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Top 25 Ed Tech Trends

Ken&Cam Here are my Top 25 Education Technology Trends for 2010-2011, presented in random order. I’ve kept it company generic, but I’m certain education companies will find themselves in the list, and quite possibly in more than one trend category. Knowing today’s trends, and that ed tech companies have addressed them, is important to districts making the right purchasing choices—now and with a view toward the future.

1. Touch Screens
Taking touch screens out of fast food establishments, and making that software affordable for every classroom and new device is long overdue. Touch Screens are here, and if it takes a few more dollars to add the feature—do it. Whether on notebooks, whiteboard, slates, or displays—touch is intuitive.

2. 3D Technology
There are different ways of doing 3D, with glasses, on display screen, one or two projectors. This technology is improving, so that it is now a viable classroom tool. The curriculum for 3D lags, but should catch up as more developers get education serious about this teaching tool.

3. Cloud Environments
Making teacher and student desktops 24/7 Web-available is only part of what a cloud environment can offer. This is not just having a tech product online; it is looking at delivering useful and seamless tech solutions, and at an incredibly low price. Naysayers present the data safety issue, but there are solutions there, too. Looking to the clouds is happening. Discussions are needed to define it better, but it certainly is something district leaders can understand.

4. Cell Phones/Smartphones
You can’t even call them phones anymore. They are handheld computers, with more capability than most computing devices in schools today. Preventing their use at schools isn’t an option. Some schools will provide them, and other schools will figure out how to manage student-owned.

5. Apps
How many apps do you have? Good question to ask students, teachers, and administrators today. Life is getting easier for developers of apps, which until recently used to be too tightly controlled by a few very large companies. The race is on to create more, and on the education side—educators and students will benefit. Apps can easily supply everything from a measurement converter to a student magazine subscription.

6. WiFi and Broadband
There are still many places where a connection to the Internet is better with a string attached to two cans, but it’s getting better. Figuring out how to get the Internet, which is now pretty much part of an education right, has the attention of the big broadband firms, but needs a nudge to get the discussion revved up. Yes, it may require a bit of Washington help for that, too.

7. GUI/UI
GUI (pronounced gooey), or graphical user interface is not new. Many non-geeks use the term today, because that’s what separates software and hardware from those that are great to use, and those that are impossible to use. For kids and teachers it may be under the hood tech, but companies that get the GUI right and make it easy—sell products. Running something out of the box has gotten realistic—and expected.

8. Slates/Tablets/Convertibles
The modern day slate, whether used with a stylus or finger touch has become another way to teach a class from anywhere in the class, and to get students away from desks, too. Convertible devices offering a tablet attached to a laptop present a more traditional way to go. There will soon be more slate devices to choose, and when the pricing gets appropriately low—that will make a difference for districts.

9. Netbooks
These light-running Web machines can’t be considered new anymore, but they continue to be great student computing devices. They’re inexpensive, and their battery life is almost scary-long.

10. Response Systems
Many companies have jumped into the response system market. These little gadgets once were just voting or polling devices, but now there are texting solutions, too. With a little practice, most teachers can gather data—on the fly—during a lesson—and report the findings immediately, redirect teaching, and finally upload it all to grading or an SIS location.

11. Interactive Presentation Solutions
We’re moving away from linking the word interactive with just one piece of hardware. The key today is having a total interactive solution in a classroom. That could be a whiteboard solution, along with teacher stations, a tablet, a projector, a document camera, and teamed up with devices in student hands. Don’t forget audio and media controls, as well as dynamic software for lessons and tying everything together.

12. Paperless Solutions
Most think printing less when thinking paperless. Now, if you’re a printer company, that doesn’t necessarily, keep you off a top trend list. Multifunction is the name of the game. While it’s true that printers still print, multifunction machines can do much more. They are becoming district, school, and teacher management devices. Beyond scanning documents, the “new printers” can create assessments, score them, and input data into student information systems, as well as e-mail the information to parents. Many districts are setting them up to manage district forms.

13. Education Communities
Whether it’s a few teachers creating a personal learning network (PLN), or many teachers joining larger organizations—teaching communities are a must. Education companies know that, and are offering, or thinking of offering these communities as part of purchasing packages. Beyond teacher chats and videos on how to use a particular product, the resources, and lessons/templates make them worthwhile. The best of these are all educator, and the worst can be merely commercials. Avoiding the latter brings educators and districts back for more.

14. Resource Portals Educators
love links (URLs) to resources they can use. While hunting for URLS in a traditional search can benefit the few, who are good detectives, having sites that are dedicated to posting great and useful resources for educators are bookmarked and shared. Go to resource portals pay off.

15. Professional Development
Professional development delivery methods have changed, and more companies are offering it. Whether specific or general, educators expect professional development, and administrators plan how to deliver it. More and more, professional development has moved out from the four walls and to the 24/7 delivery method. Video plays an important part. Schools no longer need to be closed, nor substitute coverage provided, so workshops can happen.

16. Alert/Notification Solutions
Contacting everyone, whether it’s just a simple message about an open house, a need to close school due to weather, or emergencies, such as a lock down situation is a necessity. There is no way a school secretary can do that today. Tying SIS, parent contact information, school/district communication, and doing it in many ways, and in many languages has to happen—immediately. These solutions have become quicker and more robust. If your district is talking security cameras on buildings, they’re also talking alert and notification systems.

17. Online Courses/Virtual Schools
Going online for courses used to be just for credit recovery and distance learning. It still works for getting more kids across the graduation stage, and filling in for lost classes due to budget cuts, but virtual learning is now considered mainstream. There are many reasons, including more individualized attention, great video demonstrations, and interactive lessons, but the bottom line is that for many students, offering learning 24/7, away from the 4 traditional walls—works. The virtual student population is growing.

18. Video Conferencing Solutions
Gone are the days of expensive tools to do video conferencing with other classes, schools, and countries. Almost every computing device is set up to do it today—and to do it easily. Some companies are providing better hardware to do it, too. The difference today, over the “can you hear me now” software and hardware experiences of the past—is it works—and you don’t have to be a computer guru to do it.

19. Social Media
You may not agree that social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter have a place in schools, but they are becoming a simple connection for educators nationally and internationally. Sharing a lesson, a link, a suggestion, a how to, or just a hang in there on Twitter or Facebook has become part of an educator’s daily routine. As for use in the classroom, that’s still up for debate.

20. Battery Life
We need to thank some incredible tech experimentation for a lot, but more than anything for the boost in battery life. First probably noticeable in netbooks, it is almost unreal to think we’ve gone from batteries that would maybe go an hour to those that are pushing past 10. This is great news for the 6-hour school day, and back-to-back class schedules.

21. Video
Everyone can do video today. Just as everyone learned digital photography and simple editing, video options are becoming necessities. Many educators think of video as an expected component to daily lessons—certainly their students do. There are companies that fill video needs for those lessons, and it has become increasingly easy for teachers and students to add their own.

22. Security, Network Guarding and Management
Making networks secure and keeping students cyber safe can keep district tech leaders up at night. Options for gate keeping a district’s tech investment at a central location, using fewer tech support specialists can do it, and without breaking the bank. Classroom management tools can do the same for labs and classroom environments, where the number of computers to control has increased, and down time is not an option. It has also made it possible to create thin client computing environments that have no lag in computing power. Stringing together many monitors off of one sufficiently set up computer can be budget smart.

23. Assessment and RTI
Assessment and what to do with them continues to be the big education question,. Today, there are many methods and ways competing to most effectively test and prescribe to student needs. There is always the overhanging warning to poorly performing districts and schools as well, which keeps RTI providers on their toes. Some companies have added assessment and response to intervention to their solutions, while other companies provide it as their sole solution. While it’s a district preference and choice, all are Web-based today, because keeping data in a file drawer doesn’t get it shared—and acted upon.

24. District Websites, Blogs, Branding and Media
How a community perceives a district is important. Creating a public presence demands that a district and school have online place. It can’t be stagnant; it must be active. Media and branding are good for businesses, and also for education. Some districts have people who can do these things internally, but there are a number of companies that can help create a very professional look for districts to share with the community. The key is that these sites need to share, but also look professional today. Gone are the days of slap something up—just to get there. Today, the Website represents the district more than ever.

25. eReaders
Some would argue that a netbook would be better than an eReader in class, because it can do more. Well, if you just want something to fill a reading need in class, or in a resource room, an eReading device makes sense. Downloading books is simple and inexpensive, and eReaders are easy to use. Look for more of them in class. It’s always about using the right education tool for the right situation.

Note: Thank you Nano Tech
Small is definitely better. Devices, screen sizes, and gadgets are smaller—taking up less classroom real estate. Teachers, students and administrators are pretty much wearing technology today.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.