This past week, The New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative release the annual Horizon Report. To check out an online version of the Horizon Report 2011, see here. You can also use this link to download a PDF version.
What does the report have to say to our current circumstances in educational technology? An interesting place to start is to look at what the report calls “Key Drivers or Technological Trends” affecting teaching and learning specifically, and education in general.
According to the 2011 Horizon Report, there are four key drivers to current educational technology practices. These include: 1) “The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging to us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing,” 2)”People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want,” 3)”World of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student products are structured,” and 4) “Technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and notion of IT support decentralized.” What do these trends mean for education? For my own school and school district, these trends are changing how we go about the business of educating our students.
First of all, the abundance of resources on the Internet has already impacted what teachers do in our school. Walk into any of our classrooms, and you’ll see students often engaged in content from the Web. Our labs run full throttle each and every day, while we try to provide students with access to these resources. We have even opened our WiFi so that students can access the Internet with their own personal devices. Students in our school use this Web content to create authentic learning projects to present to their peers. The role of our teachers has become learning facilitator in those instances. Project-based learning guides is a true cornerstone of learning.
Secondly, as a school we are beginning to see the expectation from our students that they be able to learn and study whenever and wherever they want. Much of our students are engaged in online classes. They expect to be able to work and learn in these classes both at school and at home. Our students are also yearning for learning that expands beyond the walls of our school. Yet, to be honest, other than online classes, we aren’t fully there. Our teachers are exploring anytime, online learning environments like Edmodo, and are experience success with these. In the coming year, we want to make it even more possible for our students to learn any where they want to learn. We know learning does not just take place in the rooms of our school.
Thirdly, collaboration is a cornerstone of our school. The first thing you notice when you walk into our school: there are no individual student desks, only tables with chairs. This is purposeful. Our teachers use every opportunity to get students working collaboratively. Where can we go next? Perhaps we should explore working collaboratively with groups of students outside the walls of our building. We have Skype, Google Docs, and aEdmodo, so the tools are there, we just need to make the connections with the world.
Finally, we are already engaged in cloud-based technological solutions. Our school system uses Google Apps already. My teaching staff uses Google Docs for all kinds of documents they need to be shared and collaborated upon. Skype is one of the first software programs we all activate in the mornings. We have students using Dropbox instead of toting flashdrives. We are getting ready to buy Glogster accounts for all of our students. Right now, the only limitation to our use of cloud-based technologies is funding. The truth is, we are increasingly engaged in using cloud tools, and our IT department is happy because there is no need to provide tech support for those applications.
The 2011 Horizon Report’s Key Drivers to educational technology trends are more evident to me every day as I watch our students and teachers engage in the use of technology as a normal part of teaching and learning. My challenge as a school leader and administrator is to tear down the barriers that get in the way of effectively engaging technology, and to fight for the resources and support in a time when some want to cut those.