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Technology in Education

Schooling has changed in many ways from the days when I attended school. I recall sitting in my desk, an island in a classroom of islands, paper and pencil in front of me, half-listening to the teacher, while trying to sneak in a few more pages of the book I was reading. The one piece of technology in the entire school, the one Apple computer that existed, at least in my memory, lived in a dimly lit cubicle sized room. Most often the door was closed, but when opened the eerie glow pulsated through the shadows of the dimly lit room and the humming that emitted from the alien machine drew glances from the energetic students that chattered by. I never got more than a glance, never saw this mysterious machine up close and never touched it.  Over time, computers grew to be more commonplace and became a sight that failed to grab my attention or thoughts other than for a brief moment during the weekly trek down the hallway to the computer lab where rows of uniformly bulky grey machines waited for the next student to attempt the required typing challenge. Soon after, a computer appeared in my home and was magically connected to an outside world; the internet. I can still hear the grating sounds of the computer connecting and frustration connected to the instant loss of signal the moment someone answered the phone.

In a flash, the pervasiveness of technology and the concept of anytime, anyplace learning became the new normal. The use of technology to enhance lessons, to capture attention, to encourage and develop collaboration became commonplace. Now, as an educator, the technology incorporated as part of the education students receive at my school is drastically different from the education I knew and received. So, what are the differences? What are the trends? Why is technology and the use of technology in classrooms so often a part of teacher and PD (professional development) or PL (professional learning) discussion? 

The top trends connected to the use of technology in educational settings may be identified differently according to differing perspectives, locations and lenses. Were you to google “Top educational trends in Technology” you would get about 831,000,000 results.  The staggering amount of information one has access to as well as the many applications of technology may become overwhelming. So, what are some of the trends according to pages you may encounter in a google search? Are these identified trends also trends within my workplace? Are they common trends in educational settings around me?

Trends

The following six blogs/ webpages discuss education and technology. While all have their own ideas and connected discussions, some common themes can be identified.

  1. According to Labullier  the top trends are: 1:1 learning devices, mobile devices, wearable technology, cloud computing, collaborative computing, robotics, internet of things and game based learning, STEAM/STEM and AR (augmented reality).  
  2. Randles identified computational thinking, PL , AR, VR (virtual reality) and mixed reality, AI ( artificial intelligence) and global learning, learning sciences and digital citizenship and student centered learning. 
  3. Jobanputra identified them as customizable learning experiences, cloud computing, speech to text options, VR/AR, 3-D printing, learning analytics.
  4. Lambda Solutions identified coding, seamless resource access, remote learning and gamification and learning management systems. 
  5. According to Technology in Education 2019: 5 Trends to watch, the top trends are classroom learning as a supplement to online learning, MOOC’s ( Massive online open courses), AR, 5G ( faster networks), content on demand, inclusivity/ exclusivity and collaboration.
  6.  Jarman sees them as: Smartboards, AI, AR, VR, blockchain technology, learning analytics and adaptive learning.

The commonalities between all of these are: AI, AR, VR, anytime/ anyplace learning (enhanced by mobile devices, 1:1 devices) , global/collaborative computing/ learning and student centered/focused learning. results. 

When examining the environment I work in, U-Connect, many of these trends exist in the day to day education of the students taught here. However, the setting I work in is not a typical school and some of the trends mentioned exist only in specific classes. For example, technologies such as gaming, VR and AR are used in the technology pathway but are otherwise not used. Students have 1:1 devices, so students have the ability to collaborate using tools like google docs and to meet and collaborate both inside and outside of class time. However, my understanding is that many high schools still use COWS (computers on wheels) and have only small amounts of time with them. The Moodle courses used at the school I teach at use online textbooks, videos and often have interactive components. Built into the courses are a variety of accessibility options. eg text to speech.  The students are blended learners, who attend class 2 days a week and complete learning and work at home on the other three days.  This lends itself nicely to trends connected to flipped classrooms, remote learning, content on demand and inclusivity . While there are many aspects of student focused learning within the program, due to smaller class sizes/school size, I wonder how this could be further improved.

While the setting I work in utilizes many of the tech trends mentioned, I am curious about other educational settings as some of these trends are likely not prevalent in many schools due to cost and skills. The cost to equip all students with devices within a district, I imagine, would be more than the available budget. Most students have smart phones which could be used for online collaboration and for some of the other trends mentioned, but then what of the students who do not have a device, or do not have a device that is able to handle the application? Skill set would be another barrier to the inclusion of many of these Tech trends. For myself, this would also apply as some I do not have the skills required to incorporate some of the tech trends mentioned in the readings. 

Connected to education, technology in the classroom and tech trends, the article by Holland, J. & Holland, J. (2014). Implications of Shifting Technology in Education.  makes an important point regarding the implementation of technology in the classroom.  

 

“Often, however, a snazzy new technology becomes the sole focus, not the ideas or innovative uses that lead to improved learning” .  It is important to consider instructional needs alongside new and emerging technologies aligned to desired outcomes”

The authors also wonder about what might be lost when including technology in education. A perspective of, if I replace a with z what do students lose and what do they gain, may help when considering this.  Their discussion of key trends in technology includes ones similar to those mentioned earlier. According to the authors, the hot trends for 2019 would be:

“augmented reality, natural user interfaces, semantic applications, and tools for assessing 21st century learning skills. Key trends are reflecting the shift towards more access, mobility, online, hybrid, and authentic active challenge-based collaborative learning models to develop leadership and creativity.”

And are they?

My Thoughts:

I think they are to an extent, but often only in specific environments (classes or schools). For example, AR is found in some schools and programs/classes but would not be prevalent. Natural user interfaces again may be used in some instances for example, within specific programs or in specific classes or students may encounter them within the devices they work on or at home in games but, I think we are far away from the creation of classrooms with natural user interfaces.

On the other hand, there is a trend towards creating more of what was described by the authors as, “authentic active challenge-based collaborative learning models to develop leadership and creativity”. This is seen in the design of the new curriculum and is often included in PD and PL. Teachers are looking for ways to incorporate this type of  learning/ teaching within their classrooms. The connection between technology and learning for the 21st century is mentioned in this paper and has me thinking about other ways I can learn about and implement new technology within my teaching practice in ways that create improved learning and develop skills needed in today’s world. However, as much as technology can improve learning, without a skilled teacher to design the learning and to guide students along the way, they may just end up with 831,000,000 ideas/results/pieces of tech and no way to filter or Boolean search through them.

 Closing thoughts

It was interesting to discover that may of the trends, including those predicted in the Holland & Holland article exist in the setting I work in. In addition to learning some new terminology and becoming curious about exploring some new uses of tech in my practice,  I have decided that I should try out “Rocksmith”, a natural user interface game that may ultimately lead me to accomplish one goal on my bucket list: to learn to play the guitar! I’m anticipating the event to be far more stimulating than shooting the letters that fell from the black abyss in the game I used to play in my high school typing class. Now if I could just remember the name of that game……