Just as technology is changing the way we drive, order food, talk to friends and family, and plan vacations, it is also shaping the way our children learn. Technological tools have the potential to create greater opportunities and improved learning outcomes for K-12 students if educators know how to harness their potential in the classroom.
In addition, key technology trends from the private sector — such as data-driven decision-making and attention to user experience — are shaping the way educators measure student progress and design curriculums.
Educational Trends in Technology
Technology exerts a dual force, transforming the way teachers teach and learners learn. These five trends have the power to drive innovation in K-12 education at a time when curricula are more dynamic than ever.
- Tech-enabled distance learning
As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly pushed school systems into distance learning models, educators found themselves conducting exclusively digital classrooms for the first time. And, although Zoom, YouTube, Google Meet, and other video and meeting services found use as core tools for hosting group lessons, some families did not have access to reliable high-speed internet.
A possible alternative to streaming lessons is Google Slides, an online presentation program that lends itself to offline use. Google has also published accessibility resources for educators using its products, as well as Distance Learning for Educators, a seven-module online course, covering topics such as instructional design for distance learning and integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) in distance learning.
- Digital voice assistants
Alexa and Siri have entered classrooms. These digital voice assistants, and others like them, are a subset of artificial intelligence that provide immediate, objective feedback to students in the absence of a teacher or parent. Such assistants can help students check their spelling, translate a foreign word, or provide answers to basic questions about geography, math and history.
There are also assistants created specifically for educational purposes, such as Edwin and Robot Ani, which focus on learning English as a second language. Foreign-language teachers also find success using devices like Google Home and Echo Dot to help students practice conversation skills.
- Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented reality, virtual reality or some combination of the two — collectively referred to as XR — will almost surely become integral components of K-12 education in the coming years.
XR company executives responding to a 2019 survey ranked education as tied for second place among industries for which XR is most applicable; 41% ranked education most applicable, tied with healthcare and second only to gaming. Additionally, XR was a part of roughly 20% of the educational game designs featured in the U.S. Department of Education's annual ED Games Expo in 2019. These immersive and interactive designs provide applications from demonstrating spatial concepts to facilitating virtual field trips. Futuresource Consulting, a U.K.-based research firm, predicts that 15% of U.S. schools will have a virtual reality "class kit" in 2021.
- Digital makerspaces
Digital makerspaces are tech-equipped studios where students design and produce creative projects like podcasts, video games, animations, 3-D printed materials and digital models. Studios may live in a school's computer lab or in a mobile vehicle like San Antonio-based Geekbus, a makerspace offering 12 STEM-based design and problem-solving programs, including exercises such as designing bridges or constructing and testing wind turbines.
These makerspaces promote and facilitate a "learners as creators" philosophy, as well as the principle that future-focused and practical "learning by doing" must be a core competency in education and the workplace.
- Student privacy concerns
With increased use of internet-connected technology come elevated concerns about student privacy and data security. Countering these threats of cyberattacks, datamining and other privacy violations will continue to be a priority for states and districts.
According to the State Student Privacy Report Card from the Network for Public Education, at least 40 states had passed more than 120 student privacy-related laws by 2019. Unfortunately, the result is an often-confusing state-by-state patchwork of regulations and restrictions. Only recently have national-level organizations begun to analyze these in a comprehensive way. In the absence of broad federal policy, expect individual districts and states to continue to prioritize student privacy concerns on a local level.
These and other important issues surrounding and affecting the use of technology in the classroom will continue to drive decisions about the integration of technology into curriculum and instruction.
Learn more about Eastern Washington University's Master of Education – Curriculum and Instruction online program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.