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Emerging Educational Uses of Technology That are the Most Exciting Right Now & Into 2017

As we Enter a new School Year, Which Uses of Technology Hold the Most Promise to Impact Learning?

Well, it’s that time of year again … the start of a new school year. With it often comes the irresistible urge to make another list, or even better … many lists! Lists help us to plan, and they can also help us reflect and assess.

One list I really enjoy putting together as we head into a new academic year is an updated look at which educational uses of technology have shown the most promise over the last year. Which tools and techniques most excite me as I look forward to another year of striving for continuous improvement as a technologist, and #edtech advocate! And as different technology uses take the spotlight, which of them are standing out a little more?

What will 2017 hold for education? There’s no shortage of articles and reports with predictions describing what to expect for the coming year. It’s tempting to be dismissive—scanning the headlines knowing that predictions are far from a sure bet. Yet for educators, considering trends across industries in conjunction with current developments in education is constructive, strategic and provides an edge; it gives insight, helps us prepare and be proactive. In this post I share my analysis of current trends and developments within higher education and k-12 and outline what to expect in 2017.

There’s a spate of articles on the Web across all sectors: education, business, consumer and design, all describing what to watch for—micro-credentialing, wearable technology, mobile, augmented reality and a host of others. Yet how are these trends applicable or relevant to educators? I analysed numerous sources, some specific to education and many not, to determine what will affect the education sector in 2017.

So, looking back and thinking forward, here are a dozen instructional uses of technology that are the most compelling right now. Some of these are BIG ideas, driving real change in our classrooms and schools, and some are simpler concepts that are making small but meaningful changes in how we engage our students on a day to day basis.

Virtual Reality (VR) Adds New Dimension to Learning

VR is shaping up to be one of the largest technology turf wars of 2016. Several global companies have staked millions of dollars developing their brand of the technology, including GoogleSamsungHTCSony and the Facebook-backed Oculus. And in 2017 many of these iterations of the VR craze are set to go to market.

The immersive power of this technology has also caught the eye of Jon Phillips, managing director of strategy for worldwide education at Dell.

“I think as we head into the next year, we’re going to see more grassroots approaches to bringing technologies like that into the classroom, allowing students to learn experientially,” says Phillips.

Google is already on the case. Its Expeditions Pioneer program is bringing smartphone-powered Google Cardboard devices to classrooms across the country as a way to introduce students to VR technology.

AR is just so much fun and comes in many different flavours. Everything from free or inexpensive smartphone apps to full blown 3D workstations like those from zSpace. AR is just one of the coolest educational technologies that many educators have not even come across yet! To better understand AR in the classroom, check out how these teachers and students are using augmented reality.

Student Response Systems

Engaging with students and gathering feedback are two core benefits of technology in the classroom and Student Response Systems are designed to that end. While ‘SRS’ technology is by no means new, it has morphed considerably over the years, and continues to evolve and emerge.

The first SRS were costly proprietary clickers, but today’s best SRS are free and device independent, which is opening them up to many more educators to use in their classrooms. Tools like Kahoot and Quiz socket enable students to participate in interactive surveys, questions, quizzes, etc., from a phone, tablet, or computer. There is also a great low-tech alternative called ‘Plickers‘ that has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention.

Video Collaboration Tools

The power of today’s easy to use video solutions is empowering teachers to bring the world into their classroom, and to make themselves more available to students. This is another technology that is by no means new, but it continues to evolve steadily. Thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone, video is becoming an anytime, anywhere solution. In addition to live collaboration, tools like Movenote and VoiceThread make it possible to collaborate via video asynchronously.

If you aren’t leveraging the power of video to bring guest speakers into your classroom, interact with other classrooms across the world, or let a home-bound student participate in class, you are missing out on a world of possibilities.

Social Learning in Online Courses

I truly believe that better incorporation of social learning is vital to making online learning more engaging. Many online programs struggle to attain retention rates similar to most in-seat programs. One of the elements generally lacking in online learning (but natural to the face-to-face classroom) is a healthy level of social interaction. When online teachers make the effort to build social interaction into the digital classroom, they create multiple opportunities to enhance engagement and improve learning outcomes. The growing adoption of online learning makes it more important than ever that online courses incorporate social interaction into their lesson plans and assignments.

  “Mobile First or Mobile Only”

 “Think Mobile First or Mobile Only”. It’s so true – mobile is changing everything and education is no exception. This is surely an area where we are going to continue to see big changes as the world slowly gets its head around the way the powerful devices so many of us have in our hands can seriously change how we communicate, connect, reach out, access content, research, learn, think, act, … and the list just keeps growing.

If learning really can take place anytime, anywhere, shouldn’t we encourage it? This is yet another change that is happening whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. More teachers are embracing the power of this device as an instructional aid.

Wearables Court Mainstream Status

The current star of the Internet of Things concept, wearable technology, still has a lot to prove to educators. Analysts at New Media Consortium (NMC) predict it will be widespread in classrooms in about four years, but there are already examples of the technology making waves in education.

“Indeed, wearable technology has been pushing the boundaries of what students are able to create — even spurring wearable-themed school events and contests,” according to NMC’s 2016 report.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory hosted a wearable-themed workshop as an interactive way of introducing mechanical design and electrical engineering to high school girls, the NMC report states.

In 2015, UNICEF launched Kid Power, a fitness program that tracked the steps of about 10,000 students while they wore fitness bands. Participants accrued points for walking, which were then converted into monetary donations to purchase food packets for malnourished children.

“Wearables not only assist students, but also offer many benefits to educators. From pinging students’ GPS locations during a field trip to recording point-of-view lessons, teachers have more options to monitor and engage with students. And this engagement can also translate to communication between educators, giving them more options for collaboration,” according to the K-12 Tech Decisions blog.

So there you have it …

These are the academic uses of technology that are putting a smile on my face these days, and inspiring my desire to help make a difference. What do you think? What excites you? What are the #edtech ideas, tools, and techniques that you think hold the most promise to make an impact and improve learning for your students?

Abishek Bhat

Abishek Bhat

Abishek Bhat works as Senior Manager with the Microsoft Practice at Trigent Software. He has over a decade of experience in technology consulting.

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