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9 Educational Technologies That are Most Exciting Right Now (2016-17 Update)

by Kelly Walsh on September 27, 2016

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As we Settle into Another new School Year, These Technologies are Poised to Make a Difference

I find it fun this time of year to think about how things have evolved since we started the last school year (when I wrote this similarly themed post).

Which technologies have been getting more attention from teachers, and why? And which seemingly promising ideas are slipping into the background?

Here’s what I’ve been observing. Do you agree?

Hot Right Now

What educational technologies are emerging from the fray and gaining a good deal of much warranted attention these days?

e-Portfolios for K-12

There have been plenty of pundits who have extolled the potential virtues of the digital portfolio in higher education for years now, yet adoption has been far from overwhelming. While higher education has lagged, it appears that some of their brethren in K-12 have leapt! And SeeSaw has led the charge. I’ve seen so many postings in Twitter about this increasingly popular platform. Not surprisingly, as I write this, SeeSaw has almost 25,000 followers on Twitter, and nearly 10,000 on Facebook. Teachers who are using it really seem to love the platform.

In Higher Ed, eportfolio vendors have dreamed of the day when schools and teachers would realize the potential for digital portfolios as platforms for ongoing assessment. It seems to me that the emerging success of the platform in K-12 is being driven by that use case. Hear what some teachers are saying about it in this video.

Augmented Reality

Unlike Virtual Reality which seems to me to have a long way to go to move beyond its exciting potential for gamers, Augmented Reality is fully functional and teachers and students have been getting their AR on for a while. In 2014 we wrote about Augmented Reality – The Coolest Instructional Technology You Haven’t Heard of, and in 2015 we explored ways that students and teachers have used the technology in 9 Amazing Augmented Reality Apps for Teaching and Learning. I can’t wait to do an update on this, as AR continues to gain momentum. For further exploration, check out EdShelf’s curated set of AR apps.

Predictive Analytics

There is so much going on right now with Predictive Analytics. Over the years, with the proliferation of systems in our schools, we have built larger and larger storehouses of data about our students, their school work, and related information. Smart folks in the vendor world, and staff right within many of our schools, have begun to realize the potential that data provides to better predict student success, or foresee student challenges that we can work to address before they lead to failure.

We just wrote this article about the work that IO Education is doing with schools to help them bring that data together and put it to use. Within our schools, particularly in higher education, people are using tools like Tableau to create interactive dashboards where academic staff charged with facilitating student success can examine data, identify situations requiring action, and consider “what ifs”. We’re trialing a new “at risk” dashboard at The College of Westchester, and we’re by no means the only school doing so.

3D Printing

If you’re an “ed-techie” like me, you’ve probably been paying attention to 3D Printing for a number of years now. While the shiny and new feeling may be gradually wearing off, the reality of it is that this increasingly affordable and powerful technology is still maturing and moving more towards mainstream adoption. As the “maker movement” in schools has earned a lot of media attention over the last year, it bought further focus to this specific technology.

Last year we wrote a piece sharing 21 Cool Things Teachers and Students Have Built With 3D Printers. If you google “3d printing in education”, you will find seemingly endless content to explore. Many schools have now created Makerspaces that include one or more 3D printers. Speaking of which, my son works in one at SUNY Binghamton and he recently created this awesome 3D version of the EmergingEdTech logo!

3d-emergingedtech-logo

I have no doubt we’re going to see 3D printing continue to become an increasingly standard technology in our schools.

Still Maturing

Here are a couple of technologies that have tremendous promise, but they are still relatively young and at the beginning of their adoption curve.

Digital Badges

Digital Badges are a lot more widely used than I think many people are aware, but they have a long way to go to become mainstream. As proof of this momentum, this article claims that 1 in 5 Higher Education institutions offer Digital Badges. This article discusses how Badges are “empowering global educators”. This article discusses the use of digital badges in K-12. If digital badges can be connected to the effort to provide pathways for giving more power to micro-credentials (like the Lumina Foundation’s “Connecting Credentials” framework), they could get a huge boost.

Personalized Smartphone Apps

There is a new breed of smartphone app out there that integrates with Student Information Systems and enables schools to send personalized messaging and content to students. This is leagues beyond the generic mobile app most higher education have, as it allows for direct communication with individual students. Among the apps making their way into students hands and helping administrators and teachers facilitate student success: Klass App, Connected Campus, and Ooh La La.

Snapchat

Okay, so I’m not saying that SnapChat is poised to become a common component in teaching and learning. But I am saying that the number of educators who have hopped on the Snap wagon is probably a lot bigger than you might imagine. Check out our article, Exploring How Educators are Using Snapchat for Teaching and Learning, to learn more (and if you are a Snapchat user, I hope you’ll add ’emergingedtech’!).

On the Horizon

Virtual Reality

There’s been a lot of buzz around VR over the last year or so, with low end solutions like Google Cardboard and high end platforms like Oculus Rift getting a lot of attention. The fact is, unless you are a gamer, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of meaningful, quality VR tools out there yet. Speaking of which, the idea of VR movies seems rather absurd – movies are designed to direct your focus, but VR encourages you to look all around and explore. These ideas are at odds (of course, this will likely get better and maybe future VR movies can provide multiple different outcomes based on chosen paths, but this sounds a lot more like an advanced video game than a movie). Anyway, VR does have a lot of potential for education, but it is far from ready for prime time.

Blockchain

This is going to change everything. Seriously. Unless you are on the leading edge of certain industries, you are probably largely unaware of Blockchain. The closest most folks get is Bitcoin (a digital technology enabled by Blockchain technology). The “distributed trust” technology based on widely distributed highly encrypted digital ledgers already has the financial industry, insurance industry, and many others scrambling to get ahead of the curve before Blockchain radically disrupts them. Learn more about Blockchain and how it can impact education here.

Fading Away?

Wearable Technology

Yawn … stretch. Other than fitness bands, the ideas envisioned in articles like, Imagining the Classroom of 2016, Empowered by Wearable Technology, just don’t seem to be gaining much momentum. Google Glass and the Apple Watch are two of the more notorious flops. The future of wearable tech is on a slow roll at best.

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So those are some of the changes I’ve seen over the last year that I thought were worth writing about. There are plenty of other interesting technologies I wrote about in last years, 12 Emerging Educational Uses of Technology That are the Most Exciting Right Now. Quite a few of these, like Video Collaboration and the new breed of Student Response Systems, are pretty mainstream. Others, like OER and Competency Based Education have a solid foundation but need more time to mature.

So, what did I fail to mention? Are there other promising instructional technologies or tech-enabled educational constructs that have either bubbled up or started to fade away, that you would have expected or liked to see written about here?

 

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded EmergingEdTech.com. 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 kwalshmusic.com 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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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah Woodring October 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm

What a great read! I was excited to read about some new technology products that have not been mentioned yet in any of my school district’s in-service training seminars! I must say the most exciting option you mentioned is the 3D printing. While I have read a lot about 3D printing in other industries, it actually hadn’t crossed my mind regarding the potential in the Education world. One class I teach is Marketing and students are often asked to create product prototypes of packaging. How exciting it would be for them to use technology like this to take their Marketing skills to the next level!
I’m also intrigued by your comments on the wearable technology. Students in my school were allegedly using Apple watches and the like as a way of cheating in instances where teachers were prohibiting cell phones in the classroom. I must say that I don’t see a lot of students walking around wearing them. Hopefully for the sake of cheating, it will truly fade away as you suggested.

James Gosling September 28, 2016 at 1:55 am

Thanks Mr. Kelly Walsh for great information, I agree with your Idea, really personalized smartphone apps are helpful to direct connect with students\’ parents & teachers. And many apps are used by the schools, college and education institutes. Like use mylyapp (school mobile app), parents get all communication, school notification, homework, images & videos of the student\’s activities of the event, even when the student is absent.

Kelly Walsh September 27, 2016 at 10:36 am

Thanks Kathy – great to hear from you! I find myself wavering with VR – I love the potential, but when I spend time with it (picked up Google Cardboard over the summer), I find myself disappointed. I feel like there is a lot of unrealized potential there. One thing I’ve been meaning to check out in hopes of a more interesting experience is Google Expeditions (you’ve inspired me to download the app, which I’ve done as I write this – now I have to make some time to take it for a spin). I’ll spend some time on your page and learn some more!

Kathy Schrock September 27, 2016 at 7:57 am

Kelly,

Great blog post…I don’t agree with all the choices (a discussion for over a coffee the next time we see each other), but I do believe that VR is an interesting and exciting technology. I am not talking about the tethered type of VR– I am talking about the Google Cardboard type of VR. The things that I find make this a valuable classroom tool are the low cost to get into it, the hundreds of online images that allow students to look all around them to see what surrounds what the photographer took (there are all types of discussions that can go on about that), and, most importantly, I love the fact students can create these images and share their favorite places, their hometown, and more. It is yet another form of digital literacy, too, when you have to look at all aspects of your environment before you capture the image.

The great thing about VR is that you DON’T have to look in a certain spot. I watched one video from the photographer’s view, then again from the view of the driver of the car in the video, and yet again from the view person standing in front of the car. Each view tells a different story! I have links to all types of things, both AR and VR) on this page in case your readers are interested: http://bit.ly/schrockvr

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