I recently came upon an article in an old edition of the Curriculum & Leadership Journal.   The author referred to trends and factors that are affecting the integration of technology into schools and classrooms. The work referenced the 2014 Horizon Report for Schools published by The New Media Consortium and I was pleased to find that this significant work was again updated and reproduced this year in 2016.   This report examines the potential costs and benefits that emerging technologies have on learning, teaching and creative inquiry tasks within classrooms from kindergarten to Year 12.

It would appear that since 2002 The Horizon Project has been charting the landscape of emerging technologies in classrooms with the aim is to assist educators across the world to enhance the level of creativity and innovation happening in schools through the provision of research and analysis. It certainly is an interesting read!

The article and report considers the long, medium and short term trends in integrated technology and popularising education.

Over the next five years (long term time frame) the report concludes that two areas will gain notoriety and should be considered. These include:

  1. Reinventing traditional classroom experiences for students. This involves students undertaking challenging multidisciplinary project based learning removing the constraints of timetables and bells. Learning becomes viewed in a more fluid and student-centered manner to allow opportunities for authentic learning to take place and ample room for independent study.
  2. A greater emphasis on deeper and more engaging learning approaches to delivery of rich core content to students in innovative ways. Using project, inquiry, problem and challenged-based learning activities and experiences both inside and outside the classroom with integrated use of smart technology.

Unfortunately, simply providing connections to Wifi and having a 1:1 laptop program is not sufficient to produce effective and quality educational learning experiences for students (Crook 2012).  it is clear that our focus needs to be one of developing motivational and engaging experiences that require students to interact and collaborate, create, design and produce as well as write code and produce simulations.  These actions all require deeper thinking and problem solving and in turn better prepare our students for the 21st century.  it would be remiss of educators to only use technology passively for observing, recording and researching in the classroom when many are engaged in these processes in their own time such as creating U-Tube clips.



In the next three to five years it identifies two areas, greater use of collaborative practices and students moving from consumers to creators.

According to a report published by the European Commission, “Survey of Schools: ICT in Education,” around 40% of grade 11 students already engage in collaborative work at least once a week. Research studies have revealed that teamwork exercises and cooperative learning environments bolster student engagement and performance. Approaches such as project- and challenge-based learning promote group work around solving a problem or achieving a collective goal. (NMC 2015, p3)

The report is arguing that pedagogical changes across the world in all subjects is resulting in students making and creating content through the formation of videos, blogs, apps and songs, thus demonstrating the move to hands on learning activities.

In the next one to two years the previously flipped classroom concepts and massive open online courses (MOOCs) while remaining popular will fade slightly. A more blended and complimentary approach is seen as the way of the future with educators picking the best of face to face with the best of online methodologies to produce flexible, integrated and differentiated approaches to learning. Analytical programs to determine student achievement will increase in popularity as accountability also increases.

Secondly, the report argues that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM subjects will increase in popularity; however, despite educators pushing for innovation, coding and robotics to deal with a technology focused generation, questions are now beginning to be raised about the need for students to have a more liberal and rounded education.  In fact many are suggesting that Humanities and Arts subjects should be included in a student’s suit of subjects to create STEAM learning focus.  One may conclude that as more multi discipline projects and collaborative assessments become popular it is likely that this trend will gain more traction.

Reflecting on the relevance of the article and its implications for me as a 21st century classroom practitioner I have gained the following insights from document.  I have summarised some of my thoughts below on how these ideas could be implemented with a school setting.

Providing ways for students to engage in learning outside of lesson time.

Most schools now operate with some form of Learning Management Systems (LMS) that enables students and staff to access curriculum, assessment, reporting, communication, tracking, marketing, finance and student details 24/7. With access to this technology schools have the capacity to operate efficiently fully online and in turn increase their results and performance across all areas of learning and in the business, finance and marketing fields. Even within our own online lectures and forums we have discussed this aspect of the benefits of social and popular media about this.

The rise in project problem and challenged-based, inquiry learning to create deeper learning experiences.

Increasingly school curriculum in many senior subjects have moved away from knowledge-based assessment. While some disciplines like Geography still have knowledge as a discrete criterion and short answer objective tests in addition to other forms of assessment most other subject areas have in their last syllabus rewrite opted for more open-ended question and response activities. No doubt as technology continues to develop and provide opportunities to access a wider range of data and learning tools the investigations and opportunities to diversify concepts and ideas will also increase; however, educators need to be mindful of falling into the trap of think that more is necessarily better. It is still incumbent on educators to actually teach students how to interpret and analyse data and information. Having access to Smartphones, tablets and 24/7 digital media is only relevant if we can understand and make meaning from the information these tools provide.

While student’s ability to recall facts, stats and general information appears to becoming a thing of the past, knowledge of how to access the location of information about a topic even if from a limited range of sources is increasing with the swipe of a phone screen. Ensuring that students remain mindful of inherent bias embedded within sources and encourage them to consider how representative sources actually are and provide a range of perspectives when responding to tasks. Therefore, it will become increasingly more important for students to retrieve, synthesize and making decisions about that information. One might question how long it will be before it becomes common place for students enter exams with a laptop and a question and respond by access to technology in a time limited context.

The growth in open educational resources (OER) and MOOCs

I find myself questioning the impact that these methods of educating will have on the authenticity of student work. Furthermore, with so many items posted and up loaded multiple times, without savvy referencing and acknowledgement of the ownership of material the provenance of material is rapidly lost and in addition copyright legislation becomes undermined.   As teachers this has huge implications for the teaching of scholarship and ethics in addition to the authentication of student work. While some of these concerns might be addressed through programs such as Turnitin we need to recognize that sometimes it is not intentional that material is not appropriately referenced as earlier works don’t clearly provide documentation.

Collaboration – learning communities and changes in pedagogy.

With increasing technology comes increases in ways to interact online. As students and teachers embrace interactive and connective modes of engagement in this personal lives many are increasingly incorporating these elements into their teaching and learning as an extension of their normal processes. In addition, the capacity of many LMS makes this process almost obligatory. Built in discussion boards, forums, or Twitter feeds and blogs enable students to post information and share ideas about class work in addition to more conservative concepts such as Google Doc, Drop Box and Edmodo. With students, staff and parents now working on multiple levels and simultaneously to provide the best possible educational outcomes for their students and children, is it any wonder that students are never far from a smart device to connect with the world and peers. This is not about helicopter parenting and teaching it is about providing opportunities at a self-paced and even self-determining level of engagement to ensure that learning is more targeted and relevant.

Schools of the future.

Classrooms have gone through some significant changes in the past ten years and are likely to continue to reflect changes in industry and business if any of the material coming out of think tanks in universities and research institutes are anything to go by. As per the flexible work spaces in leading international tech giants such as Facebook and Google are anything to go by students may be undertaking integrated complex team based projects standing, sitting, lounging and swinging with technology at their disposal. Dynamic spaces and reflective opportunities will potentially mean that students become far more in control of their learning schedule, including meal breaks and when they start and finish school. This type of learning environment reflects the situation students will experience when leaving school. It also means that students have the opportunity for integrated industry placements including both paid and unpaid work experience or time to complete other courses or skills.

Relevance of schools in the 21st century.

I have thought about this concept a lot – will schools become obsolete and a thing of the past? Will I be out of a job as a teacher and will school buildings become sold off to developers to make into apartments and office towers? I think not. Despite the hugely successful move to integrate technology, social media and change the nature of teaching and learning spaces even with the some of the best educators in the world on tap from organizations such as the Khan Academy people are social animals.

It is the human touch, the empathy, the concern, and the understanding of individual differences and learning styles that will continue to remain key elements within the social and emotional development of students. As Dowdall, Vasudevan and Mackey (2014) note, there is certainly no argument that schools must continue to expand the role they play in the social and pastoral development of students, whilst offering an academic program that keeps pace with ‘the real world’. Preparing students at all levels will, I’m sure, continue to be a focus of education with the added benefits of social media and technology.

How are you preparing your classes for this new wave of technology?


Image Info graphic:”Bringing Equity to Learning Through Technology” http://tech.ed.gov/netp/learning/

Main feature image: http://technologyandteenagers.blogspot.com.au/


Crook, C. (2012). The ‘digital native’ in context: Tensions associated with importing Web 2.0 practices into the school setting. Oxford Review of Education. 38(1), 63-80

Dowdall, C., Vasudevan, L., & Mackey, M. (2014). Popular culture and curriculum.  Literacy, 48 (1), 1-3. [Editorial to a special edition]

The NMC Horizon Report: 2016 (K-12) examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry within pre-tertiary education. http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2014-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf