Thursday, December 27, 2007
2008: Five Trends in EdTech
When I started thinking about what 2008 could mean to Educational Technology, I began writing down trends and ideas that are expanding at a rate that they will cast a net over the entire educational community. A net so big that education won't be able to ignore, regardless of the distance that some decision makers have from the classroom.
1. Low Tech Presentation - High Tech Delivery:
- 2007 saw the explosion of video on the web, with YouTube and other sites providing a platform for anyone and everyone to post video to the Internet. Some of the best videos I saw that related to education and educational technology were the simplest in production, but used the power of the Internet to gain a broad audience. I'd like to give big kudos to Lee LeFever and the CommonCraft Show for their series of videos dealing with Web 2.0 topics. A white board, hand drawn pictures on paper, a few printed screen shots and a dry erase marker equals one pretty powerful series of videos. I'd also like to mention educational specific sites like Next Vista for Learning, UStream and TeacherTube for providing educational specific space in this area.
2. Applications Are Personal and Connected:
- The war between Microsoft and Google has started and it starts in a different space than "Googlezon" predicted, but it is very real and the outcome is the same. Bill Gates, you lose! Who wants to buy Microsoft Office for $500 or even the Students and Teachers Edition for $145, when I can use Google Docs and Spreadsheets for free, have my documents available to me where ever there is a computer with a connection to the Internet and I can share my documents and collaborate with anyone around the world with a few clicks. This is a no-brainer. Besides Google Docs and Spreadsheets, there are other free online applications that will make it easier for students and teachers to tap into the power of the Internet and Web 2.0. There are too many applications to list here, but the boundaries have been completely blurred and are non-existent.
3. Broadening Perspectives:
- Net Neutrality is a big issue, so big that it can't be ignored and will make it difficult for the big telecoms from trying to impose a 'packet shaping' pricing scheme on the consumer. Having said this, free services like Skype and others will increase the amount of real-time collaboration that occurs between companies around the world and this will quickly flow down to education. Take a look at Vicki Davis' 'Flat Classroom Project' as a great prototype in this regard.
In a more global political perspective, closed networks in countries like China and Iran, will need to open themselves up to information from beyond their borders in order to survive. Having the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will mandate the poking of a large hole in the 'Great Firewall of China.' Let's hope that the hole is large enough that it cannot be easily patched once it has been opened. We already receive reports and blog posts from inside of China, including Jeff Utecht's "The Thinking Stick" blog.
4. Better Plumbing:
- Broadband connections are increasing their bandwidth and getting cheaper, this encourages more families to bring broadband access into their homes. As part of our Digital Bridge program, we provided 25- 9th graders with free Internet access from San Bruno Cable Television. The service normally costs $30 a month and students are selected based on need, which is determined by 'Free and Reduced Lunch Eligibility.'
The amount of 'free' wi-fi access is also expanding, as businesses, cities and other civic entities are providing no-cost access. In our area, all of the libraries in San Mateo County provide no-cost wi-fi access. All of the Panera Bread stores nationwide provide free Internet access. There are also websites that will give you the locations of free wi-fi connections in the local area, through "WiFi Free Spots."
5. Opening the Door for All:
- The traditional barriers to entering the digital world are beginning to fall. The price of small PC's are lower than the newest iPod. The low cost PC's I blogged on last week have definitely reduced the cost of entering the digital world for everyone. Even if you don't have a PC, cell phones are beginning to offer many of the same functions of standard PC's . iPhones and the upcoming 'Android' open source cell phone platform from Google will provide most of the functions found on a standard PC. There are also low cost desktop units in the $200 range running a version of Linux, (gOS or Ubuntu) which has a graphical user interface similar to that of Windows or Mac OS X. The other cool thing with most open source operating systems is that they will typically run on fewer system resources than the top of the line Windows or Macintosh.
What is the net effect of these trends? Easier, cheaper and more equitable access to all the people and information in the world. How does this change education? The world becomes our classroom. Collaborating with someone in China becomes as easy as collaborating with someone in the next town. Our schools and our homes have access to the information in every library on the planet. Individuals can be heard and seen and have their ideas rolled into the collective knowledge of the society. The real question becomes is: Will schools and education in general take advantage to the greatest reservoir of information on the planet? Or, will fear and shortsightedness win out and deprive our students of this vast amount information and the ability to become 'global citizens?' I hope we can create a system where students have access, yet have the skills to discern fact from fiction.
What are you willing to do to make this happen??? Comment and let me know!