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10 Emerging Education and Instructional Technologies that all Educators Should Know About (2012)


The technologies that can have the best impact on education are evolving quickly from year to year, and the pace seems to be quickening.

Naturally, as author of EmergingEdTech, I'm always keeping an eye out for education and instructional technologies that are emerging from the seemingly endless array of tools and concepts that are out there – which applications and ideas are rising to the fore and best positioned to enhance engagement and impact learning? This year I've also been working with constituents at The College of Westchester to develop a Strategic Technology Plan for the next 3 years, so it's never been more important for me to be aware of those impactful education technologies and concepts that are on the horizon or are already in use and pulling ahead of the pack.

Since this listing is more pointedly focused on emerging technologies and looking out over the next few years than the list I published at this time last year, it should not come as a surprise that there are a lot of new entries here (edging out six technologies that remain prevalent and potent, but are more ‘established' than 'emerging'). Of course, some will disagree as to which technologies belong in the top ten – my choices are influenced by my perceptions of those which are most likely to engage students and to have the best potential to enhance learning outcomes.


Flipped Classroom Workshop in a Book Cover image
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EmergingEdTech's Top 10 Emerging Education and Instructional Technologies

  1. The Flipped Classroom: This is not a technology in itself, but rather a technology-enabled teaching technique. This spring I posed the rhetorical question, “Is Reverse Instruction Education Technology’s Perfect Storm?” and my passion for spreading awareness about this powerful idea through presentations and articles continues to grow. I am by no means alone in this, as attested to through expanding media coverage, and the recent publication of books like Bergmann and Sams “Flip Your Classroom”. If you're not versed in ‘the flip', I hope you'll check out “8 Great Reasons to Flip Your Classroom (and 4 of the Wrong Reasons)…,” and the other resources in our Flipped Classroom article category to learn more.
  2. The Apple iPad and other tablet devices: The iPad has proliferated at a rate far surpassing any other technology introduction – television, the personal computer, the DVD, you name it. Education was already pro-Apple before the niche defining tablet was introduced, and schools and teachers are all over it. Posts like, “15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers,” and “Using The iPad As A Digital Whiteboard (Plus 4 Cool Free Apps To Try It Out),” continue to draw the lion's share of traffic here on the site. In the coming months and years we can expect to see more ed tech conferences focused on the iPad (like this one coming up in November). The iPad and other tablet devices are gradually becoming ingrained in all grade levels, all types of schools, and all academic disciplines.
  3. Smartphones: We cannot continue to ignore these ubiquitous devices. The vast majority of students in high schools and colleges have them (but IMHO, students in younger grades really shouldn't). Whether we choose to embrace their potential in the classroom (where they're great for interactive polling, tweeting, research, and more) or simply leverage them as remote learning content access devices for use outside of the classroom, we should be planning for how to make the most of their availability and powerful capabilities. Get more ideas here: “10 More Resources For Getting the Most Out of Cell Phones and Smart Phones in School,” and here “Embracing the Cell Phone in the Classroom With Text Messaging Assignments”.
  4. The Gamification of Education: There are many reasons why this idea is gaining momentum including the, “… Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Learning Benefits” that it can deliver. The Khan Academy is using it, TechChange is leveraging gamification (and many of the other ideas in this list) to facilitate social change, and higher education is working to embrace it. In “Tailoring the Classroom of the Future With the Fabric of the Past,” we are reminded how the concept has been around for years. Students love rewards and other gaming mechanics, they are engaging and inspiring. Educators – get your game on!
  5. Emergence of free online courses and the move towards providing credits and credentials for them: If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to the education media, you can hardly miss the mention of MOOCs (“Massively Open Online Courses”) in one article after another over the last few months. Of course, MOOCs are just one option for learning – not all free courses are MOOCs (and not all MOOCs are free). A particularly intriguing aspect of this discussion is the move to provide formal credit or credentials for these courses, which seems to be picking up traction. This week alone, we saw these news pieces about groundbreaking innovations in this area: “A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses,” and “edX Offers Proctored Exams for Open Online Course”.
  6. 1 to 1 and BYOD initiatives: Many educators feel passionately that ‘1 to 1' makes a lot of sense (teacher Mark Pullen made his case in this article). There can be no argument that putting a laptop or tablet in every student's hand in a classroom can provide a powerful learning tool, but of course, careful training, planning, and implementation are essential to success and to the wise use of the funds required to do this. For the many schools that are budgetarily challenged to pull this off, there is always the BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) approach. While my post this summer about the downsides of this tech concept garnered a fair amount of controversy, I have come around to the idea that with the right approach, proper support, and logical classroom objectives, it can be a very functional way to put tech tools in our student's hands.
  7. Student Response Systems, polling apps, and other synchronous tools to increase interaction and engagement in both online courses and ground courses: Again, we have an idea that can be so engaging and that overlaps with some of the other tools and techniques in this list. Smartphones and tablets can work as SRS tools, and a history of responses can provide learning analytics that help teachers focus on which topics need the most reinforcement (an idea that also happens to go hand in hand with the flipped classroom). SRS's have been around for years and they have been gradually gaining popularity as a classroom tool, but what I find to be 'emerging' about the concept is the move towards using more common, less proprietary devices to access these classroom interactivity and assessment apps, and the growing number of innovative applications like Lecture Tools and LearningCatalytics (more on these exciting apps to follow here in the coming weeks!).
  8. Cloud apps for file storage, notetaking, and more: While Internet tools like YouTube and Google Search have been useful cloud apps for years now (although not commonly referred to as such), other cloud apps are seeing explosive growth, encouraged by the increasing tendency for computer users to have multiple devices from which they want to access their own personal content. File storage tools like Dropbox and note taking apps like Evernote have become wildly popular because they excel at letting users get to their digital ‘stuff' from whatever device they have in their hands. This idea has really taken off over the last year, and cloud apps like these are beginning to appear with some consistency in lists of teacher's favorite software applications.
  9. OER (Open Educational Resources): While OER has not necessarily seen the increases in popularity and adoption over the last year that some of the technology-based ideas above have, it continues to hold tremendous potential, and only more so as the quality and quantity of offerings continue to improve. OER is a transformational idea that can play an important role in changing the nature, availability, and costs of educational materials, content, and tools. Stop by the OER Commons or check out “Learning about OER – Open Educational Resources” to learn more.
  10. Learning Analytics: We round out this list with yet another technology that has really begun to gain momentum over the last year or so, and is clearly focused on enhancing learning outcomes by leveraging data. After seeing the phrase pop up repeatedly in ed tech media, we started our investigation with the article, “How Are Learning Analytics Being Used in Education?” A month later we delved into “Exploring the Khan Academy’s use of Learning Data and Learning Analytics”. Learning Analytics may only be emerging from its infancy, but the growing number of institutions and organizations working to deliver and leverage the concept positions it as one of the top technologies that can help to deliver on the promise of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction through the thoughtful and informed application of information technologies.

Many readers love to learn what other innovative teachers, technologists, and administrators like you are thinking, so please feel encouraged to comment and weigh in with your insights, questions, and other ideas and feedback about today's top emerging education and instructional technologies!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
8 Great Education and Instructional Technology Infographics
4 New Technology Tools for Measuring Learning Outcomes
8 Great TED Talks About The Future Of Education And Teaching


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