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!


Symbian said...

I think Android won't be so successful as iPhone.

Lee LeFever said...

Thanks a bunch for the kudos! Happy New Year!

Bernard said...

Wait until Android passes the beta phase. Once the operating system for mobile phones/and or mobile devices hits the market place, in the next year or so, consumers purchasing these devices won't even know it's running a version of Android. Better alternatives for consumers in cost and performance over the pricey iPhone and Blackberry. Who wouldn't want internet speeds of a full web browser vs. a skimmed down version of Safari in iPhone? I think consumers will be purchasing these devices due to their performance. iPhone and Research In Motion (Blackberry) have the run for their money once Android becomes live.

Bernard said...

My daughter is nine years old. She used to think computers are just used for playing games, logging on to and My daughter a few months back had a research project for the state of Ohio, "The Buckeye State". I remember how she stressed out that I needed to take her to the library and didn't know where to begin her research.

I uttered two things to her. Google and Wiki.

It opened her eyes that the information she needed to seek is right under her fingertips.

In my contribution of having students have access to information, I start with my daughter. I asked her to share this knowledge with her other classmates in school. Once students are aware, so do their parents. It may be small, but it can create a ripple effect. And I'm sure most teachers know the importance of access to information and how such a system in place will benefit as a teaching and learning tool.

My daughter attends Highlands Christian School @ San Bruno, and finally after years of talk and planning, they finally set up a RenWeb system where I can login through a web browser and have access to progress notes on my daughter. I can also leave comments to her teacher and I don't have to call or setup an appointment for a parent/teacher conference. Parents these days with our busy schedules are sometimes difficult to squeeze in time. Now it's just so easy to just access my daughter's progress anytime of the day even during my break time @ work. It's a small step, but I'm sure it can grow from the possibilities a system can provide.

I've come across parents that don't have the luxury of a pc in their homes. Some don't have the knowledge that they don't need to buy a high end machine just for their kids to get the job done for their studies.

One time at my office I overheard my co-worker who is a single parent, comment that she needed to buy a computer for her son for school. The computer she currently owns is too old and needs to be replaced. She felt computers these days are so expensive.

I offered that there are cheaper alternatives like shopping @ Fry's or if the trip down to Palo Alto is too far, I asked to spec her current machine. I'm a believer of recycle and reuse when it comes to old computer systems. I asked if the PC is just used for school purposes for her son, all I needed from her is if she's willing to pay for memory upgrades and possibly a new hard drive, I'm willing to revamp her old machine and make it into a new one. I've tried different distros of Linux, from Red Hat's Fedora 8, Suse Enterprise 10.3, CentOS, and Mint. So far in my opinion, the Ubuntu distro is much user friendly and easier to configure especially with the new 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon release. It has everything from a web browser, an email client and an office suite (Open Office). It also has many other cool features and apps pre-installed.

I commend Mr Brumbaugh and the Digital Bridge program. We need more people like Mr Brumbaugh with similar visions for our schools who can speak out for this powerful tool. With more people speaking out, the right person @ the right time, someone will see the benefits and make this trend come to pass.