Sunday, January 7, 2007

Educational Technology Trends to Watch in 2007

A recent poll by eSchool News ( caught my interest. It asked if "text-speak" should be permitted for use on school tests and assignments. The results were

13% "Yes, most of the time"
38% "Yes, but only in some circumstances"
49% "Absolutely not"
0% "No opinion"

It will be interesting to see how much "text-speak" becomes embedded in school projects. How would you respond to the poll?


Education and the role of technology in education keep changing. eSchool News ( lists six educational technology trends to watch for their impact on schools and colleges in 2007.

Trend No. 1: The leveling power of the World Wide Web

You can create content--in writing, audio, or video--without expensive equipment and post your content so the world can view it. You don’t need the backing of a publisher or studio or lots of money to make it happen. YouTube is the current example of how easy this is to do. Record some video, edit it--or not--and post it on the web. Student projects--whether done for school or college or just for fun--now have a real medium for distribution.

Trend No. 2: Cloud computing

We’re all used to client/server computing—a group of clients (our individual computers) and a central server linked through a network. The speed of that network is becoming fast enough that the network can serve as the computer (to loosely quote Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google). So, instead of using a spreadsheet that resides on our computer, we can use a web-based spreadsheet… or other software.

"We call it 'cloud computing,'" [Schmidt] proclaims. "The servers should be in a cloud somewhere. And if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn't matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile telephone or a Blackberry--or new devices still to be developed--you can get access to the cloud."

Trend No. 3: Service-oriented architecture

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the creation of software by putting together bundles of single functions such as “cancel school bus route.” Designing software in this manner isn’t new; however, what’s different is building it on the web. Standard SOA tools make the process of creating this software much easier.

Trend No. 4: The gathering SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model)

The next trend--Sharable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM--comes closer to individual teachers. SCORM is a set of standards and specifications that allow digital learning materials to be accessed and reused. These specifications can help to ensure that digital content can be used in any learning management system (LMS) software. Hopefully, educators will be able to access reusable online content and incorporate portions into their own instruction.

Most of the major LMS software used today complies with the standard. And Moodle is on its way toward becoming compliant. With standards that allow teachers to share and reuse content or modify it for their own needs, instruction can be designed to meet the needs of the learners.

Trend No. 5: Telepresence and anytime, anywhere education

See how eSchool News describes a telepresence videoconference…
Imagine a conference room with six chairs, three on each side of a conference table. Envision a clear glass panel running down the center of the table.

Walk into this room while a high-level parlay is under way, and you'd see six executives deep in conversation. But here's the catch: Only three of them are physically present. The three participants closest to you actually are in the room--in Chicago, say. The others are in San Jose, Calif., but their life-size, high-definition images are on the glass partition in the Chicago conference room.
Direct eye contact, flawless streaming video, and perfect audio make it seem real. Full telepresence is expensive now; but, eventually, that cost could lessen. Videoconferences are effective now. Telepresence videoconference take that effectiveness a step higher.

Trend No. 6: 21st-century learning

Every student in America needs specific knowledge and skills to succeed in the 21st century. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, our students need:

* Information and communication skills
* Thinking and problem-solving skills
* Interpersonal and self-direction skills
* Global awareness
* Financial, economic, and business skills and
* Civic literacy.

The technology is available for these six trends--the flattening influence of the internet, cloud computing, SOA, SCORM, telepresence, and the drive for 21st-century skills. All we have to do now is bring the politics and the finances together with these trends to make some very effective differences in how we teach and how our students learn.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

"Gathering SCORM could transform eLearning" (eSN Online, April 2006)

"'Telepresence' adds realism to video conferencing" (eSN Online, October 2006)

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