Technologies Coming and Going

Campus Technology has been releasing snapshots of the results from its 2017 second annual Teaching with Technology Survey. The snapshots focus on one aspect of the research reporting, for instance, on college faculty’s use of blended learning or their take on the most valuable classroom technology tools. The one that caught my eye today reported on technologies that faculty think will be important in education over the next decade and those that will be less important.

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that virtual/augmented/mixed reality tops the list, selected by 81% of respondents. It also topped the list last year. Mobile devices and apps, 3D modeling/scanning/printing, adaptive/personalized learning and video/streaming rounded out the top five.

When asked to predict what technologies would be dead and gone in the next decade, 15% of respondents pointed to desktop computers and laptops, while 12% identified clickers. These items also topped the list in the 2016 survey. Non-interactive projectors and displays, document cameras/overhead projectors and CDs/DVDs and their players and chalkboards/whiteboards (tied) rounded out the list.

It’s interesting to note that learning management systems and interactive whiteboards/ projectors came in 7th and 9th respectively on the list of technologies that will be dead and gone in 10 years. Interactive whiteboards/projectors placed 7th and next-generation learning management systems placed 9th on the list of technologies that will become important over the next ten years. As people moved down the list of increasingly important or dead and dying technologies, differentiation became less clear. It may also reflect different positions on the adoption/implementation scale for these items. I can’t help but wonder if the dead and dying list isn’t something of a wish list since faculty also identified their current LMS (ranked 1), mobile devices (2), desktops, workstations, laptops/chromebooks (4), and non-interactive projectors and displays (5) as among the top technologies they wish they didn’t have to deal with.

What struck me here was how likely it is that K-12 educators would respond in much the same way about growing and passing technologies. There was a time where there was a very large gulf between colleges and the technologies they used and K-12 schools. Higher ed had better internet access, fully equipped videoconferencing suites and immersive virtual reality setups. But then technology became more powerful, more ubiquitous and more affordable. While differences still exist within specific college and university departments and programs, the technology used in most undergraduate classrooms is no longer quite so dramatically different from that used in K-12 as it once was.

In our latest K-12 market research, MDR examined the current implementation of several classroom technologies. Non-interactive projectors, interactive whiteboards, and document cameras are widely implemented in K-12 classrooms, with 60% or more of tech directors reporting that these three technologies are substantially implemented (rated either a 4 or 5 on a 5-point implementation scale). However, interactive whiteboard penetration flattened out a year ago, after having grown for several years running. Usage of interactive projectors is not nearly as widespread as that of non-interactive projectors, but seems poised for growth.

The Horizon Reports from the New Media Consortium highlight several common concerns and trends between K-12 and higher education. Four of the identified key trends accelerating technology adoption are common to K-12 and higher ed. Shared mid-term trends, those driving technology adoption in K-12 education for the next three to five years, are a growing focus on measuring learning and redesigning learning spaces. Shared long-term trends, those driving technology adoption for five or more years, are advancing cultures of innovation and deeper learning approaches.

With respect to significant challenges impeding technology adoption, improving digital literacy is identified as a solvable challenge – one that we understand and know how to solve- for both K-12 and higher education. Note that if we were to solve this challenge in K-12 it would no longer pose a challenge for higher ed. Rethinking the roles of teachers is identified as a difficult challenge – one that we understand but for which solutions are elusive – for K-12 and a wicked challenge – one that is complex to even define, much less address – for higher ed. The move to student-centered learning with the result shift that asks educators to act as guides and facilitators is going to be a very hard sell for higher ed, where many professors resist role changes. The achievement gap is seen as a difficult challenge for higher ed and a wicked challenge for K-12.