1 Certainty & 25 Possibilities: What To Expect From Education In 2013


Guessing what the future of education holds is equal parts logic and guesswork.

The logical part is simpler–take current trends and trace their arc further, doing your best to account for minor aberrations. If the majority of public education in the United States is waist-deep in adopting new academic standards, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict they are going to have a strong gravity about them in the education at large.

What’s Certain

In 2013, a theme that is absolutely certain is disruption. Some of that disruption will be through technology, some of it decay of existing power-sets. How it will change education over the next twelve months can be guessed in part by looking at the previous twelve, a time period where we’ve seen iPads capture the imagination of national media, MOOCs catch the eye of the bluebloods in higher ed, and BYOD look like a better and better choice for K-12 public education districts everywhere.

In 2013, those trends will continue, along with some new ideas as we begin to demand more than feel-good potential out of learning experiences for students.

What To Expect From Education In 2013

1. Diversification of formal and informal learning platforms

As technology improves, increased access and diversity are two changes you can be certain of. There still may be a lack of equity, and learning isn’t certain to improve as a result, but there will be more access to more content and more communities and platforms. This emphasizes the potential of informal learning, and new styles of formal learning.

2. Continued higher ed metamorphosis

While it’d be hyperbole to suggest that in the next twelve months higher education will suddenly reinvent itself, what you likely will see in 2013 is more of an “ooze” into something a bit different. More blended, more MOOCish, and perhaps the beginning of something a bit more cost effective, if only a very small–but critical–scale.

3. Game-based learning matures (from simulations to pop culture games)

Though growing strongly as an undercurrent, game-based learning is still in its relative infancy in the big education space. From serious games and learning simulations, to using pop culture games like Fallout 3 and Portal in the classroom, game-based learning is finding its way into classrooms as educators become more comfortable with exactly how they fit.

4. Common Core dominates school faculty meetings but continues to be ignored in start-up space

Right now, the education start-up space is dominated by apps, “open learning,” and social learning platforms that offer new access, revised content forms, and improved connectivity.

But in the United States, the majority of K-12 learners are being fed Common Core-based curriculum, and thus far, the Common Core has been largely ignored by smart start-ups. Just not sexy enough I suppose. Honestly, I can’t blame them for three major reasons: it’s not global (U.S. only), it requires adhering to what districts are already doing (stifling innovation potential), and it’s dreadfully boring (seriously–have you read them?)

5. Smarter MOOCs

OCW and MOOCs, in one way or another, are changing the way we think about learning. And there are even rumblings that official college credit may soon be available. Right now, the energy for them to improve is grassroots-based and honorable. To keep them from drifting into the shape of strictly profit-driven big business–as higher ed is now–will be the challenge going forward.

6. Slight shift from social media platforms to social media APIs

Social media isn’t going anywhere, but using them as independent platforms could eventually be replaced by the “API approach,” where app and platform developers embed social media directly into the software itself at the root level in the same way social media sharing is now built-in on some many blogs and websites. The primary interaction then is not on twitter or facebook, but external.

7. Data experiments–visual data, data sharing; less data, more data

This is something that should’ve happened a long time ago–classroom teachers having access to real-time data from constant, minor assessments in a highly visual form. Not broad percentages, or binary stamps like “proficient” and “non-proficient,” data now should be persistently accessed, and then visualized in an easily consumable way–for teachers, students, and parents. With the rise of infographics and digital visual tools, the opportunity to finally make it happen is stronger than ever.

8. Struggles with Common Core—especially assessment

This one is a no-brainer, and probably doesn’t need an explanation.

9. Growth of gamification and alternatives progress reporting

We’ve written before both about gamification, as well as alternatives to letter grades. Regardless, the letter grade will eventually be replaced, if the idea of a singular, summative score isn’t eradicated altogether.

10. Social learning encroaches on eLearning coursework space

Social learning platforms from Edmodo to Eduplanet21 are first changing where learning happens, but will eventually change how it happens–at least the digital segment of the process.

Straight eLearning platforms are often one-size-fits-all courses–eVersions of standard schooling. By incorporating social dynamics into eLearning spaces, said eLearning forms can change


11. Crowdsourcing of content (YouTube, Udemy, etc.)

YouTube’s recent “channeling” of dedicated formal learning content is an under-appreciated step forward. This essentially crowdsources learning material that are accessible to anyone with the will and an internet connection–much the same way the Khan Academy did, but with far more diverse content, and a truly crowdsourced approach.

12. More Courseras

As Khan Academy turns into Coursera, Coursera will eventually give way to a new kind of free–or at least affordable–eLearning style that offers quality course content and collaboration. For this to happen, the standard business ecology of failure and success must continue to cycle.

13. Fight between start-ups and corporate entities for control of learning spaces

While it already happens on a smaller scale, at some point–perhaps 2013–a company like McGraw Hill will butt heads with a smaller start-up like learnist on a larger stage. What happens might surprise you.

14. Venture-Capital funding of alternative school models will get closer

For now, venture capitalists–and their supported start ups–are focusing on content, information, and social media connectivity. (Actually, the VCs are focused on profit, but I digress.) Eventually they will stumble upon how people actually learn, and “schools” and related programs. Once the power of capitalism collides with how people learn, change will be swift. This will likely not happen in 2013, but we will be closer than ever. (*awkward, raucous applause*)

15. Increased division between traditional and non-traditional learning models

As learning forms wiggle, sprout wings, and fly, existing models–with a century of dogma and infrastructure–will have to justify themselves to stay in business, and may indeed be rude about it along the way. This will increase existing divisions between staunch “academists” and “hippie” learning innovators. Should be fun to watch.

16. Rise in credibility of entrepreneurial learning

Right now, entrepreneurial learning is just “cute.” It feels good to think about, but only a handful of organizations are taking it seriously. The resources necessary for always-on, self-directed learning are more than available. As frameworks and models are added and new curriculum forms emerge, it is almost certainly the way of the future.

17. Higher education seeks to alter perception on a wider scale

In 2013, we could see higher education finally respond to the changes in learning on a wider scale. Some of this may start with marketing that seeks to alter the perception of the value of formal institution certificates. There will also likely be continued progression of programs like EdX that can be more meaningfully tied to the learning of current university students.

18. Evolution of Project-Based Learning

What started out as projects in school and evolved into a process of learning that is guided by projects. This evolution is now extending into digital spaces–some innovative, some less so, but all a part of the process of change.

19. Less about iPads, more about apps

If 2012 was the year of the iPad, 2013 will hopefully be less so–more about apps and mobile learning models, and less distraction about hardware. In fact, this change will have to occur if iPads are going to continue justifying their considerable integration cost of time and money moving forward as school districts crunch data more resolutely.

20. BYOD success—in pockets

I never expected BYOD to be such a controversial idea, but it clearly is. Some swear by it, while other educators express deep concern about equity, legal issues, and even cost. In 2013 it is unlikely that BYOD will see widespread momentum, but the districts that choose to confront its challenges and make it work will likely see strong results.

21. A return to vlogging and blogging

Blogging is so 2009. Once facebook exploded, blogging started to look a bit long in the tooth. But now education has expanded needs in literacy across content areas as a result of Common Core adoption. Further, digital literacy is swelling in importance by the day, emphasizing the need to consistently combine media forms–something that is very accessible through most blogging platforms.

YouTube channels are already seeing content access for self-learners, enrichment in public schools, and flipped classrooms–and YouTube channels = vlogging.

22. Shift from school improvement to community improvement and integration

So I’m not super confident about this one, but I am hopeful. In 2013 I’d love to see a shift away from improving schools and a shift towards improving communities. Unfortunately, this is hard to measure and beyond the scope of the Common Core. But I can dream.

23. Continued increase in homeschooling

This one is a mathematical certainty–homeschooling is showing strong growth across the United States, growing every bit as fast as the more vocal charter school “movement.” True growth here will only occur once the old-school connotation of homeschooling is replaced by an image of a digital and self-directed learner capable of self-actuating the learning process–and critical collaborative actions–on their own.

Vanderbilt University Scholar Joseph Murphy explains part of homeschool’s growth:

“This gets at the heart of why home-schooling has blossomed. “The hallmark issue in the home-schooling movement is control,” Murphy says. “As power and influence were passed from parents and communities to government agents and professional experts throughout the 20th century, real costs were experienced by parents, costs calculated in terms of loss of control over the schooling of their children.”

Homeschooling needs branding beyond the stereotypical image vision of social outcasts studying the Bible at the kitchen table.

24. Visible failure as non-experts innovate—and fail—in the now white-hot education space

Learning–both formal and informal–is hot right now. As that trend continues, more will be attracted to this “space” to give a shot. And by the laws of business, many will fail, especially as business and technology experts build their own capacity for understanding the learning process.

25. A diversification of blended learning forms

As blended learning continues its predictable growth, more organizations and platforms will enter the fray. This will create diversity, choice, adaptation, and eventually continued evolution.

Image attribution flickr users danzen and torres21