I had a chance last week to talk with Adam Garry, Dell's manager of global professional learning. A former teacher turned technology evangelist and educational leader at Dell, he had some great insight into where educational technology was headed this coming year. Some of the predictions could be tied to Dell products, but by and large, he and I agreed that 2011 would be the year of the platform.
As Adam explained, it's no longer "all right to just drop off hardware anymore." Rather, Dell works hard to ensure that the solutions they provide schools can support their learning platforms of choice and their goals for educational technology. If the goals and platforms don't exist or aren't well-designed and integrated, then Adam and Dell staff work to fully develop them and provide a basis for learning with technology.
I'm not going to number the predictions; but I will list Adam's first. While he and I were in complete agreement on the broad trends for Ed Tech in 2011, I have a few more specific predictions of my own to share as well. The common thread, though? Platform, platform, platform.
Adam Garry's Top 5 Ed Tech Trends/Predictions for 2011
"1:1 should be a learning initiative instead of a tech initiative"
This is probably my favorite quote from our conversation. So many technologies can be leveraged in such cost-effective ways to get students ubiquitous Internet access during the day and outside of school that the focus of 1:1 is no longer so much "How do we get kids computers and maintain them all?" but "How do we use these things to improve teaching, learning, and student achievement?" While financial hurdles still exist in many schools, a variety of solutions can be used to maximize student access, even if schools can't achieve 1:1. However, without an underlying platform for learning and clearly defined strategy for using the technology both in and out of the classroom, you have a whole lot of expensive typewriters.
Personalized learning instead of differentiated instruction
The idea of differentiated instruction has been around for a long time. However, as Adam pointed out, we have finally "reached a tipping potin with digital assets and access" that can support truly personalized learning. We will hear less talk of learning management systems and more talk of platform that allows students to access the individualized digital assets (whether leveled reading, response to intervention software, or remediation tools, for example) they need to improve achievement. Dell is actually piloting a personalized learning platform, the idea being that every student can show mastery of subject matter in many ways. Not only will these platforms for personalized learning be driven by data (formative and summative assessments), but will cater to students' learning styles and needs. Adam predicted that this approach won't just be enabled by advances in technology and access, but also by the common math and literacy core standards being adopted nationwide.
Adam identified this as more of a hope than an actual trend, but noted that he is seeing a move towards assessments that are more product-based. As he noted, "our Web 2.0 is Web 1.0 for our learners". Since they are accustomed to producing and sharing content, a move towards a model of students as producers will provide opportunities for more authentic assessments and the sorts of portfolios that provide a much better picture of a student's capabilities than a set of standardized tests can.
He also noted that the 2012 PISA should include measures of digital literacy, assessing critical thought and creativity, as well as the core subjects that received so much attention this month and placed the US so poorly compared to China and other industrialized nations.
Increased focus on conceptual learning
Looking at the new common core standards, it's apparent that there will be a significantly increased focus on conceptual learning. While our curricula in the States have traditionally been wide and shallow, covering many topics poorly, we are moving towards much deeper, conceptual explorations of a smaller number of topics.
The evolution of 1:1 - Different access models
As I have noted many times on this blog, 1:1 can take many forms. Adam sees more and more schools providing the platform (wireless access, virtual classrooms, social learning, etc.), but allowing students to bring their own devices to access these platforms (with appropriate subsidies for those who cannot afford to). This obviously brings its own challenges, just as the so-called "consumerization of IT" has for businesses. However, it lets schools focus on the platform and learning rather than hardware acquisition.
On that note, he explained that Dell would continue supporting its netbook platform and the Connected Classroom hardware. Their Inspiron Duo (currently available to consumers and available early next year in school-appropriate and academically priced configurations) would be the next step for schools looking to a unified 1:1 platform from Dell since the product allows students to easily consume information as needed and easily switch to content production whenever they wanted.
Well, not quite enough said, since obviously I'm about to write a little blurb on tablet, but they almost speak for themselves. While I agree with Adam that devices like the Inspiron Duo that allow easy consumption as well as creation of content are going to be important in 1:1 and student computing, simply providing access to e-textbooks and the Internet in a small, light, relatively inexpensive form factor is going to revolutionary in and of itself.
While we've been hearing about those Android tablets for some time, the truth is that actually satisfactory Android tablets are going to take Android 3.0 and some serious economies of scale to reach the right price points. All indications are there that this confluence of tablet-ready Android (as well as the second-generation iPad) and serious OEM uptake will happen by the middle of 2011. It might be fall 2011 when the first large deployments start hitting schools, but tablets will be Internet portals for a lot of students this coming year.
I'm not talking about slick new thin and light notebooks or MacBook Airs. I'm talking about thin computing. Everything from virtualized desktops to Windows MultiPoint Server to Userful's Linux-based MultiPoint competitor will enable student access like never before. Even Google's Chrome Notebook supports browser-based VNC and Citrix application presentation, making inexpensive devices and consumer IT products able to leverage enterprise-class applications and storage.
Whether it's MultiPoint's effective, yet relatively archaic RDP connections or sophisticated desktop presentation from VMWare or Wyse, thin clients (in all their forms) will get a lot of kids connected for less money and less management effort than virtually any other solution. The technology has now matured to such a point that even PC-Over-IP is accessible to schools for highly manageable advanced lab settings.
The dog will not eat your homework
Whether it's Google Apps for Education, Live@Edu, Office365 for Education, or some social learning platform like Journ(i)e where students produce and submit most of their work online, cloud-based tools have become so easy to deploy and use that there is little reason not to. If you need a learning platform on the cheap, both Google Apps and Live@Edu provide free solutions that creative educators can use to engage students and run classes in really innovative ways.
The Kindle fantasy finally dies
I can't tell you how often I still hear administrators and school board members continue to talk about getting Kindles for kids to lighten heavy backpacks and make reading fun and "21st century." The Kindle isn't bad for what it is, but it will never work in widespread educational deployments because of its underlying technologies and 20th-century DRM. Fortunately, the iPad has opened a lot of eyes to how digital content can be presented to kids and a variety of new, mainstream devices should finally put Oprah's favorite little e-reader to bed in the minds of educational leaders.
E-textbooks come to life
The Kindle might be dead in ed, but e-textbooks will finally come of age in 2011. Google eBooks, open source books, teacher experts and students producing their own content, and even mainstream publishers seriously hopping on the e-textbook bandwagon will ensure that, as Adam Garry pointed out, digital assets will be plentiful and accessible.
Cheap tablets, iPad adoption (thanks to the Apple marketing machine and some compelling e-learning content, widespread EPUB adoption, and innovative form factors like the Dell Inspiron Duo will also help solve the chicken/egg problem (if there are no devices, why should publishers create e-content). Finally.
What are your predictions for 2011? Share them in the talkbacks below.