When I think about trends, my brain often immediately leaps to fashion. What styles are people wearing this season? What’s being sold in stores? What are you seeing on the runway? These trends are often obvious; you’re not just reading about them on the internet or hearing about them on TV, but you’re seeing them come to life every
Trends in educational technology don’t quite seem to follow this same pattern. They’re not always as obvious, as easy to implement, or as fast-moving as fashion trends. After reading a number of “2019 EdTech Trends” blog posts (view reading list), I have a lot of thoughts and questions.
Trends I support
As education continues to compete with social media, Netflix, YouTube, video games, and the constant ping of a cell phone, ensuring our educational activities are engaging is becoming increasingly important, especially when they are taking place online. Gamification has been a huge factor in creating engagement and motivation in online learning. Not only is it often fun, gamification can often result in trial-and-error without feeling shame, allows you to see what you’re learning in context, and can keep you wanting more! We took this approach in developing our online Pre-Arrival Program at UVic, and even though a lot of the games are still quite simple, student feedback has still been quite positive!
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
Where field trips can be a hassle to coordinate, important locations too far away to visit, or no expert is available to show you around, AR/VR can be hugely beneficial in education. These are fairly easy tools for a teacher to implement, so long as someone has created the experience they are looking for. I can easily see the Welcome Centre at UVic replacing their paper-based self-guided tour of campus with an app that provides a tour via augmented reality.
It’s great to see that the idea of having a pen pal classroom in a foreign country has evolved as technology has evolved! There’s so much to be learned by sharing cultures and interacting with people who are different from yourself, and technology provides us with so many options for doing this. While reading this section, however, I couldn’t help but stop and wonder about how this trend is manifested within student affairs. We talk a lot about the power of going on exchange for a semester, and UVic has a Global Community program designed to bring together people, in-person, from all over the world. However, as far as I can tell, we’ve skipped over the impact that technology could potentially have in helping us to meet some of those same goals for students who are unable to participate in those opportunities.
The trend here isn’t talking about digital citizenship in general, but that we’re “moving away from warning students about online risks or trying to curtail their activities and toward helping them leverage the power of digital media to work toward creation, social justice and equity” (view article). Having been a part of circles talking about this for years now, it’s great to see the idea is finally catching on. I suspect that as educators become more familiar with these platforms for their own personal use, this shift will become even more pronounced. In higher education/student affairs, there
Trends that seem like trends-gone-by
If I was reading a blog post about EdTech trends 5-10 years ago, I might be okay with smartboards being on the list. But today, if anything, I think this is more of a passing trend. Trends should feel new and innovative, and this one just doesn’t meet either of those standards anymore. If anything, any trends relating to smartboards these days should be talking about ways to use the smartboard, and not simply about the presence of the tech item in the classroom. Reading this also reminded me that we have a smartboard in our office meeting room… and we only ever use it as a projection screen.
Seamless resource access
When something has come to be an expectation, I don’t think it can be considered a trend anymore. Seamless resource access definitely
Trends I have pedagogical questions about
Speech to text options
I’m fully behind using speech-to-text as an option for
One blog post argued that digital voice assistants (think Siri or Alexa) have the “potential to support students in reaching higher levels of learning and thinking as they use the devices to practice asking questions and thinking out loud” (view post). They cited no source for this statement, and it set off some alarm bells in my mind. If we’re thinking about ‘higher levels of learning’ in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy, I have a hard time rationalizing this statement. In my experience with digital voice assistants, they’re good with some of the lower levels of the
Trends that just aren’t trends
There’s a difference between technology that we talk about and technology that we implement, and I’m pretty sure blockchain technology still fits in that former category. The concept behind blockchain technology is confusing and hard to grasp, and I can only imagine what the implementation would look like and who would be required. While I can certainly see the benefits of blockchain, a quick search of “blockchain in higher education” only turns up a couple of institutions who have actually implemented the practice. Early adoption does not yet make a trend.
If I’m being honest, the fact that someone wrote this on their list of trends annoys me. I don’t think that improvements in existing technology can qualify as trends, because we, as consumers, don’t actually have a choice in whether or not we adopt them. When my cell service provider switches from LTE to 5G, so do I; it’s not my choice when that happens or whether to implement it. Will there be implications for learning when 5G becomes more widespread? I would guess yes, as access to information becomes even easier, but if that’s what you’re talking about, write an article called “The Impacts of Technology Improvements on Education”, please.
Okay, okay, okay. I cringe listing student-centred learning as not a trend, but I also feel I have to in order to make a point. I agree that there is more of an emphasis on personalized learning than there used to be. I agree that there are small schools, such as the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), popping up that
Trends that require so much work
There is such potential in using learning analytics to help design better educational experiences, whether overall or on an individual level. But it’s also important to recognize that learning analytics takes time and expertise. It’s unrealistic to expect a teacher to go home at the end of every week, do analysis, and make changes for the next week. If we really want this to be incorporated into our system on a regular basis, we need to find strategies to make it easy and intuitive, and I’m not quite sure we’re there yet- with our systems or with our teachers.
Reliance on others
Okay, so this wasn’t a trend that came up in any of the articles, but it was something I wanted to bring up. With many trends in education more broadly, a teacher can simply decide they want to jump on board, and do so with a little bit of preparation. This is the case with something like inquiry-based learning, or problem-based learning. With EdTech trends, however, this isn’t always the case. We’re reliant on the systems designed by companies, who may sometimes become complacent once they have a strong footing in the field, or who simply can’t keep up with what we’re asking for from the system. This is the case with any learning management system; you can only do what it will let you do. You may want to incorporate virtual reality into your classroom, but it’s unlikely that you have the tech skills required to design the experience you’re looking for; you have to rely on other people to create those experiences. The examples could go on and on and on- incorporating an EdTech trend into your practice is often not an individual effort.