Game-Changing Technologies in the 2011 Horizon Report

Increasing the types of tools used in the classroom without affecting cost is challenging for many learning-focused organizations and schools. However, the recent 2011 Horizon Report K-12 Edition, released by the New Media Consortium in cooperation with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), details several near-term, mid-term and long-term technologies that will expand the K-12 classroom toolset without breaking the budget. Schools offering Information Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


Mobile Devices and Cloud Computing

Cloud computing and mobile devices fall under the near-term technologies category described in the 2011 Horizon Report K-12 Edition. These technologies are expected to impact classroom learning in the next year or less. The recent success of Apple's iPad has spurred a boom in the production of tablets, many of which utilize various operating systems, such as WebOS and Android. School districts are now considering adopting tablet devices as a way to enhance a student's learning experience. Additionally, software applications written primarily for educational purposes are expected to grow over the coming months, thereby further increasing the relevance of mobile devices to education.

Just what is the cloud that everyone is referring to these days? Well, it's certainly not those fluffy, white fixtures in the sky. The cloud is a server that allows you to store data and access software from the Web, and these functions can often be performed within a Web browser. In comparison, software programs, which are used by many school districts, require licenses and need to be properly installed, maintained and updated. All of this costs money. Cloud computing is a less expensive alternative that can provide students with access to media editors, word processors, spreadsheet programs and many other options commonly found with software programs.

Open Resources and Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning and open resources are mid-term technologies that are expected to impact education two to three years from now. Gaming is a huge industry and some companies have developed games that utilize educational themes and learning experiences. Many of these educational games are expected to be compatible with mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. As of today, however, there are simply not that many quality educational games in the marketplace. This is primarily due to the inability of developers to incorporate the technologies used in mainstream games.

Open resource material refers to content that is available to educators, students, self-learners and the public at little or no cost. The major stumbling block towards open resources adoption is the state-imposed textbook restrictions that are placed upon some schools. However, the benefits of having access to open resource material are numerous. It provides students with access to information at any time and allows for collaboration and interaction with other learners. Additionally, open resource material can be quickly updated to take on new information.

Personal Learning Environments and Learning Analytics

Described in the 2011 Horizon Report K-12 Edition as long-term technologies, the impact of learning analytics and personal learning environments (PLE) is not expected to be felt until four or five years from now. However, both emergent technologies offer exciting evidence of how the classroom will change. In short, PLEs cater to the individual. A student learns material based on his or her preferred method of learning. For example, a visual student will likely choose to learn material in a way that is different from an auditory learner. PLEs also let students curate their own resource materials.

Similar to personal learning environments, learning analytics is a term used to describe a combination of technologies used to monitor a student's academic progress. A lot of research on learning analytics has been done in higher education with a focus on at-risk students. While teaching and monitoring at-risk students is important for many K-12 schools, they are also interested in how it can affect pedagogical approaches to learning. Both of these technologies hint at an ideological shift that places the student front and center, and allows him the ability to alter the pace, style and direction of learning to suit his strengths.

Curious about open resources and its importance to the future of education? Learn more about The Open Resources Network (OLnet), an open learning, open resources initiative supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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