With the start of 2018, I get lots of questions about what technologies and trends are the most important for transforming learning. As head of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), it makes sense that our leaders and the media want to know where to focus their attention and budgets for the most impact.
Unfortunately, “predicting” technology is fraught with problems, and accuracy is at the top of the list. This is the moment to bring out spectacularly wrong predictions from brilliant individuals: In 1889, Thomas Edison said, “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” In 1943, IBM Chairman Thomas Watson said “… there is a world market for maybe five computers.” In 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” OK, so let’s be honest. Predictions are tricky and the best way to do it is basically looking in the rearview mirror.
But, I think there is a meaningful way to think about the future, and that is by using the word “invent.” Rather than starting with the stuff (technologies), let’s start with defining our vision for learning. The fundamental question is: What should learning look like today?
My personal answer is that our learning environment should allow learners to create their own personalized path, letting them dive deeper and think critically. It should enable creativity. It should enable collaboration. It should be equitably available and not create new divides. It should provide accessibility for all learners. And, it should be used in a way that is ethical and helps us understand each other better.
I believe when technology solves these issues, it makes a profound difference. Technology, like a pen or paper or book or chalkboard, is a tool. A tool can be used in great ways — think of a masterpiece by Shakespeare vs. a trashy novel. But too often we say technology is “just” a tool. History has been changed with the tools of the past (the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine, etc.), so it is not simply a tool but rather a powerful way to change the world.
How would you answer the question: What should learning look like today? How would your school system answer that question? Here are some ideas on how you can enable a meaningful conversation about technology for learning:
1) Start by asking your community (perhaps your school, school board, PTA, etc.) what is OUR vision for learning today?
2) Explore what are the new technology trends impacting learning. I recommend using the 2017 Horizon K-12 Report, which CoSN co-produces, to see what some leading experts think are the most important trends/technologies.*
3) Create a conversation. The 2017 Horizon K-12 Toolkit has some useful resources on how to do that. Best of all, these resources are free.
So, let’s make our 2018 Ed Tech Resolution to invent the future of learning that we desire.
*Sadly, New Media Consortium, CoSN's co-partner in producing the Horizon Reports, ceased operations in December 2017. CoSN remains committed to helping our members and ed tech community think through the options of emerging technologies to transform learning.