The road ahead - what’s in store for edtech in 2014?
Another year is almost done, and another significant one for the edtech community. MOOCs, flipped classrooms, social media as a teaching tool, Big Data… it’s all been going on in the last 12 months. So what about 2014 - what’s in store?
Elearning magazine asked some of the movers and shakers of education for their predictions. MOOCs are there again - no surprise there. But there’s also a growing trend to focus on the teaching and learning behaviours that technology encourages, with themes of openness, sharing, collaboration and creativity all mentioned.
What about you? What’s the one thing that you think will characterise edtech in 2014? Leave us your comment below.
Computer Science education week officially kicks off today, highlighted by the much publicised Hour Of Code - an hour long introduction to the basics of computer science funded by non-profit Code.org. The surge of coding and making both inside the classroom and out will continue in 2014 as we see edtech startups Raspberry PI, Tree house, MakerBot, and others, grow and continue to encourage the development of STEM skills in schools.
Today, Pearson announced the wrap up of our first edtech accelerator programme Pearson Catalyst for Education. The inaugural class of five startups ‘graduating’ today - ClassOwl, Spongelab, Actively Learn, Ace Learning Company and VLinks Media - were chosen from a pool of over 200 applicants from around the globe. Over a three-month period, the startups partnered with Pearson business sponsors on pilot programmes to address specific opportunities and challenges put forward by Pearson teams. Through tailored mentoring sessions, the startups have had access to knowledge, talent and resources from across Pearson and its global network.
Pearson’s Head of Future Technologies Diana Stepner said, “The intersection of technology and education is one of the most exciting areas for entrepreneurism right now, and we have been blown away by the response to Catalyst and the quality of output from the participants. It’s been an inspirational few months; everyone involved from Pearson has learnt a tremendous amount from these startups, such as how to maintain creativity and passion, as well as the importance of remaining agile and jumping quickly on opportunities. And we can’t wait to begin working on the next class.”
Edtech startups, if you’d like to participate the next Pearson Catalyst for Education programme running in 2014, then register your interest here.
Big news this week for higher education in the UK, with the announcement of a new computer network to serve the sector. JANET 6 set its 6,500km of optical fibres whirring, with a promise to enable UK universities to cope with the ever-increasing data they need to handle. Driving that challenge to expand capacity has been a growing culture of collaboration between researchers at different institutions, and across different countries, resulting in significant growth in information transfer.
Three years in the making and funded to the tune of £25 million of government spend, the super-fast network is being described as a ‘game-changer’. According to Professor Martin Hall, who will be chairing the team behind JANET 6 from January, the new network creates the environment to revolutionise research.
"For researchers…the challenge is shifting digital data around quickly, and JANET 6 gives them mechanisms for shifting large datasets,” he said.
Recent research from Pearson showed that the majority of higher education faculty in the US remain dispassionate about technology. The knee-jerk conclusion may be that this is simply an educational issue; that given time to understand the benefits of technology to learning, faculty will be more eager to adopt it.
But writing in CNN, David Wheeler of Asbury University suggests that a reluctance to embrace technology may not simply be a case of ignorance. He points to recent ‘jaw-dropping’ research that shows the percentage of full time higher education teaching positions in the US having plummeted by almost half in less than fifty years. His inference - that technology is removing teaching jobs - may explain why some educators see the threat of technology before they see the blessing.
It’s a question that Pearson’s Jeff Borden heard time and again from teachers on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Radio, television and film were all supposed to transform education, so the argument goes, but none has. So why trust computers to do any better? Suddenly the stock responses - ‘it’s where the students are’, or ‘enthuse teachers and they’ll create their own benefits’ - seemed all too familiar and uninspiring.
But then Jeff heard an answer that struck a chord. It came from Dr Richard Baraniuk of Rice University in the US, who suggested we look at the benefits in terms of systems and processes. For Jeff, who has been researching the use of technology in education for 20 years, it was an “Aha!” moment.
Find out why via Jeff’s full report of the 11th eLearning Seminar.
Advocates of MOOCs regularly point to their ability to open up learning to the disenfranchised as a key benefit; that through this new technology education is no longer the privilege of the wealthy few. However, new research coming out of the University of Pennsylvania suggests this view may not be quite as robust as some may like, and that most people taking free online courses are among the best-educated and wealthiest of the population.
The study of almost 35,000 MOOC users worldwide found that 83 per cent already had a college degree; and elsewhere MOOCs are the preserve of middle class families who see them as a cheaper alternative to a more traditional route of sending their children to a foreign university.
New research in the UK shows a sharp rise in the number of children who use mobile phone text message abbreviations in their school work. More than a quarter of pupils polled by the National Literacy Trust insisted there was “no point” attempting to master the basic rules of English language. Whereas most would shudder at the sight of a ‘grt’ or ‘b4’ in the course of an essay, a report by the UK’s Department for Education found that mobile phone use required a “certain degree of phonological awareness” that could actually drive up standards of written work.
Graeme Paton of The Times takes up the investigation.