Top 5 Ed Tech predictions for 2012

Here's hoping I'm more accurate than I was last year.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Earlier this week I wrote about five major technologies that should have had real impacts in education this year, but which never amounted to much. I called more than one of them out a year ago, when all signs pointed to their potential for disruption and transformation in 2011. I can't resist giving it another shot this year, though. Here are my top 5 predictions for the state of the art in Ed Tech in the coming year.

Analytics and BI will go mainstream In a former life, I was a SAS programmer doing data management and statistical analysis for clinical trials. SAS is still going strong in large-scale, mission critical statistical programming, but much of its business focus is now on analytics and business intelligence (BI). IBM just launched an initiative to promote education, training, and research at the university level in the fields. For those not familiar with them, BI and BA apply complex business rules and enable decision-making based on the analysis of very large data stores.

Both companies (and many others, although SAS and IBM are arguably the market leaders) have products geared towards making these tools available, relevant, and usable in the education space, where the amount of data we now collect on our students is growing exponentially, both because of federal and state requirements and because most educators realize that data-driven instruction is a powerful tool for improving outcomes. In education, these tools can pick out at-risk students based on wide-ranging data before they ever hit the radar of a guidance counselor.

The data are in place, the technologies are in place, and NCLB and RTTP have conditioned educators to think about data (no matter what else, good or bad, you may think of them). 2012 will see an explosion in the real use of analytics to assist schools and districts in improving quality and outcomes. I'm not talking about reviewing yearly standardized test scores here. I'm talking about the confluence of formative and summative assessments, demographic data, and many other bits of information, all of which are now available electronically and ready to be mined. It's worth noting that EDUCAUSE was filled with vendors holding up the latest and greatest tools for data mining, aggregation, management, and analysis and Oracle resorted to showgirls standing next to geeks demoing software at both BBWorld and EDUCAUSE.

Google's tablet will NOT be the holy grail of 1:1 A reader emailed me the other day and asked me if I thought that Google's tablet, expected for release before fall 2012, would finally make tablet-based 1:1 initiatives a reality. The answer was no. Although I'm sure the tablets will be great pieces of hardware and software and I'm sure that I'll get one, the predicted $500 price point is just too high. Sure, Google Apps integration will be very strong, as will the management features that go with it, but at that price, you could have an iPad.

While I'm not saying that iPads are better for education than other tablets, I am saying that they have a major foothold in the growing market. Even iPads, though, are only making it into well-funded districts at scale. The only thing that could disrupt the current market and current trends in 1:1 would be a very inexpensive tablet (<$300) with="" all="" the="" management="" features="" and="" a="" content="" ecosystem="" that="" would="" finally="" make="" ideal="" of="" "tablet="" in="" every="" backpack"="" reality.="" <="" p="">

Google's move to drop the price of Chromebooks this year and provide enterprise, web-based management consoles for the slick little laptops suggests, as well as innovative rental models for schools and businesses, however, suggests that they may have a few tricks up their sleeves. The Google tablet won't be the holy grail of 1:1, but I'm hopeful that it will be a step in the right direction.

BYOD will make 1:1 possible in a big way In the face of miserable budgets and no end in sight to a stagnating economy, school/state-funded 1:1 will not be sustainable in the majority of school districts. Worldwide sales of Classmate PCs to education ministries remain strong, but this relies on a very different educational model than that employed here in the States. At the college level, where a computer is a necessity for students, only a tiny fraction of schools supply a laptop as part of a student's tuition. Instead, students bring their own, often selecting from specially negotiated prices with major OEMs. It's time K12 schools followed suit.

Again, there is a confluence of factors that will make BYOD the 1:1 model of choice for 2012 (a model, by the way, that will get devices onto a lot more desks and into a lot more student hands in the classroom this year). The emergence of inexpensive devices like the Kindle Fire, despite its lack of manageability, means that tabets will become increasingly commonplace for for students, making instant access to the Internet and a variety of content easily achieved. AMD is promising inexpensive alternatives to Intel's ultrabooks and prices continue to fall on remarkably usable laptops.

Similarly, great platforms for e-learning, ranging from Moodle 2.3 to the new and improved Google Apps, to a growing ecosystem of tablet apps mean that schools have more reason than ever to leverage all of those devices that are sitting in student bedrooms but often aren't allowed in classrooms. Finally, robust security and filtering solutions (including tablet integration) from companies like LightSpeed mean that the risks formerly posed by outside devices are increasingly being mitigated both on- off-campus.

Khan Academy, et al, will give publishers and mainstream educators a run for their money Many teachers and students have leapt at the opportunities provided by Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and other free and open educational tool available online, assigning them as homework, using them for flipped classes, suggesting them as resources for study and remediation, and even integrating them into their curricula just as they would multimedia tools that come with their textbooks. Others struggle with the idea that Khan and others represent competition. For the latter group, rest easy...no video can replace an awesome teacher in class. Awesome teachers, though, use whatever resources they can find to ensure that their students "get it", whatever "it" might be. The teachers who should be worried are those who aren't, for lack of a better word, awesome. Awesome teachers are engaged mentors to whom students will look for guidance as they navigate the muddy waters of information on the Internet, among other places.

The real moral of this story, though, is that enough teachers are turning to the Internet and open resources (including great open source texts available from organizations like CK12.org) that traditional publishers have no choice but to stand up and take notice. This will be a battle of Darwinian proportions (i.e., survival of the fittest); open resources will no doubt coexist for years to come with proprietary resources from mainstream publishers. But we're talking about a multibillion dollar industry here. It doesn't take much of a dent to start shaving millions off of profit margins.

We will say goodbye to a lot more libraries and hello to a lot more information A local prep school dumped its library about two years ago in favor of a media center replete with computers, Kindles, and an espresso bar (yes, an espresso bar - it's a prestigious school). Administration took a lot of flack, not because the library was well-used (it wasn't) but because a lot of people didn't like the idea that the notion of a library was changing. Now, with far less controversy, Johns Hopkins University is closing its historic medical library in a few short days. Library staff had already transitioned from traditional librarian roles to that of so-called "informationists." Modern library science degree programs are far more concerned with accessing information than the Dewey Decimal System.

Add to that growing space constraints, emerging 1:1 programs that are far easier to justify if they can reduce reliance on dead trees, and nearly ubiquitous availability of journals and books in electronic formats and you have a recipe for converting libraries as we know them now to anachronisms. This isn't a bad thing as long as the misson of school libraries can be to make students discerning seekers and users of information. In fact, moving to information-based rather than book-based models could cause a renaissance for libraries. This renaissance simply doesn't need to involve acquiring larger expensive collections of paper; it needs to involve drastically increasing the amount of time students spend in libraries developing their critical thinking and information access skills.

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