing computing power in our pockets thanks to the Android vs. Apple smart phone wars, the potential for learning anywhere, anytime has never been greater. No matter what grade you teach, it is hard to ignore the way that these devices can make learning tools and self-directed learning incredibly accessible. What is your school doing to leverage the mobile device explosion?

3. 1 to 1 & BYOD initiatives: If students have the devices in their hands, or available at a moment’s notice, they are going to be more inclined to use them, and to better acquire the 21st century skills that we know they will need to succeed in today’s world. Of course, that doesn’t mean that just putting these devices in student’s hands is a solution in and of itself. Teachers have to be provided the professional development that will enable them to help students leverage the devices, and administrators have to work with faculty to develop carefully thought out plans regarding how they will use them. Poorly planned or inadequately supported 1 to 1 programs are a waste of tax and tuition dollars (do it right, or don’t do it at all).

4. Open Educational Resources: The possibilities for lowering text book costs have never been better. OER Commons and many other organizations are leading the march towards open, free resources that can beat back the burden of ridiculous text books costs. Better yet, combine OER with 1 to 1 or BYOD and you’ve got a formula for increased engagement, 21st century skills attainment, and lower costs!

5. The Wealth of Online Learning Resources: There is probably no better banner bearer for this idea than the Khan Academy, but their thousands of free tutorials are just the tip of the iceberg. Self-directed learning has never been easier. Options for learning about a subject from different angles and different experts have never been more numerous.

6. Collaborative & Social Learning: The ability for students to work together in and out of the classroom with tools that enable collaboration and social learning is being further embraced every day. Look at these 7 Reasons To Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom to further understand the power of social learning. Collaborative tools like Google Drive go hand in hand with social learning, and the need to work in collaborative teams with tools like these is something students are highly likely to encounter in the workplace.

7. Web Pages for Every Class: How is it acceptable that many K-12 schools still don’t have and/or use web pages for every single class, so that student’s don’t have to second guess assignments or other important information? These tools are not expensive (there are even good free options like Wikis and Google Apps for Education), they are not hard to use, and it’s 2013 for crying out loud! Any student should be able to confirm what they need to be doing for homework, when the next test is, access a copy of the syllabus, and so on.

8. Adaptive Learning: While Adaptive Learning tools are still maturing, their potential remains tremendous and I believe we just can’t ignore it. Innovative companies like Knewton and AdaptCourseware are leading the way. I have only just begun to learn about this technology and share insights – here’s a few articles we’ve done this year on Adaptive Learning. I have no doubt we’ll all be seeing more of these concepts implemented in digital learning tools coming to our schools sooner than we might think.

9. Professional Development (in Technology Integration): While this is obviously not a technology in and of itself, PD can certainly be enabled via technologies (like those from Atomic Learning, Lynda, and many others). Moreover, all of the above technologies are rendered meaningless if the teachers that are working with these tools aren’t given adequate training in how to use them in the instructional setting.

10. MOOCs: While the media went nuts for MOOCs last year and early in 2013, the excitement seems to have come to a slow simmer while we wait to see how this is going to play out. One key question has been whether or not this free model can sustain itself, and it looks like some of the big players are beginning to sort that out. It will be very interesting to see how MOOCs evolve over the coming year, and if the trend to accredit them continues to expand.

What do you think? What technologies or tech-enabled teaching constructs would you add to this list?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Instructional Technologies CAN Improve Learning Outcomes and Help Address the Challenges Education Faces
10 Recommended YouTube Edu-tainment Channels


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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Tina December 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Socratica ( is another great resource for educators and self-learners. They have a variety of free educational videos including topics on history, chemistry, and math.

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