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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

Comments (12)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Karla Valenti's picture
Karla Valenti
Empowering parents to empower their children (www.totthoughts.com)

I don't think we can afford to ignore the tremendous value that technology offers as a learning tool. Not only does it offer virtually unlimited access to information but (and this is one of the most significant reasons for why technology is so invaluable) children are already well-versed in the use of digital media as a means of knowledge-acquisition. Moreover, they know how to create and navigate social networks within which they are building knowledge and creating meaning. What is learning if not the exercise of building knowledge and meaning? What better way to inspire learning in schools than through a resource that children are already using for that very purpose?

I realize there is little funding for complete technological overhauls in schools. On the flip side, I don't think we can ignore the value that the use of digital media brings to the table. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be one or the other. There are ways of utilizing existing technology to enhance learning (I am in the process of developing one such tool) and I think it is something that we must absolutely begin to embrace as part of our children's education.

Allen Berg's picture
Allen Berg
curriculum and projects learning centers

Dear Colleagues,

Nobody seemed to mention Free Educational Wikis that already exist at
www.wikispaces.com or THE book on THE subject by Stephanie Sandifer
"Wikified Schools", which is small, concise, practical with examples, and strategic with examples for Education and all schools Now...

It is simply the Best Thing you can do for any classroom in any school,
for any school in any school district, for any school district in any country...

I created my own fun STEM PBL Wiki over Christmas Break and it has already blown-the-ceiling-off-roof...

With humility and respect I invite you all and anyone to visit it:
https://hsgeometryadventure.wikispaces.com to see for yourself...
The students will quickly know much more than the teacher!!!
The Old Paradigm is dead; collaborative learning is real and alive:

Just one example from my wiki: "Google Patent Search" overnight has revolutionized STEM Education by publishing 7 million Patents online
with the official text (Best Practices of Science Writing) and the official diagrams (Best Practices of Science Illustration) for any student and any teacher and anyone to access free, immediately...

Wikis are the new and inevitable Next/Now "Disruptive Innovation" in Education and Corporations etc... Fortune 500 Companies already use them worldwide...

But don't believe me... go see for yourself... asap...

http://educationalwikis.wikispaces.com/

Sincerely,

Allen Berg
High School STEM Pilot Program Director

Helen Kurtz's picture

I work in a school that is completely computer/standards based. First on the topic of costs we could address the hardware the students need, we have calculated the cost of a laptop for each student and the cost of lost books ($30000/yr average for our sized population) and hands down the savings to taxpayers is tremendous. Secondly, like the wiki person mentioned, the amount of "free" material on the internet is so vast, that teachers can certainly supplement any purchaced programs. I think there will be many motovating factors to fund programming for education in the near future due to the economic crunch and the possibility of replacing teachers with computer programs in the future. Imagine if our students didn't have to go to a physical building called school in the future. They could collaborate online, get all of the information currently shared via the internet, and even the costs of the buildings would be eliminated. People will shout "what about the social interaction?" however parents will still involve their children in sports clubs, music groups, art collaborations, etc. and nobody promised a free and public "social developement" package as part of "free and public" education. We are already cutting these parts of the school environment and if we saved taxpayers that huge portion of having a physical building and paying teachers (and up admin, etc.) we could pay less taxes and fund social developement of our children.

Bob Longo's picture

I share Bob's excitement about the increasing contribution of educational technology in K-12. The running technology joke in the K-12 market has been "Don't forget it took 20 years to get the overhead projector from the bowling alley to the classroom".

We all know that some of the constraints, for the lack of advanced technology application in K-12, have been about financial priorities, technical complexities, and educational purposes. The growing enthusiasm at Aspen Institute event and other places is based on a rising "Perfect Storm". This includes the tremendous increase in POWER (i.e. back and front end systems, networks); the commoditization and significant reduction of the COST (i.e. servers, networks, mobile devices) and the application of greater system INTELLIGENCE (i.e. software, databases, data analytics). There is no question that the kind of smart enterprise solutions that have transformed the global business world over the past 25 years (i.e. SQL databases, data warehouses, ERP, CRM) are now beginning to see their educational cousins (i.e. SIS, data management, intelligent tutoring, learning response systems (LRS), LMS, VLE) better applied and focused to not only inform administering but also teaching and most importantly learning.

The question will be how to get these valuable islands of technology properly integrated, implemented, and utilized by mere mortals. It is going to demand 21st century-minded vendors and K-12 IT staffs. It will also require cooperation and collaboration among all participating vendors and school personnel. Similar to the end of the corporate "Computer Czar Regimes" and old IBM-like control-minded companies, the day of the "information is power" game is quickly coming to an end in K-12. Those who don't learn how to "play nice" will discover through state RFPS and other powerful mechanisms, at the K-12 market's disposal, that they will not be invited to play. This is no longer going to be about one vendor creating the monolithic, "One-Stop-Shop Big Box", due to the fact that the greater, complex, systems' world required to deliver these optimal enterprise solution sets is too expert-diverse, and technology complex. Standards-based integration & interoperability, plus custom integration (i.e. SSO), SIF, ODBC and other tools will be absolutely demanded.

Likewise, education services such as training, implementation, user dashboards, help desks, FAQs, knowledge bases and online support will be more important than ever to insure effective participation by all stakeholders including school executives/administrators, teachers, staff, parents and last and frankly first, our students. If you want to see a glimpse of "Christmas Future" in K-12, simply look at "Christmas Past" in the transformation that has taken place in other major markets like global business.

Danna Sabolik's picture

Integrating technology into the K-12 school has many obstacles to overcome. Of course, there is the cost, which is phenomenal particularly in a time of budget cuts to education. There are teachers being laid off and class sizes increasing because of it. There are also many "old school" teachers out there that want to continue the status quo and are against any change in how they teach. They will continue teaching the same lessons they have taught for the last 20 years waiting for the day they are eligible to retire. They have "tenure". How is this giving our children the best education possible? How can this be called college prep education? This is very upsetting to know that students are not learning because we have teachers who are not willing to learn. It is any wonder that the United States is so far behind other countries in the areas of math, science, and technology? We only have to look as far as our education system to find the answer to that question.

Mindy S. Prosperi's picture
Mindy S. Prosperi
High School Biology / Science Teacher in Paterson NJ

I generally consider myself technology saavy having come from a technolgy company into teaching. However, I am in a very poor school system with equipment so old we cannot even update to Outlook 8! Once again, we will fall behind the wealthier schools. In addition, I believe that teacher really need to be trained on how to use technoly. MANY teachers are just guessing. If the teacher who added her "personal post" to Facebook this week had understood how to use facebook privacy feature, she would likely still be working. I am very afraid that I am falling behind in school technology and will not be able to get another job in a school system with real technolgy. What are we to do???

Kay Taylor's picture
Kay Taylor
6th through 12th math teacher from New Mexico

I am anxious to check on your links to Envision Schools and Show Evidence. But first I have to share the best technological tool I've ever used, by far the most engaging tool.

The Promethean board is the size of a whiteboard, placed in front of your classroom. It has a touch-type screen where you can do anything on it that can be done with any touch screen. You can color and decorate your pages as much as you like. It has all the exciting functions of a computer with art and word processing functions, probably many more that I'm unaware of.

One of the most exciting things about it is that you can save every screen, use it again for the next class.... build on it over time, etc.
The shame was that I only had a couple of months to use it before taking Leave of Absence.

There were only 2 teachers on my campus who asked for one. The other teachers claimed it was intimidating and they didn't want to do it. My math coach even warned and feared that it would be taking our jobs. I so disagree !

At the time that I left, the other teacher had still not discovered how to use the basic touch-functions, continuing to display a static screen of black on white and occasional skypes with the administrator. I am almost 20 years her senior, the oldest teacher in the school and anything but "old school." We had just begun using hand devices where students could text answers. OMG, you never saw such excitement. The other teacher who had a Promethean Board, when informed by her students we were using ours, informed her classes there was no use for these devices in a math class and that they wouldn't be using them in her class. OMG !

I've checked back with my school to learn that the other math teachers now have their Promethean Boards and are using it to download the mandated curriculum...about the least creative use for the board. I was also informed that they have decided the Boards were just the next new thing that wouldn't make any difference in the classroom as their magic pens had been stolen (the objects that yield the touch function) and the boards had been written on. I'm astonished they've given up, if what I hear is so.

I kept my pens in my hand and never sat down, especially as kids are arriving and leaving the class.

Basicly, I never had trouble with kids respecting the board because I kept them in awe of it. Each of them got to "show their work" on it daily. They were orderly about it, so excited at the opportunity. I did not see their interest and respect waning in the time I had it. I just wish I could have had the entire year to be more sure. But, hey, how can a touch screen whiteboard not be a fantastic addition to any classroom?

Anyone can download and use the page-making properties from the internet. I think you have to join it first, for free, http://www.prometheanworld.com/

The name of the software is ActivInspire

Kay Taylor's picture
Kay Taylor
6th through 12th math teacher from New Mexico

You can use the lap top to make pages at home, then pull it up in the classroom and use the touch devices to polish it up. I just can't think of anything more time-saving than this.

Kay Taylor's picture
Kay Taylor
6th through 12th math teacher from New Mexico

Love the site and the potential. The problem is many school districts block youtube. I hate to sound stupid but is there a way to download from youtube?

Chad Powers's picture

I definitely hope that we are close to stumbling upon the "magic bullet" which helps make us more effective educators!! However, I can think of two barriers. Number 1 is cost. With tight budgets and expensive technology, it seems like a stretch to think we will be able to afford to engage in a wholesale transition to tech based ed. There is no free lunch, so we are definitely going to have to pay to play. This ties into barrier 2-the wide variety of hardware and software aimed at the educational community. With hundreds, if not thousands of companies out there-all trying to strike it rich, how do we sift through the junk to find the good stuff? Hopefully, it is just a matter of time and collaboration-teachers working together and comparing notes-until we find that next big thing!

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