Trends in technology and learning

Susan McLester, Editor of Technology and Learning Magazine, recently identified Ten Top Tech Trends in education:

  1. Data mining is earning its keep.
  2. Cyberbullying is in the spotlight.
  3. Twenty first-century skills have a foot in the door.
  4. Digital content is on the rise.
  5. We like learning at leisure.
  6. Personal responders are sweeping the K–20 market.
  7. Mobile tools are driving the path of education reform.
  8. Bandwidth is suddenly an issue.
  9. The penguin is snowballing.
  10. The participatory Web.

Here is my own perspective on these very interesting trends and their impact in Missouri, as well as some available resources so you can investigate further and actively participate in these trends.

1. Data mining is earning its keep.

There is still much that can be measured that isn’t but should be. I am surprised by the incorporation of technology in both instruction and administration where there appears to be no presence of an evaluation component. Opportunities to evaluate and improve are being missed. How do you know if a technology or a plan has been effective without some sort of evaluative component? Is it a tool that anybody is even using? There has been an effort to make curriculum guides and student information available online. Are teachers and parents accessing this information? If not, why not? Don’t let the implementation of technology be the success in and of itself. You don’t know that it’s successful unless you have some type of measurement and evaluation.

Do not miss the opportunity to determine the effectiveness of a new strategy or technology. Evaluation is not just a way to determine success, if is a very powerful tool for improvement as well. Every new strategy, technology related or not, should have some form of evaluation component to determine effectiveness and targets for improvements.

2. Cyberbullying is in the spotlight.

It is unfortunate that there has been recent news regarding Cyberbullying in Missouri. I hope that districts are proactively taking action to be informed on cyberbullying. Also, talk to other districts in your area. Share ideas on how to confront this important issue.

MOREnet has links to resources and events to assist in confronting cyberbullying and Internet safety. The next Internet Safety Night is April 23, 2008. The Pew Internet & American Life Project released this report on cyberbullying.

MOREnet Safety Resources: (Internet Safety Night)

3. Twenty first-century skills have a foot in the door

It is important to focus learning activities on the 21st century learner. Many studies indicate that today’s students think differently than students of the pre-Internet age.

This needs have a strong focus on teacher professional development and working with teachers to better inform them about the 21st century learner and how to teach them using 21st century techniques that better suit the students of today.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

4. Digital content is on the rise.

The amount of digital content now available is astronomical with more becoming available every day. Digital content can take many forms, from text, video, sounds or images (anything that is a digital file). It is important that students and educators understand the need for information literacy skills as the more people continue to use digital content.

Below are some commonly used digital resources. There are many comparable resources available, so be sure not to limit yourself or your students. Find out what’s available and ask students to critically analyze the various resources. This will help them get an understanding the varying credibility of the vast amount of information available to peruse today.

Is your district aware of these resources?

Online Resources (text)
Annenberg Media
TeacherTube (video)
Wikipedia (text)
Discovery Education (video)
OER Commons (lessons)

5. We like learning at leisure.

More students are taking online courses than ever before. This growth applies to professional communities as well. More and more professionals are taking online courses (both synchronous and asynchronous) to advance the education and in their profession.

In Missouri, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has established the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP). Any public school age student is eligible to attend either full-time or part-time. Missouri State University hosts the Missouri Virtual School. Both of these virtual schools provide have many courses options available to Missouri students.

Distance of instruction and content by distance has two general delivery mediums: synchronous and asynchronous. Be sure an understanding of these delivery mediums is known and what best fits the student’s learning preferences. Consult with the provider to determine how they can meet your needs.

Virtual schools in Missouri:
University of Missouri Center for Distance & Independent Study

6. Personal responders are sweeping the K–20 market.

In the past month I have attended two events in the St. Louis area that discussed the use of personal responders (a.k.a. interactive response devices or clickers). It has been interesting to see the various products available and the similarities and differences among them. What has been more interesting is listening to the teachers who currently use these devices in their classrooms and the success they are having with them. The comment most heard was that “Student participation is 100%.” Also mentioned is the ability to test comprehension immediately and adjust instruction to address weak areas.


7. Mobile tools are driving the path of education reform.

Laptops and handheld computing devices are certainly impacting education. Be sure that proper planning is established for the long term use, support and availability of these tools. Don’t buy them and then decide how they will be used. Unfortunately that still happens frequently in the education environment.

While laptops and handheld computers are the current mobile trends, there will always be new devices that become available. The more recent ones include the iPod and the cell phone. With the convergence technology such as the iPhone and others like it, mobile tools will continue to become more a part of the everyday learning.

8. Bandwidth is suddenly an issue.

Bandwidth in Missouri public K-12 has always been an issue. While MOREnet has successfully delivered bandwidth to over 500 districts in Missouri, we continue to see tremendous growth in bandwidth needs in K-12 as a result of districts applying many of the trends mentioned in the Technology and Learning article. It is vital that districts monitor closely bandwidth utilization as the network use increases.

MOREnet has available bandwidth monitoring tools for district network managers to view their utilization and identify common network traffic types (good and bad) that traverse your district’s network. Members can login into MyMOREnet to access the Netflow and MRTG usage statistics reports and see how your organization is using its bandwidth.

9. The penguin is snowballing.

Linux certainly is snowballing, but don’t be fooled by its “free” price. It is a powerful but complicated system to properly administer and maintain and comes with a steep learning curve. I recommend a thorough investigation of the product before putting it into production on your district network.

Don’t change to a new system all at once. If possible do it in smaller sections. Try a pilot or non-production test server to get a feel for the system and determine how it will impact your other network services.

MOREnet Training

10. The participatory Web.

It’s definitely here. Students are participating in web-based activities every day. It is shaping their physical and virtual lives. To get one view of the participatory Web outside of the education environment, view the FRONTLINE document Growing Up Online. It is important to know how kids are using these “tools” and the up to educators to find ways to harness this power to teach their students. The need to adapt instruction to match how students learn is important to their success in school and in life.

Eric Nicklas
K-12 TNP Program Manager
(573) 882-9785

Eric Nicklas | Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | |


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