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Edtech trends for the new school year

Edtech expert offers a glimpse at the tech trends setting the stage for the 2016-17 school year.

4 min read




For the past many years — decades, actually — I’ve come back from the ISTE conference, which was recently held in Denver, excited by the many new products and services I see. It stems from walking the show floor and from the great conversations with the vendors and educators I meet. I’m further exposed to innovative companies in the K-12 education market while attending a number of national and international conferences, including the BETT Show in London, FETC in Orlando and TCEA and SXSWedu in Austin.

Above all trends emerging from K-12 today, robotics, coding, and the STEM — or STEAM —  movement has the potential to be the most fruitful. It’s a game-changer for everyone:

  • Students, who will have access to more forms of technology throughout the day, can learn how to control the technology in a collaborative fashion.
  • Teachers are able to connect learning experiences to the real world and help students prepare for STEM–related careers.
  • Companies will have increased access to technology-using and technology-building employees to fill their pipelines.

As many as 20 states are either passing legislation, enacting policies or taking new steps to encourage educators to become more equipped for teaching computational thinking and coding in our schools. In fact, this year at ISTE, I saw more buzz over robotics, coding and STEM than I ever have, and that’s over 35 years!

Other notable hot trends in US K-12 schools now have been around a bit longer, but were quite present during recent conferences:

  1. BYOD — smartphones and tablets — has become the norm in colleges and universities, and is now working its way into K-12 institutions. BYOD will continue to grow given its potential to bring student-computer access closer to a one-to-one model. Parents can stay more connected to their kids during the day, and students often prefer to use their own devices. While schools believe they can save money by not having to furnish the computers, BYOD will require more bandwidth, network expertise in the schools and final approval from school leaders. However, the momentum is here today.
  2. Social media as a teaching and learning tool holds student interest and is an natural way to involve students over 13 years of age in more writing by using the social media tools widely used by their peers.
  3. Open educational resources continue to be critical in meeting the needs of students and educators. Educators are discovering that there are benefits, but also challenges and total costs, to consider when using open materials in the classroom. Barriers include the initial investment in money and time spent searching for them, to the recurring cost for professional learning and support needed to make a systemic impact.
  4. Learning analytics is growing in importance every month even though they are not as visible as the hardware and tools. Learning analytics are about gathering, storing, accessing, analyzing and reporting data to indicate what students are learning. The rise in learning analytics has been aided by:
    • An increase in online learning
    • Wide scale improvements in computing power
    • An increase of student-related data
    • An emphasis on accountability as well as the desire to provide personalized learning for students

There are many more types of innovative products and services approaching the market, meaning the choices are becoming overwhelming in some areas. The 2016 school year begins with good news (more choices) – and bad news (trying to decide which choice to make).

Karen Billings is VP and Managing Director of the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) of SIIA. Billings holds more than 40 years of experience in the education technology industry, including positions in management, development, marketing, sales and classroom teaching.


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