The Education Technology of 2013
Moore’s Law says that computer processing power doubles roughly every two years.
In the 1970s, processing speeds ranged from 740 KHz to 8 MHz. The Commodore 64, one of the best-selling personal computers of all-time, was delivered to the world in the Spring of 1982. It featured 64 bits of memory and an 8-bit powerhouse whose processing speed would have wowed the world years before Clear Pepsi even had a chance to fail.
The Nintendo 64 was released in Japan in June 1996. It featured a 64 bit processing system (and 4 MB of RDRAM), and a processing speed of closer to 100 MHz. The 14 year gap between the two commercial products would suggest huge, exponential growth. 1 MHz in 1982 should be 2 MHz in 1984, 4 in 1986, and 8 in 1988. In 1990 this number jumps to 16, 32 in 1992, and 64 MHz in 1994. 1996? 128 MHz, which fits the mathematical expectation almost perfectly.
While the above is an oversimplification, the point is that up until now, Moore’s law has proven mostly correct.
Technology in the Classroom
Obviously there is not a direct shot from cutting edge technology to the classroom. This sort of path is obscured by cultural, economic, and societal factors, not to mention the way certain trends in public education sap attention and resources. A school district focused on improving test performance may find it difficult to innovate the way smartphones can be used in learning. Finite resources—chiefly time—means less time for new ideas.
So where does this leave education—not just in 2020, but in the near-future. To get to 2020, we have to get there first.
So what might you expect to see in 2013? Processing speed can be expected to increase somewhere around 50% in the next 12 months, but the landscape of education technology will see a different kind of change—new twists on existing trends, and new tools to help dissolve existing barriers to learning.
While it’s tempting to paint a Utopian picture of students manipulating holograms to solve global challenges, the reality will be a lot closer to what 2012 looked like, but with a few key progressions you just might find exciting.
1. Better Blending
Blended learning is a mix of eLearning and face-to-face learning.
It’s also symbolic of the way education is forced to change. Being tied to government agencies, institutional policies, and a dated public image, fast, substantive changes—to pure eLearning environments, for example—simply aren’t possible. However, this also can act as a kind of built-in self-protective measure. In public education, nothing happens fast.
But what can happen in 2013 is better blending. The “flipped classroom” is the most visible example of blended learning, and as more teachers hop on-board this kind of approach, there will naturally be variations—and sharing of those variations through social media. The blending will become smarter: better content, better technology, and better sharing.
The screen capture software that’s used.
The organization of content on YouTube or vimeo channels.
The sharing of existing content from educators via Learnist.
More natural collaboration between learners at home using the blended approach.
2. More Apps
Few of these trends are certain, but this is one you can take to the bank—there will be more apps. Lots more.
And with more apps comes more content, connectivity, and access to collaborators. Not only does this mean new apps, like the “A Novel Idea” gem that helps writers organize fiction writing, but also improvement of existing apps like Evernote, which continues to add functionality like voice recording, smoother image embedding, webpage clipping, and even convergence with Skitch.
And Posterous, which allows for easy sharing of photos with groups.
And better games and simulations like “The Sims 3.”
Apps are little “episodes” of software that are limited only by the imagination of the programmer, and the hardware its hosted by. With high-res still cameras, GPS, Wi-Fi, gyrometers, HD video capability, retina displays, and other gizmos, the potential is very bright indeed.
3. Smarter mobility
The first-generation of technology integration in modern classrooms involved film—movies, television, and cameras. Application here was almost entirely passive, as students did more observation than creation.
The second-generation was built around the personal computer—most from Macintosh and Apple. Application here opened things up a bit for the students, but the work has changed enough to match the new technology. Book reports have been moved to word processors, and research has been moved—for better or for worse—from libraries to search engines.
The third-generation will be built around mobility. This was a process that began with laptops—which are technically mobile—and iPod adoption. Now tablets are making the next leap, laden with powerful apps and hand-held utility. iPods, iPads, and even products from Google and Microsoft are taking advantage of improved Wi-Fi access to at least allow for some degree of mobility within a school.
4. Non-Apple Devices
Speaking of products from Google and Microsoft, enter the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, Chromebooks, and Windows Tablet PC. In 2013, you’ll begin to see non-Apple products creep back into classrooms. While the iPad is great, the cost is not cheap. Pure eReaders from Kindle can be had for $69, and the Nook Simple Touch seen for as little as $49. Add to this the Android-powered Kindle Fire—an eReader and app machine combined–which can be had for $199, and you’ve got some powerful arguments for #edtech.
Fresh data as to exactly what kind of technology teachers are using in the classroom isn’t easy to track down, but products from Apple have dominated the wish-lists of educators since the wunder-tablet entered the market in April 2010. This is a trend that will likely continue for the near future, but has a chance to be interrupted if Android and Windows app developers can pursue their respective hardware with the same gusto they have the iPad.
At the end of the day, it’s about the apps.
5. Lower Clouds
Consistent mobility requires a smart cloud, and in 2013 you will likely see app developers and school districts alike figure out ways to improve how they leverage the mythical “cloud”—a cloud that should prove just a bit lower for a broader base of users.
Some school districts have moved their email from dedicated servers to Gmail, and are naturally using native Google apps like Google Docs (now called GDrive), Google Calendars, and YouTube to produce, share, and curate digital thinking. As the tempting seductress of “free” sings her siren song in an era of diminishing school budgets, more and more districts will take a long, hard look at how and why they use productivity suites and email servers. This means a move to the cloud.
Concerns of liability, security, and logistics continue to logjam the process, but it is likely only a matter of time until the core of student learning exists—to one degree or another—not on the district “H Drive,” but the cloud itself.
Things (usually) change not through fiery revolution, but incremental change.
Every now and again there is a giant leap forward, but for the most part Moore’s law holds true. Marked, consistent change in processing power enables faster hardware—and more bells and whistles for micro-industries like education.
Blended learning is already happening, but in 2013 it should get incrementally better.
Mobile learning is already possible, but in 2013 it should be a little bit smarter—and accessible to more and more students as logistics improve and costs fall.
The clouds will lower themselves just so in 2013, allowing more educators to understand how it can be used, and more students to use it to improve their own learning.
This time next year, nothing will be dramatically different. Just a little faster, a bit more diverse, and a touch closer to the ideal learning environment where students have direct access to the right content at the right time, burning with an authentic need to know.
This article was originally written by Terry Heick for Edudemic Magazine