3 Significant Challenges in Education Technology Today

The K-12 Horizon Project identifies a number of challenges that educators face.

by / May 21, 2014
Along with technology trends and developments, K-12 Horizon Project experts are identifying challenges that affect educators as they integrate technology into their classrooms. 
The New Media Consortium and the Consortium of School Networking teamed up again this year to find six emerging technologies that could be adopted in the mainstream over the next five years, including bring your own device, cloud computing, games and gamification, learning analytics, the Internet of Things, and wearable technology. But this year, they're focusing more on the trends that are driving technology adoption in schools and the challenges that hinder that technology adoption. 
While the K-12 Horizon report won't be published until June, CoSN members listened to insights from the preliminary report in a webinar on Tuesday, May 20. Out of 12 challenges that the working group narrowed down, six will be published in the report, and we'll highlight three of those today. 
The challenges are split up into three categories. Solvable challenges include authentic learning and personalizing learning, which can be understood and do have solutions. Difficult challenges can be understood, but the solutions are evasive, particularly for complex thinking and communication, and increased public and policy concern about privacy. Wicked challenges can't be understood or solved right now, including competition from new models of education and keeping education relevant.  

The Solvable Challenge of Personalized Learning 

Educators have been personalizing education for some time now, and many examples exist of how to tailor learning for each student. Now educators just have to replicate the models that are already out there, said Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium. 
Key Trends, Significant Challenges and Important Ed Tech Developments
 Top 6 K-12 Technologies Key Trends Driving Ed Tech Adoption Significant Challenges that Hinder Ed Tech Adoption
Time to adoption of one year or less:  Fast trends over the next one to two years:  Solvable challenges:
Bring your own device Rethinking the roles of teachers Creating authentic learning opportunities
Cloud computing Shift to deep learning approaches Integrating personalized learning
Time to adoption of two to three years: Mid-range trends within three to five years:  Difficult challenges:
Games and gamification Increasing focus on open content Complex thinking and communication
Learning analytics Increasing use of hybrid learning designs Increased privacy concerns
Time to adoption of four to five years:  Long-range trends in five or more years:  Wicked challenges:
The Internet of Things Rapid acceleration of intuitive technology Competition from new models of education
Wearable technology Rethinking how schools work Keeping formal education relevant

The Difficult Challenge of Privacy Concerns 

It's much tougher to address challenges that don't have solid solutions, such as privacy concerns with student data, which have fueled national conversations this year. These important conversations revolve around data generated from learning analytics and adaptive learning, which are both designed to give educators the tools to understand where their students stand in their learning and how they can best help them. 
But the policy and practical implications of student data privacy still need to be sorted out. And while the concerns about student data run deep, they can be easily addressed with reasonable policies that open doors to students, Johnson said. 
"If we don't solve the concerns that people have about big data and privacy of students, we're going to miss a huge opportunity," he said.  

The Wicked Challenge of Keeping Education Relevant 

Knotty challenges such as how to make education relevant for students don't have many answers, and that's why they're classified as "wicked." In higher education, conversations about relevance come down to the cost of a degree. But in K-12 education, conversations are more complex and involve wrestling with the purpose of school, Johnson said.  
This wrestling raises many questions, including whether the purpose of school is to get students into college. And if that is the purpose, and they do go to college, are the results worth it?  
Many students in Europe would say no. In Spain alone, more than half of people under age 25 are unemployed, according to Eurostat. A New York Times article in November revealed the tenuous grip many of these young college graduates have on life as they struggle to find permanent paid jobs, leave their families for work in another country and sign up for low-skill jobs that have nothing to do with their college training. They ask a relevant question, Johnson said, "Why are we doing this when we can't even participate in society at the end?" 
"We have equally difficult questions related to the relevance of education here," Johnson said. "It touches on access, it touches on outcomes and it's complicated." 
Relevant education is tough because technology, careers and jobs change so quickly. Even after students graduate, they have to work hard to keep their job skills up with the times, said Jim Vanides, global education program manager for HP, which funded the Horizon Project's research.  
"It's a moving target," Vanides said, "and the target that's moving is accelerating."

This story was originally published by the Center for Digital Education

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.

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