10/22/2012 @ 9:23PM
5 School Technologies To Watch: Personalized Learning Is Here
Eric Savitz, Forbes Staff
Guest post written by Jeremy Friedman
The past few years have seen a steady influx of new investment, new companies and new opportunities in education technology. From technologies that live inside the classroom to technologies that inspire learning outside the classroom; from physical devices to mobile applications. School technology decisions are becoming more democratic, and the pervasiveness of Internet-connected devices is helping to lead a revolution. We are reaching a point in time where technology is empowering people toward a path of personalization, and almost every new technology in the education technology space today fills a cog in that wheel. The following are some of the top trends and market innovators leading the charge this coming year – attracting developers and investors along the way.
- Moving to the Cloud and Collaborative Environments:
As more educational resources go online and schools push to reduce IT infrastructure costs, institutions are adopting cloud-computing strategies to meet their needs. Cloud-based solutions are also proving to be very effective in supporting collaborative environments, where students can work together, regardless of physical location. The 2012 Horizon Report, which provides insights into education technology trends, predicts that collaborative environments are about one year away from mainstream adoption. Most importantly, the amount of data and analytics that can be aggregated in mass and at a level beyond an individual school or district opens new doors for intelligent technology that can help create and foster an individualized learning environment.
- Cross-Platform Integration, Vendor Collaboration and the Rise of the Marketplace:
Now more than ever, education technology vendors are moving from application maker to platform provider. In the process, many are opening their APIs to foster collaboration – not only among end-users, but cross-platform. This vendor collaboration and openness encourages rapid innovation and content sharing that ultimately benefits all stakeholders. It also begins to open new distribution models for new companies looking to gain scale quickly, and new business models for those with widespread scale and reach.
Vendors and end-users are realizing that no product will be the best at everything. Instead, people are looking for ways to extend the functionality of their systems or attract new business opportunities via a services model. Open APIs and public developer platforms enable education technology vendors to do just that.
Vendor collaboration and cross-platform integration is important for education and will continue to be a big trend for two main reasons. First, vendors all share a common goal, to improve the learning lives of students and teachers through the digital medium. Secondly, data integration in education is a significant challenge. Until the industry successfully tackles the issue, vendors will continue to find ways to overcome this burden.
- The Explosion of All Things Mobile:
Innovations in mobile technology are advancing education and extending classroom learning by giving students the opportunity to learn anytime and anywhere. From smartphones and tablets to eReaders and laptops, devices are in demand and so is the hotter-than-ever mobile app marketplace. Mobileapps are one of the fastest growing areas in education technology that support learning. They are abundant, inexpensive and easily accessible.
In an effort to keep pace with the advancement of these mobile education tools, while facing budget realities, many schools have started to embrace Bring Your Own Device practices. Moving forward, I think we are going to see BYOD play a larger role, while districts provide students of lesser means with access to school-owned devices.
The challenge is that while new devices yield tremendous opportunity, they also provide more environments that companies must support. Apple’s iOS devices have an early advantage and “cool” factor, but in the short term we will start to see Android and Windows 8 devices enter the market and take significant share. Unfortunately, developing for multiple devices is not easy and there is no guarantee when there will be a large number of quality apps available.
- An Emphasis on Adaptive Learning:
Adaptive learning is not necessarily new, but it is making its way directly to individuals in a more widespread fashion than ever before. Adaptive learning is popular because it offers students a more personalized learning experience. Technically, it is an educational method that uses computers as interactive teaching devices. Content and instruction are tailored to the skill level and needs of each student, which simultaneously helping to improve the teaching process in an automated manner.
One exciting company in this space is Knewton, the provider of a widely deployed adaptive learning platform that uses student data to personalize learning content. The platform is continuously adaptive; it responds in real time to the activity of each user on the system and adjusts to provide the most relevant content. Knewton is able to capture every move a student makes – scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs. The platform collects this data and the software adapts to challenge and persuade the user to learn based on his/her individual style. Some people believe these are tools to replace a teacher; rather, they are simply one of many supplemental tools that are now available in the teaching toolbox to help remediate and personalize a learning experience.
Interest in using game design and mechanics to increase engagement in learning has advanced considerably in recent years – from social and goal-oriented games, to everyday tasks containing gamified elements. One example is ClassDojo, a company that providers behavior management software. By taking standard processes, making them interactive, and applying game mechanics, students become more aware of their achievements and in turn better understand the behaviors and needs required to succeed in a classroom setting.
Game-based learning is even one of the priorities of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which earlier this year helped launch the Games, Learning and Assessment (GLASS) Lab. According to the organization, GLASS Lab is “based on the understanding that digital games and simulations can support student learning by providing immediate feedback for students, teachers and parents on students’ progress toward established learning goals.”
Reflecting a major shift in the way students learn and acquire knowledge, GLASS Lab will research and develop digital games to engage students and measure learning. The Lab is backed by $10.3 million in grants from the Gates Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is also supported by Electronic Arts and the Entertainment Software Association and is a project of Institute of Play, a non-profit design studio that works at the intersection of games and learning.
Education and the traditional classroom experience as we know it is continuously changing. The 2012-2013 school year is certain to usher in new digital tools and different teaching approaches. Only time will tell which technologies will have the greatest impact on education and the learning lives of students, but one thing is certain – the path to personalized learning begins now.