Top EdTech Trends to Watch This Year

February 07, 2017

This article was written by Dennis Pierce, the former editor-in-chief of eSchool News, and current freelance writer covering education and technology. He has been following the ed-tech space for more than 17 years. To contact him, email: 

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Digital equity and transformational leadership are some of the key issues that edtech leaders will be focusing on in 2017, and at least one national expert believes we might see the beginning of “course choice” policies that could spur a significant growth in blended learning opportunities for K-12 schools.

I asked several edtech experts for their thoughts on what 2017 will hold for schools, and what projects or resources their organizations will be coming out with this year to help K-12 leaders integrate technology effectively in their districts. Here are some of their responses.

Christine Fox, Deputy Executive Director, State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)

“Seamless access to devices and high-speed broadband both in and outside of school continue to be an issue. Securing access to devices and broadband across campuses and at home is critical.

“(We also must) ensure the capacity of teachers to implement standards-aligned, high quality instructional materials to provide personalized, deeper learning experiences. The implementation of OER (open educational resource) materials is a growing trend, and states are working to navigate the total cost of ownership and ensure the quality and curation of those materials.

“SETDA is launching a Guide to Quality Instructional Materials in February—an online toolkit for states, districts, and schools as they consider the selection and implementation of digital instructional materials. We are also launching an online community of practice to support the implementation of digital instructional materials.

“In addition, SETDA is hosting a series of Broadband Webinars as a deeper dive into our Broadband Imperative II report. Here is a link to the first one, which focuses on increasing the infrastructure needed to support student-centered learning.”

Michael Horn, Co-Founder and Distinguished Fellow of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation and Principal Consultant for Entangled Solutions

“Heather Staker and I are coming out with a workbook companion guide for teachers and administrators to our book Blended that will give people hands-on exercises to help them design a blended-learning environment. And at Entangled Solutions, we will be moving forward with our plan to create a nonprofit organization that houses standards of quality assurance for higher-education institutions that quality assurance entities (can) use to audit the claims around student performance or outcomes. I think this easily could be applied in the K-12 environment as well, especially with regards to full-time virtual schools that need to show stronger student outcomes that people trust.

“I think that with a big emphasis on choice coming from Washington, D.C., we will see more activity around ‘Course Access’ or ‘Course Choice’ policies, whereby dollars follow students down to the course of their choice and providers only receive the money when a student is successful—which would give school districts a huge portfolio of online learning options with which to serve students. That could be an exciting development, particularly in rural and exurban parts of America where school choice will never practically materialize—and it will create big opportunities for districts to innovate and create blended-learning environments.

“More generally, I think we’ll see mobile learning platforms that are more accessible to more learners continue to take off and grow in 2017.”

Leslie Wilson, Founder and CEO, One-to-One Institute

“I think the biggest edtech issue facing schools this year is the need for high-quality leadership to drive the digital transformation needed for this century and beyond. There must be a clear understanding and communication of vision, mission, and strategies. Leaders also need to let go of legacy costs and reallocate resources for new priorities. Those priorities must be learner-centered and powered.

“We will be closely watching the growth and efficacy of blended learning models, including what tools will be used, what strategies are most powerful, and what the role of the teacher is. We also will be watching for authentic personalization techniques for all learners—including for teachers’ professional learning opportunities. We will be watching for real change agency and giving voice to all stakeholders involved in the school community, and we will continue to seek research findings around the efficacy of edtech for student achievement and other universal skills.”

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[Jim Thorpe]
[Jim Thorpe]