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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Will Technology Change Learning -- and Teaching?

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Last month I attended the Aspen Institute Education Innovation Forum & Expo in Washington D.C. The event attracted many investors who are planning on investing in the new education technologies. I heard a number of people in attendance propose that the education market is the next "Dot-com" technology growth area.

I admit, I'm a bit perplexed because we are in the depth of an economic recession that has reduced funding for public education to the bare minimum. I also see a demand for technology lacking in traditional public schools or even independent schools.

What's Next?

But, overall, I am excited about the possibilities that technology can provide to facilitate and manage student learning. I'm also always hopeful that we can devise a technology tool that will make teachers and principals' jobs easier. What do you think? What will be the technology or the "killer application" that will revolutionize education?

I'd like to share with you where I think we will find it and where we will not.

Educational technology enthusiasts hope for the magic algorithm that will personalize, manage, and rapidly accelerate student learning though games, simulations, or just plan drilling students. Certainly these types of technology will achieve some success in settings like Rocketship Schools and The School of One.

But I doubt we will see a massive takeover of traditional schooling by a technology solution. Even if schools had the resources to implement this type of solution, there is currently little demand by schools and most importantly, they lack the technical expertise to implement the solution.

What's Here

For more than eight years, we have been integrating technology at Envision Schools as a powerful tool for facilitating and managing learning. However, as we have been innovating, to date, none of the high schools in the districts where we have schools have even started to implement technology to the level which we have. But the good news? As all Envision Schools are wireless, so are schools and districts across the country.

Two tools that I am excited about (albeit, it will take some time for them to grow): the Project-based Learning Management System developed by the New Tech Network and a new assessment tool, ShowEvidence. I think these types of tools show great promise for changing practice and making performance-based learning easier for a broader set of teachers. Tools like these also make it more likely that students will produce rigorous and higher quality work products.

Digital Learning at Your Fingertips

Finally, the area in educational technology that I think is ripe for blasting off: Colleges, organizations, and companies will develop applications that will enable users to earn a degree or certification. The applications will run on an iPad, or some sort of tablet , rather than using a web browser. This might take five to ten years (maybe more) for them to get content that is both rigorous and aligned to standards -- and not just the Common Core, but college admission standards, career and technical standards as well.

Also, devising methods to reliably assess student work products at a massive scale will need to be solved. At the end of the next decade or maybe the one after that, these types of technology will prove to be a far greater threat to both public and private traditional schooling (more than any charter schools could ever be!)

Will there be a killer app for education? If so, what do you think it will be? Please share your thoughts and vision for the future.

Related Resources

Technology Integration (core concept)

Using Technology to Motivate Students (blog)

Online Learning Shapes the Future (video)

Join this Edutopia discussion group on technology integration

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